Peace amongst chaos

Trip Start Sep 06, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  ,
Sunday, January 28, 2007

Slowly I have settled into a pleasant routine that begins at 7 in the morning. After reading briefly I go down from my guesthouse and take yoga for two hours.

Initially I was astounded at the intense amount of time spent on different breathing techniques but have slowly begun to appreciate them. Some leave my body feeling hot and heady while others relax my mind and allow me to sink into the moment. Even the erratic style of the teacher, at times being focused and instructive and others scattered and engaged in the activity outside the studio, has become a way of understanding and slipping in deeper into meditation. My focus centers within myself as I flex into positions, twist into bends, and steady my muscles into shape. I have become enamored with yoga and want to devote more time and attention to learning so therefore I will be going on to Rishikesh, the Yoga Center of the World (or so they say), in the next several days. There I can spend my days learning asanas (positions), perfecting my breathing, meditating, and delving into philosophy and devotion.

After yoga I roll out loose and centered into the alleys of the old city. I dodge motorcycles, scan for cow shit, and observe the myriads of people slipping by like a kaleidoscope of humanity. I pick up fruit and fresh curd before proceeding to a shady ghat by the Ganga to eat and watch the world slip by. Orange clad sadhus mill about as Asian tour groups wander lost looking for accommodations for their immense groups. Monkeys chirp and screech above as goats lounge and munch on scraps. The cows amble slowly, perfectly zen and knowing in the fact that they will never end up a hamburger. Women in bright saris joke and smile with each other as lungi wearing men massage their old failing limbs. The Ganga slips by peacefully and festering with disease. The world is perfect, enshrouded thickly in dense smog.

The rest of the afternoon consists of leisurely walks amongst the shops in the small alleys and chatting with local residents and tourists. As the day builds, I grab the most delectable morsels to feed my hungry belly such as idly (steamed rice flour dumplings) doused with coconut chutney and spicy sambar, chapatis freshly baked over hot coals, milk sweets flecked with pistachio and saffron, or a thali consisting of various curried vegetables, rice, bread, pickles, and fresh daikon salad. The day slips by as beautiful and calm as the sunset in the midst of pulsating masses and pollution.

The evenings are greeted with chai and a rooftop view of the sunset, gold and blood red over the crumbling houses. The chants of Hindus from the river and Muslims from the mosque waft up into the sky as children fly a sea of kites that dart and dash in the setting sky. As the sun slips beyond the dense cloud of dust and exhaust in the west a gentle breeze picks up caressing exposed skin. The day slips into dusk and then into the twinkling night of barely visible stars and floating candles in the Ganga below.

Along the banks of the Ganaga at Dashashwemadh Ghat the evening aarti puja begins. Congregations sit along the steps and on wooden platforms at the Brahmins prepare themselves. The bells begin to ring and resound as the harmonium and tabla players play and sing to the mesmerized crowds. Incense is burned, fires are lit, conch shells are blown, bodies are prostrated, and horse hair whips are gracefully swept through the air to honor the Mother, the Ganga. The river is the devotional center of Varanasi and potentially all of Hindutva, flows past graciously accepting her offerings of love and devotion crippled by her pollution and septic depths, but like any loving mother she embraces her children despite their mistreatment.

Varanasi is a highly cultured city and hosts a multitude of music events in the evenings. As I grab a quick snack of fiery masala dosa (crepe like savory dish with curry and potato with chutney and sambar) I make my way through the alleys to hear Indian music at the International Music Ashram. The crowds gather in the small hall sitting against the walls, on cushioned mats, or on dark wood benches. The music of the sitar slips into me like a sharp pin vibrating with electricity. The sound of tabla resonates in my ears as my body shudders with the beats. Goose bumps appear on my legs and work their way up my arms and to my neck as I close my eyes and listen. The musicians are in an ecstatic trance feeding off each other as they build in rhythm and speed. The room pulsates with energy as we are all brought along on a journey riding the sounds to greater peaks. Then as if my mind and emotions become entangled with the sound, I am released from the reverie as the instruments fall silent. The feeling stays and builds into a grinning smile as I cheer and clap with the rest of the enchanted audience. We slip into the night along the alleys to sleep and awake again to a new day of intoxicating sound, sight, and emotion.
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moniminotaur on

i have no idea why i came back to ny.

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