The Incredible India!
Probably there is no better word to describe a country that breaths a so distinct culture, with its amazing flavours, smiles and (sometimes not so much wonderful) smells.
It is even hard to know how to start telling something about there, as everyday a different situation was faced, new curious looks were directed to me, or another friend was obtained in the local trains, but let’s begin from the end.
My last trip through India was probably the best one.
From Mumbai Rodrigo R. Queiroz, Mauricio Arenas Buitrago and I would head to Varanasi, then Srinagar, Amritsar, Jammu and I would go alone to McLeod Ganj, to finally return to my provisory home in Mumbai.
The first step was booking the train ticket, something straightforward in some countries, but not so trivial on that side of the world. Besides getting it online we would have to go to the station some days before to show copies of our passports.
Not possible, sir!
That’s a common answer you can get, without further explanations.
I had to work so I asked my friends to get the ticket for me. However, for some reason my copy was not good enough, or they did not like my picture. Mauricio and Rodrigo got their tickets and I didn’t. I went there the next day and to my surprise they were sold out. Holy cow! I had a flight from Varanasi to Srinagar, I had to get there it doesn’t matter how.
Our idea was risky but simple: my friends would share a bed (can we call it this way?) and I would stay on another one with all backpacks. Curtains should be kept always closed and if the controller appears, just one of them would put the head out.
Ah, I forgot to mention that we would travel for around 35 hours on this journey without a single stop. At some point you get used and don’t worry anymore. You simply get lost in time.
Other concepts you have to forget are comfort and cleaningness. The space was reduced and there you have to do everything, from eating to shitting (sorry my language).
Chai, chai, chai, chaiiiiiiiiiiii!
I still have the voice of the local salesmen screaming while offering the delicious tea at the worst moments ever. Let the people sleep a bit, nobody wants tea now. It is still dark!
Patience is a nice virtue here.
Suddenly a strong odor of masala gets to our noses. Lunch time!
A big tray with rice, dal (lentils, peas, and beans), and more specialties was the only option, but the surprise was still to come. Searching for a trash bin after eating I found the young guy who sold me the meal, and he offered to help me. I just didn’t expect he would throw it all through the window with the train in movement. I got shocked, tried to argue, even though I was already wise enough to know I could not change some habits.
Another challenge for some was the toilet, or better saying the whole on the floor, from where you could see the rails passing by.
After all this adventure we arrived to one of the most magical places ever, and one more time life played nicely to me. Coincidentally it was Maha Shivatri, the festival of the Lord Shiva.
Different regions of India venerates different Gods, and in Varanasi Shiva is the main one.
All temples were fully decorated and devotees offer prayers milk, Bhang (an edible form of cannabis commonly used in these situations since thousand years before Christ), flowers and fruits.
If the atmosphere was so intense around the temples, it could not be said the opposite from the Ganges river, the most sacred for Hindus. A bath there can wash all your sins, or at least that’s their promise.
After observing buffaloes inside the water, tons of trash, and cremating bodies nearby I decided to keep my sins with me for a little longer.
There are two cremating spots by the river, and by this understand bonfires with bodies above, and the families around. Many people come there when close to death, and a local told me that George Harrison had his ashes thrown into the Ganges, believe it or not.
Everything is so amazingly peculiar and different from what I was used, that I felt like being part of a movie of documentary.
I miss you, Incredible India.
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