I powerwalk along the ghats of Varanasi with my new friend Shyam Kakkar. He loves meeting foreigners and immediately requested a photo. I had originally planned on strolling along the ghats at a leisurely pace, but Shyam likes to powerwalk. He walks from his house, along the entire length of the ghats, and back to his house every morning. 15 kilometers, he boasts. So, we powerwalk. Shyam talks of Varanasi and the ghats that we pass by. I talk about my life in the States. Finally, I think I am slowing him down too much. He writes down his name and email for me so that I could send him the picture. He also tells me to find him on Facebook.


oh, facebook

how you’ve connected the world

If I had to describe Varanasi, well, it’s everything that I expected out of India. Your senses are truly assaulted in this city Walking through the narrow alleyways, I was constantly suffocated by the stench of urine and feces, from animals and humans alike. Walking along the riverside steps, or ghats, you add the smell of sewer water, the general stench of animals, and the acrid smell of burning bodies. The excessive heat of the day only amplifies the smells until I find myself on the verge of gagging.

The women in their brightly-colored saris continue to decorate the landscape like various-colored roses in a field of dull, gray rocks. Boys gather together along the ghats to play cricket. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Indians are bathing in the ‘holy’ sewage-riddled Ganges river. Young children carry baskets of flowers and candles and, seeing two ‘walking ATM’s’, quickly surround us. Some are charismatic and friendly in their attempts to sell us various items. Some not. “Why do you come to India?” a young girl demands after my constant refusal to buy anything. I try to answer. “To see your country and your people; to experience your culture; to-” I am interrupted. “No,” she snaps at me,” you came to buy things.”


oh, Varanasi

it’s definitely time to leave

I was so excited coming to India. I thought it would be difficult and beautiful, heart-wrenching and life-altering. All the stories I’ve heard, the love-hate relationships, being reduced to tears. Perhaps all of the emotion is in Southern India. Besides a few hidden, or in the case of the Taj Mahal, not so hidden gems, I left India a bit confused and sad. It was such a clash of modern and primitive. People pooping on the ground, living in trash heaps. Cows wandering all around. The heavy smog and pollution, the trash and litter everywhere you look. And then on the other hand, the fact that India is becoming so modern; it’s extensive Bollywood industry, the technological industry. How can a country be made up of such extremes? How can a country on the cutting edge of technology and modernity have such poverty and hopelessness?


oh, India

I am really confused as to what the hype is about.


~ by Rachel on July 12, 2011.

2 Responses to “Varanasi”

  1. thanks for sharing Rachel, I can close my eyes and live your adventure when you ride. We miss and love you, but am so happy for your travels. I’m still waiting to see if you smashed the creepy “spiders from Mandalay”

    love papa

  2. Don’t know if I’d like to travel there – such extreme contrasts, and so many people…

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