Tuesday, September 21, 2010

@ B&W: run

The morning mist begins to burn as the day ignites, and everyday silhouettes mature from the thick grey cloak that quiets their intensity. A broken backed being slaps the dirt from his clothes in sync with the falling oars of sunrise voyagers. And finally she is revealed: the Lady Ganga. Yet she only shows her poker face. Her surface renders the clown nose hot air balloon of a sun, but I pine for the illumination of her depths, her core, her soul. Something lurks in the eddies, slides by in the main current, and it evades the fingers of my comprehension. Why does it draw me so? I find myself at the center of the Hindu universe, in Varanasi, abreast the mother of all being, the holy river Ganges. There's something here that I don't understand, regardless of strong, contrary intentions. I am reduced to sitting in wonder. Something is screaming in the air, composed of a pitch unfamiliar, and like a dog whistle, it eludes my senses. Sentience is not mine in regards to this, but these birds are fully conscious, wrestling and thrashing as if possessed by this otherworldly presence.

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-tag with the little ones, my pure white outfit blushing at all the looks it was getting from laughing eyes and happy trigger fingers. Before too many could hit on my getup, I had to double back for more ammo - little did I know I would have needed nothing short of the munitions necessary for a small war in order to contend for king of the color hill crown. I then fell in with a group of fellows who spoke English, which is exactly when that good ol' buddy insanity of mine decided to crash the party as well. Party? More like guerrilla warfare. We walked into the fray, the modern version of NYC's The Warriors - matching painted faces embedded with mad eyes flooded the streets looking for an excuse to come out and play. Each swagger oozed with booze and bhang, which is a thick smoothie which boasts THC as its main element. Substances and confidence met and overflowed as I saw a man's temple get turned holy with the vicious attacking of another (these holy jokes are too easy, forgive me). The oddities bled into less serious areas, namely the archetype of suppressed sexuality that seemed to be hosting this entire shindig. Men running up to me and openly grabbing my piece, along with some pretty blatant attempts at dry-humps, and one could say that things were getting sloppy around the edges that were rapidly closing in. There were massive speakers set up on each corner, obliterating ear drums with goliath beats, and when viewing these playgrounds, one could really see that most fellows were lacking control... or just something in the bedroom. Naturally, I waltzed right into these day lit homo-erotic clubs, and raged face with more than appropriate intensity (needless to say my camera stayed straight at home). Everyone was probably as bad if not worse at dancing, something you probably shouldn't visualize for fear of inducing a migraine. It was a true kaleidoscope of color, and I remember breaking it down beneath a cloud of yellow motes that drifted innocently down into the dementia. At this point I AM tie-dye - a confused, exhausted, highly molested blue alien. And this is just the A.M. sessions. SuperSloppySeconds saw the introduction of women (they can only participate after midday and throw powder color instead of the staining water the men throw in the morning), a man that introduced himself by slapping me in the face and leaving, another fight where a chap was crying and getting his hair pulled out; a gent who made great fun of bashing me repeatedly in the forehead (no way to save face on that one); a Brahmin who had this intoxicated, infallible impression that I was going to get him a visa and we were going to march up together and meet Barack Obama; then a priest who blessed me with good luck marks, garlands, and a bracelet, because he claimed to see something of promise about me. Probably my wallet because that's what he asked for after our little ceremony. 'Nother day in the life.

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.

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