Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Day In The Life - Rishikesh to Varanasi

This is my 24 hour journey from Rishikesh to Varanasi.

Myself and three friends from the ashram decided to share a taxi to the train station in Haridwar. The driver was one hour late and panic began to settle into the group. I was staying calm only for the fact that my train left thirty minutes after the others. When the taxi finally arrived we prematurely breathed a sigh of relief as the driver was now in a heated argument with the group he was coincidentally dropping off at the ashram. Eventually our Swamiji had to step in to resolve the dispute. No sooner was that over that a land cruiser was now blocking our way. I was certain my friend Gypsy was going to lose it and hurt someone.

Finally on the road, everyone felt a little better. When we reached the train station we entered into an argument over the fare of the taxi. Exhausted with the driver we eventually just walked away to board our trains. With a quick check to see that all trains were running on time we said our reluctant good-byes and parted ways.

Soon my train arrived into the bustling station at 9PM, right on time. I entered the B section of the train, a climate controlled, "safer" and cleaner train car. I booked the more expensive ticket since I froze on the last trip and Matt had his bag stolen. Trying to find my seat, I walked into the middle of a massive fight between two passengers with many others involved. After waiting a couple minutes for things to die down I realized that this wasn't going to happen. Putting my head down I slowly went through the fight surprisingly unscathed. Reaching the other end I was happy to find out that my seat was in the other B car partitioned from the chaos.

As I settled into my seat, three ladies sitting next to me began to bicker. Of course. Soon their voices rose, fingers pointed, sitting became standing and before you knew it, everyone was in each others face. This argument easily went on for 20 minutes while I sat there contemplating my options. Walking in the dark in a strange country isn't sooo bad. Finally the TT (conductor) came by and it turned out that one of the ladies was in the wrong seat. I now had a 50/50 shot at a peaceful sleep. Sleeping however isn't really an option when you are on top of your luggage for fear of theft.

In the morning the four Indians I was sharing the berth with became curious about me and began asking many questions in their limited English. Soon the question of where is my girlfriend came up. When I told them I din't have one (I know, hard to believe. Right?), one of the women tells me that she is my girlfriend now. Flattering yes, but her English was non existent and I could never be with someone who couldn't understand the genius of Office Space. They were extremely kind and feed me twice on this trip. For breakfast they presented me with a curry so hot that it made me sweat profusely as I constantly deflected marriage proposals translated by the the woman's sister. I'm not sure what happened but I think I'm receiving 30 goats and 20,000 Rupees as a dowry.

Once in Varanasi I struggle to find a driver who knew where my guest house was and wasn't fleecing me. One cycle-shaw driver insisted he knew of the place and off we went. 10 minutes into the ride he pulls over and says "One minute." Sitting there for another 5 minutes I watch him have a chai, eat some biscuits and urinate 10 feet away from me. I don't know what was more disturbing, the urination or the fact that it doesn't even faze me anymore. On the road again, I notice that all other cycle-shaws are passing us and even children skipping are faring better then we. After another 10 minutes he wants to stop again but I insist we push forward.

Finally he stops and say "OK, here." and points to a dark narrow alleyway. I peer down but see nothing. I shrug in confusion. The man motions for me to follow and we walk down the dark corridor. The first person he sees he asks for directions. I KNEW IT!!! He had no idea where he was going! For the next 20 minutes we walk all over the area asking every fourth shopkeeper the whereabouts of my guest house. At the brink of my patience we belatedly locate the guest house. As it turned out we walked past it twice and 2 of the people we asked had their store only 30 feet away from it yet pointed us in the opposite direction.

Relieved to finally have made it, I pay the man far too much but don't have the energy to care. I turn to the proprietor of the guest house and inquire about my room. "Ahhhh we just gave your room away, but we have a lovely double room for only 100 Rs more."


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