We are so Lucky.. And so BLIND.

Posted: October 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Kolkata rocked, but it was time to experience Varanasi, said to be the oldest living city in the world – over 3000 years old! Its my last 2 nights on this trip, so here I splurge beyond splurging. I book the Nadesar Palace – A Taj Hotel. This place is no ordinary hotel. It is the Maharaja’s palace, and only has 10 suites. Each suite is named after some of the famous guests and dignitaries that have stayed there over the years. After checking into my room, I’m told the King of Bhutan once stayed there with his wife when visiting the Maharaja. Its one of the lesser rooms, not that there are any “lesser” rooms in this place. Service, impeccable. Own butler. Private audience with a flutist every morning and evening. 48 acres of land. Complimentary horse drawn carriage tour of the grounds. Because Varanasi has very little greenery, the birds of the area flock to the palace from all over. Kingfishers, Parrots, Eagles are amongst the many birds I recognised.

A couple of sneaky glimpses into this fantasy world:

How much is splurging in India? $500 a night. But you can go crazy in this place. Later I was given a tour of the more expensive suites and quickly decided that mine, the cheapest of the lot was by far the best. The opulence was just way too much everywhere else. Again, if you get the opportunity, treat yourself.

With the driver we head into the centre of Varanasi, where we take a boat with a rower down the Ganges to witness the Diwali opening ceremony. Getting to the boat was chaos. People, cars, bikes, rickshaws, pure madness. I snap some shots to try and capture this madness but its impossible. I do try though.

We row to a Ghat where the main festivities are happening. The rower, a 15year old, lives nearby, attends school during the day but spends most his time on the boat, rowing people up and down the strong-currents of the Ganges. He takes us to where many other boats are docked to watch the ceremony. The atmosphere is electric, full of believers cupping their hands together in prayer to their gods, giving thanks for their safety. I felt privileged, just being a mere spectator of this.

We then go further along the banks to witness the “Burning”. Where cremations happen right on the river, the ashes are spread into the river for the souls to follow on to where they are going next. The Ganges is the mother, and represents the flow of life. It is many a Hindu’s desire to have their ashes spread in this river when their time comes. You are encouraged not to take any photographs here, out of respect for the dead. And rightly so.

After a phenomenal dinner at a local North Indian restaurant near the hotel, it is time to retire in the ever so cramped confines of the Palace. The next day the driver comes back around midday (I spend the morning with a paper, coffee and masala omelettes. which at the Nadesar palace, are awe-inspiring) and we head back into the city to visit the many temples. Again, photography is strictly prohibited. We visit the monkey temple (where monkeys roam free, fun… but the smell that ensues is not), the main Shiva temple, followed by a visit to the “Muslim Silk House” in the Islamic quadrant of Varanasi. Where I experience / witness child labour for the first time. Shocking. There are watchers here and I am careful, but manage to get a shot or two. Here the textile process was explained to me from weaving to dying. The conditions these children (and elderly) work in are appalling. There’s a reason why they call them sweat shops. I will not delve into these details but should you have any questions please contact me directly.

 

At the end of the day I make some new friends… who smile and laugh more than anyone I know, despite the extreme poverty they live in:

We are so lucky… And so BLIND.

Love

Kheiry

 

 

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Comments
  1. Nice one bro! Makes me want to go there. Your writing is amazing!

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