Varanasi quickly became one of my favorite destinations I have ever Vagabonded in. I stayed on the shore of the Ganges in the old city, a labyrinth of wing-span sized stone streets crammed with the undeniable energy of everyday life. Ghats (public cremation grounds) and temples lined the bank with their ancient loftiness, as boats transformed the surface of the river into a fluid mosaic. The backstreets are another world to get lost in, but the water seduced like a siren, a true vixen. Much of the attraction for me was the foul hypocrisy that literally resides within its flow. There are 16 raw sewage entries into the Ganges from Varanasi alone. Add that to the trash, the soap from washing, and the leftovers from half cremated bodies from the ghats and you've got holes in your reverence for the holy river. Yet many Hindus make a pilgrimage here, and believe that the Ganga water will purify you of your sins; if you die in Varanasi, you will automatically attain 'Moksha,' or release from this life cycle. That you die in Varanasi is actually a quite plausible occurrence, especially if you cleanse yourself in the river, considering that it contains 120 times the official limit of bacteria that is considered safe to bathe in.
Ghats...The ashes flutter down from the sky, but the soul drifts onwards, away from this nonsense up into the infinity of its own. The remnants of an entire life shower down onto me with all their purpose as I sit transfixed on the writhing flames. This is real. This is life, pure, unrefined, unapologetic, unglorified, raw. When I first arrived to India, I immediately dubbed the prevailing stripped down form of existence as being 'on fire.' The scene of ingited flesh in such public setting may irk some, but after experiencing a cremation, the concept snapped right into my brain like a Lego being attached. We all face the same demise, so why hide from our mortality? Why sugar coat the inevitable and cover it with coffins and flowers and our Sunday best to cope and exalt the most basic thing of all? What is life if not for the raging blaze within?
Some of my most surreal India moments were not zany combinations of characters and events, but rather sitting there marinating in the most explicit portrayal of this life cycle, and the somehow dreaded process that actually unites us all as one. I retract that previous statement. India was entirely surreal in that it was the only place I've been where what is real is such a force, that it often bursts through the seams of its fake modern clothing; it cannot be contained, cannot be denied.
First off, Holi crap. Holi is the festival of colors, and after being a part of this polychromatic throw-down, I can say that this city has captured me, no more hide and go seek with my feelings. I awoke to pounding techno - here we go. Hit the early bird streets with go get the worm passion, water gun fully loaded, confidence cocked and ready to inject my paint into the veins of the city via my color syringe. I first ran back to kindergarten for some color-
I took to the otherside, the day finally settling, like a handful of powder gently returning to earth after being lofted into the air, as each event finds its place of rest upon my being. And I am at peace. Some people come to find themselves here, in the craziest place on earth. In order to block out the blaring rickshaw horns and wild music, one must dig into ones own soil, and find the molehole of inner silence where the true self resides, where all of your own colors come out to play, and where all is Holi.