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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Varanasi : Life and Death


Varanasi 01

Today I walk alone with a goal to go the other end of the Varanasi river side. I passed by another burning ceremony. I didn't stay long not as much as yesterday. And just a few meters from it, I found a relatively deserted and peaceful place.

I bring out my book and my notebook. And I start writing about what I've been feeling ever since I saw the burning ceremony yesterday.

Varanasi 02

Varanasi makes me sad, emotionally, mentally and physically. As much as I want to downplay it, I just can't. I just feel sad and nauseous most of the time.

Maybe because death is just about everywhere here. They cremate people twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. There is no holiday, no festivals, no breaks.

Varanasi is considered one of the holiest places in India. Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi and being cremated at the ghats and their ashes thrown to the Ganges River let them attain Moksha, or the release from the cycle of rebirth. People wait to die in Varanasi. There are guesthouses for the aged and dying here.

I'm just really having a hard time acknowledging that death in this place is a normal, daily event. There's a burning ceremony, but everywhere else there's just a lot of activities going on.

Varanasi 03

Just right beside me is a piece of undergarment waiting to be dried. To my right and just a few steps down is a man, alone, looking out into space or maybe he's praying. Farther more is a man brushing his teeth. A man leading his cows out of the water. Kids flying their kites.

I know that the one thing real and normal in this world and in life is death. But it's probably because of my youth and naivety that I think of death as something else, something different from what it is here.

But Hindus believe otherwise:

"I myself do not fear death at all. Not only me – most Indians have no fear. That is why we wear the gamcha scarf. It signifies that we know we will die, but not where or when. This piece of cloth is our coffin. We do not need anyone to help us. As we die, we can cover ourselves. It means we accept death at any time."


And then my thoughts are interrupted by these two curious kids who said Hello! and sat beside me. The older one is reading my writings out loud, or my book, practicing his English. They make small talk, and they're pretty nice compared to the other kids from yesterday who was trying to pick pocket me.

Varanasi 04

And they woke me up from my sad and depressed state. There's still life here. People still smile and do their own things. Life goes on everyday here in Varanasi.

Varanasi 05