Back in India, and back in Varanasi.
It's funny how my body tried to convince me (my mind) that I didn't want to go back to India just a day before the flight. Well, thinking about it, it may actually have been the other way round: my mind trying to convince me that I didn't want to come back, through my body. And yet, the pain in my back didn't prevent me to carry those heavy bags, and as soon as I stepped onto the Indian ground the pain in my feet had almost gone. It's as though an anxiety veil in my mind lifted as soon as I arrived home. Europe (the West) has it ways to make you worry too much about the future. Perhaps for good reasons. Or rather perhaps not for such good reasons... Anyway, all I can say is I feel a lot lighter since I have arrived in India, and mostly since I have arrived in that homely Varanasi.
And it seems like it has been raining well everywhere (Khajuraho, Delhi...) but Varanasi. I don't feel anxious like I used to, irrationally blaming global warming for that heat... The mind really is a strange thing sometimes. Three or four years ago, I was so worried about the hot weather and especially not seeing any rain, that I was constantly thinking about "the end of the world". "This can't be, it is too hot!; global warming will end it all!"... Some nights anxiety would wake me up and I'd be lying there worried for long moments before going back to sleep. I remember, it was the first year I had to register at university. The bureaucracy process was so long, we had to run from one office to the next at the other end of the campus and back every afternoon for a whole week til it was done, and I was thinking it was just too hot, I wasn't going to make it; it was impossible. And yet of course I made it; every year has been easier, and of course the world hasn't ended yet. This year in Varanasi it rains for 10 minutes and then it stops. Except at peak times, the temperatures are not too high actually, but the humidity as always makes you sweat, sweat sweat... And that's the thing: it's not actually that hot, yet you constantly sweat. I write about it pretty much every year, because it surprises me every year! But this time it was easier than ever; I just had to get my head round to the idea again. Perhaps for the first time it was as though I had never left at all...
And so I have settled in the new flat. After four years in my lovely guesthouse, I have moved home. It always seemed to me as though, for foreigners there are three steps, or level of experience perhaps, when it comes to living in Banaras: firstly, you'll be staying in a hotel or guesthouse in the touristic, traditional narrow and crowded lanes of old Banaras for a while, and you'll pay your rent "per day". The next time, you'll be moving into a family (guest)house for longer, where you'll be more immersed into traditional, local Indian life, perhaps a little further away from crowded old Banaras where it feels less... claustrophobic perhaps. Living within an Indian family is good if you want to feel more connected with Indian life, if you need any help with finding your way round for practical stuff, and perhaps if you want to practise your Hindi. Your rent is monthly this time. And after a while once you're reached an advanced level in the "discipline" of "living in Varanasi", you'll move into your "own" flat to live independently from any local family. It may sound silly or meaningless, and I don't really know why I feel that way. Perhaps other people to whom Banaras is familiar would agree... Perhaps this is just a silly theory from my silly mind. But I like this theory; it worked like that for me and in some ways for other people I know. Well, today I've progressed onto level 3. I have learnt enough from being immersed within traditional Indian life, and I have learnt enough Hindi, to live in a flat with friends. It's funny how after half a decade (!) I have forgotten how alien, intense, freaky, scary and crazy Varanasi seemed to me at first. Today Banaras feels so much like a home; a crazy home but a happy and beautiful one, and I often also forget how foreign newbies I meet may feel here...
So this is the flat my friends from Partage & Culture Sarasvati have been renting for 3 years now. I know it very well already, and we will thus be sharing the same home when they come to Banaras. I'm very happy about this; because it's a lovely, lovely flat, and I'll be very happy to live with my friends instead of random travellers who come and go. Most especially I will not miss having to clean the toilet which random travellers NEVER clean (and toilets do get very smelly in India!) or having to endure my ashram neighbours shouting "godly" lectures and badly played bhajans through over-saturated loudspeakers! My new room is perfect, even better than my previous one. It is light, it has white walls and large windows, a private balcony, and even an attached bathroom with hot water (no more bucket showers in winter). The flat has a real kitchen, so I shall no longer cook squatting on the floor in my meter-squared kitchenette in the corner of my room (though I really did enjoy that!) And as long as my current flatmate is here (til the end of August), I shall be enjoying the inverter (i.e. no power-cuts for me) and a fridge! Frankly, this is shear luxury... But it's nice.
So, despite all that sweating, life is beautiful in Banaras.
My dear violin is still in Khajuraho. I brought my viola back from France this time however, so I have been practising on the viola. I am pretty busy with settling, registration bureaucracy and association work, but I have resumed my music (and yoga) practice, which makes me happy. Actually, the viola sounds a lot nicer than when I played it in France - is it the energy, the lightness of my mind? My violin teacher is still in France and will come back to Varanasi towards the end of August, so after I'm all done next week I will go wait for him in Khajuraho.
Yesterday's anecdote is this: Last night whilst sipping a chai with a friend, a procession of really heavy drums passed following four men carrying a dead body - well, the usual - people carrying a body to the Ganges for cremation... The body though, under that decorated shroud, was very small. I thought "Poor baby!" and "That'll be why the procession is so loud." That's when my friend told me that it was not a human infant on that stretcher, it was............ A MONKEY!!! Oh You, crazy Banaras! Those surreal scenes make me so happy! Everything is possible here! Surely life really is always more interesting than what your imagination could ever come up with!!
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.