VARANASI. I’m with my friends, it’s great. I like the green anywhere I see it. I like the green and all the colours after Iran in the winter. Smells. Smoke. And strong smell of smoke. Animals everywhere, dogs and cats and goats and cows freely roaming the streets, and monkeys jumping above my head, running along the edges. The cute Ice Age squirrels, can’t get enough of them. Cheeky monkeys. Hotel-guys waiting for them with air-weapons. At night, rats. Smells and colours, intense. But tourists also. So many tourists. And I am a wallet here. Just a wallet. Maybe a girly wallet, judging from the looks. I keep my headscarf on, Iranian style, at the beginning. Then turban-style. Bare-head feels weird. Just a wallet, how awful. Go around, avoid the scams. Not always easy. Bargain. Everything. All the time. Do I want to play that game? Not sure yet. So tiring… In Iran there was one price for everyone. I was not a wallet. Luckily there is the music. The beautiful lessons with the Indian teacher. And the sound of the streets, and the honking and the loudness. Iran was so calm. I like the lively effect it creates. Never dull. Peace only at night when the monkey don’t run on my roof. People take pictures of me. Can I take pictures of them? I don’t know. I don’t dare. I am shy. Everything is so different. I want to click a photograph of everything but I end up with almost no pictures. Don’t like being mistaken for the average tourist. But I am just one of them. Even recording seems harder. How do you record chaos? How do you focus on one sound out of it? Your ear does it but with a microphone, it’s another story. We meet Orlando. Interesting conversations getting deeper and deeper. Philosophy. Spirituality. India is only about foreigners for now. Let it be that way, then. Loosing track of my budget. Hotel at the end of the bazaar. So many things to buy. If only I could purchase the whole shop and send it as a gift to my family and friends. We eat at the tourist places. I want to try the street food. My friends won’t do it with me. Everything looks so nice and new and tasty. I’m curious. I badly want to have a try. But heard so many stories. Little scared. Decide to give my stomach time to adapt first, just in case. Being a vegetarian becomes the easiest thing. Bottled water for the first time in my trip. How strange. Some people live of collecting my empty water bottles. Begging all over the place. Tiring. Sad. What to do? I smile at the women. They smile back, a heartfelt smile. I feel better. I get scammed. I go look for the guy again, just to talk to him. Can’t find him but in my search I meet Aboo. Real honest chat. Heartfelt again. It helps. It’s not about money any more. So there are good people, just hidden behind the mass of scammers, proportional the the mass of tourists. I feel better. Stay positive. Take it all in. Adapt, bend, adapt, adapt, go with the flow, it’s gonna be all right. I feel better. Iran fades away. The colours, the smells, the life and the beauty of it all. Going up the overcrowded busy loud street, I feel a strange peace inside. The louder it is around, the more quieter it is inside me. I smile. I feel better. I love India already.
The Kumbh Mela. Literally millions of people. Takes a longish trip in an overcrowded bus to take us there. I feel lucky I have a seat. MILLIONS of people. In the same place. At the same time. It’s a super-dupper sacred Khumb Mela this year, one that happens only every 112 years or something like that. Extremely auspicious to dip your feet or your whole self into the soup-like Ganga. The crowd does it. I did it do. Had my reasons. Live in the moment! Against, photo-shy. Didn’t take half the pictures I wanted to. And the big day with the naked painted guys is tomorrow only. So no awesome pics for me. It’s ok, I am no photographer. Feelings and sensations, emotions are more important. We don’t stay for the night. One afternoon was enough. The crowd, the incredible crowd. How can it even work out? I am amazed that it seemingly runs so smoothly. And the next day I learned many people died in a stampede at the Khumb Mela. “Welcome to India!”, isn’t it what they say?