journal excerpt of trip to India

6 December 1989 to 13 January 1990

BENARES

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photo Ganges River Benares New Year's Day 1990 ©TPH90 (jpg 1.69kb)

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Monday, New Year's Day 1990 8:45pm
What a day we've had today! First we got up at 6:30 to get down to the river to take a boat from one ghat down river to the mosque.photo Ganges River Benares New Year's Day 1990 ©TPH90 (jpg 1.69kb) It was really beautiful even though we got there a little later than we hoped so the sun was well up in the sky. It's amazing how quickly the day gets longer! An hour passed very quickly as we were rowed in a leisurely fashion along the shore line watching so many people doing their early morning puja in spite of the fact that it was so cold.There was one really pucka lady who immersed herself in the river, wearing full sari! Her servant stood ready holding a new beautiful silk sari. She emerged from the river and in the most amazing fashion, with a little help from the servant, unwound herself from her sopping wet silk sari and wound herself back into the dry silk sari without EVER exposing her skin to any prying eyes.

We disembarked at the mosque and thought we'd sit in the sun and watch the people do their calisthenics but it was very cold and the sun hadn't had a chance to warm the stone. What a change from the day we came to the river 3 weeks ago! (It was too hot then.)

Then we went into the mosque, not managing to avoid the bird droppings from the many parrots and pigeons that live in the mosque. We tried to get photos of the parrots but I think probably we have photos of empty air. photo Benares market New Year's Day 1990 ©TPH90 (jpg 1.69kb) We then walked through the market area in search of breakfast. On the way, we tasted a concoction of frothy cream that was lightly sweetened and had tons of cardamon (called maliah -sp??). It was fabulous and T says it is new, that he has never tried it before. It was in a huge copper bowl and served to us in little disposable clay pots.

We found a place to have puris, which were served on plates made from large leaves pinned together by a single toothpick. We had to pay for each puri but the vegetable stew that came with one puri was included in a never ending supply. When we had finished breakfast, we threw the leaves into the gutter to be eaten by the milling cows.

We then came back to O and M's, had lunch, and off we went in their car to Gandhi Ashram where M and O bought handloom silk for us - a beautiful peacock blue for me and grey for T.

On the way to the store, the traffic was brought to a complete standstill by a parade of Sikhs. The parade started with some men riding on wonderfully decorated horses - red braid and gold hanging all down the faces of the horses. Then came 5 (FIVE) elephants with their faces painted in designs and ridden by several regal looking Sikhs. Then came some school children, then a most terrible band, everyone playing all the standard brass band instruments but no one playing the tune that someone was singing loudly into a microphone. It was wonderfully cacaphonic. Then there were more horses and a truck decorated with many flowers, another appalling band and then some people twirling batons, followed by women beating drums.

As the parade passed by, traffic tried to continue normally, therefore chaotically. And utter chaos there was. In half a lane, there were rickshaws, bicycles, cars, trucks and scooters trying to go in both directions with the cars and trucks taking precedence in the noise category. At one point, we were sitting staring at the parade and there were scooters passing on either side of the car (going in the opposite direction to us even though we weren't moving). Then a cow was pressed up against the side of the car not allowing the pedestrians to pass. The poor thing was being poked at from all directions. It was hilarious! (and we forgot to bring the camera! There was an article about the parade in the next day's paper that had a photograph of the decorated truck!)


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Thanks to Marijn Kampf for the truck and cars.

After the silk shopping, we went to a jewellery store where M insisted she buy some silver barrettes for me because brides must be given some metal. So it was quite a gift giving day!



Ag and enamel barettes India 1990




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