There is something about India that touches upon every emotion in your being…..all at the exact same time. Happiness, stress, disgust, love, pity, pleasure, annoyance,sadness, joy, disappointment, amazement and confusion are a few that I experienced each day that I’m here.
There is beauty to be enjoyed just by walking the streets; the hustle and bustle of the traffic, beautifully colored saris that dress the women, scents of spicy food mixed with camp fires and incense, children playing cricket, animals roaming aimlessly, chai wallas selling tea and beggars asking for change. Unfortunately it can’t be enjoyed as easily as that. When walking down the street complete concentration and full awareness is needed in order to get where you are going. The constant traffic of cars, bikes, wheel barrows, rickshaw drivers and tuk tuks do not care that you are in the street, they will run you over if you are not careful. Pedestrians do NOT have right-of-way here. While it’s important to look ahead you also have to look down to make sure you aren’t stepping in what the cows leave behind. This morning I was dodging a hole in the road but on the other side of the street a tuk tuk came barreling down and splashed me with a
puddle……although I instantly realized it wasn’t water, it was wet cow shit, on my jeans and shoes!!! I had a near heart attack as I’m sure all that know me can imagine. All people here, men, women and children alike spit constantly so you always have to be on alert to dodge the trajectory saliva that can come out of nowhere at a moments notice. Men also chew these bitter leaves mixed with tobacco and spit it out. It stains the ground bright red and is another fluid that one needs to watch out for when walking about.The dust and dirt is so thick that sometimes you can taste it in your mouth. On top of that, you have the beggars with missing limbs approach and touch you asking for money, coupled with street vendors following you for blocks at a time trying to sell trinkets, necklaces and flower offerings for the gods. They won’t take no for an answer. Dogs, cows, pigs, water buffalo, goats, monkeys, you name the animal they are all in the street amongst us and we are dodging them left and right all the while trying not to get hit by oncoming traffic. Take this image that I have described to you and then add in people walking barefoot! The filth on their feet make me cringe, some are old and some are but small children. For the most part these are beggars but some are just locals that apparently don’t mind the filth, I guess they are used to it…..to each their own.
Everyone seems to be in their own little world on the streets. Varanasi is a city that combines life with death and that is something truly amazing to see in action. You have the people bathing in the Ganges performing their morning rituals, others washing dead bodies before they are cremated, while others are washing their clothes and still others that are lighting candles in floral arrangements and casting them off their boats to make an offering to god. Sometimes there is so much going on I can’t even focus on what I’m actually looking at. Organized chaos is the only way to describe it, or as my uncle Chris would say, a total CF! It is such a sensorial experience here, combined with mayhem and tranquility. But if any country can pull it off and make it appear normal, it’s India!