We have arrived in Varanasi, the Sacred City10 Jan 2009, by Uncategorized in
January 10, 2009 Saturday night, again around midnight…again exhausted but so fulfilled inside…hoping and praying my life is making a difference here upon this earth.
I will again attempt to write this morning, to finish this letter. Last night around midnight or so as I was typing, the electricity in our hotel went out. With a worried look, we laughed and waited. This is India, the land of unpredictability! It is Sunday morning now…we are about to climb up to the roof of this place and do yoga, morning stretches and breathing to begin our day!
The planes have been grounded once again and we are concerned for our flights home. Life changes from day to day though so we will wait for the ever changing news…
We have arrived in Varanasi, a city far from Kolkata, after taking a horrendously long and difficult 17 hour journey by train. Barely sleeping and snuggling up inside our thin blankets we packed for the trip, we shivered with the unexpected cold and tried to block out the snoring next to us, the clapping down the aisle, the singing, the babies crying, the stares from the curious people all around us, the constant droning announcements of "chai, chai, chai, chai…toy, toy, toy…vegetables, shoelaces, sparkly necklaces…" from the merchants who ride the trains hoping to make some quick cash. Everything one might need was for sale in the aisles of the train.
All night long, the Indians walked by, stopping at our bunks, staring, watching our every move. We worried about our belongings and kept them in bundles next to our bodies as we tried to sleep. I climbed like a monkey onto the top bunk, hard as a board, shorter than my body length, and thinner than I need to stretch out upon, with an old wire fan buzzing by my face and freezing wind blowing in from the cracks in the windows and doors. I tried with all of my meditation and wisdom, to be calm and to find sleep but to no avail!
In the middle of the night sometime, I had to go to the bathroom, so I climbed down my bunk, onto the bunk below and then onto the bunk below that one, down to the aisle. I tiptoed down the hall, over to the next boxcar, opened the "toilet" door and almost lost my breath with the stench. I just had to go, so there was no other choice! The toilet was a hole in the floor, leading directly down onto the tracks below. I held my breath. Scurrying as fast as I could, I ran back to my section of the train and climbed back up to the top bunk, vowing to never go to the "toilet" again!
Again, I laid in bed, tossing and turning and just decided to let go of my expectations of sleep and to enjoy what was happening around me. I laughed and sang to myself, under my blanket. I thought about many of our experiences in India. I needed this time to begin to process the difficult issues and triggers which have stirred my soul. No sleep began to turn into a gift. I pondered how grateful I was for all of my life, its gifts, my family, my children in third grade, my pets, my home, my beautiful life and for Mother India.
This journey has been heart breaking and heart fullfilling at the same time. India is a home of intensity, deep opposites, stark realities. I have many stories which I will not write. I will share these with you one day when we are alone.
Here, I see death every day. It is horrible. Little ones. Old ones. Animals. I do not feel pity, I feel compassion. Dan and I had a deep discussion today about the difference between the two. I love these people. I love these animals. The life here is sacred and honored as is death.
The monkeys jump around my window, playful and energetic as I gaze in awe upon them. The tiny monkeys are my favorite. So furry and cute. Maya went crazy today, taking photos of them out our bedroom window. We pushed our beds together and tucked them under the window so we could observe them. When Maya noticed that the monkeys could be photographed even closer, she opened the door to the upstairs balcony and walked out. They jumped right over to her. Oh how Maya loved this! I was in my room, opened my door to the foyer and there, sitting on my door step was a big monkey, just looking at me! Luckily I carry my camera with me everywhere, so I reached in my pocket and snapped a picture. The monkey followed me to the dining room, walked behind me through the table area and out the door to the outside dining room. Before I knew it, the monkey jumped up onto the side of the doorway and scaled the wall in a second flat, running over to the corner of the roof, looking down upon my friends eating at a table. He perched on a pipe extending over us and watched our every move.
We noticed online this story…so here you can see the types of monkeys we are playing with…See comcast.net/slideshow/news:toppix0105/2/
Last night I witnessed many beautiful ceremonies of cremations on the River Ganges at the Ghats as I floated by on a wooden boat with Maya and my friends. Each Ghat was a series of steps leading to a Hindu Temple. Colorful flags were flying, lights blazing and processions carrying the dead were magnificent. The bodies were wrapped in gold if they were men, silver if they were women. A woman who is pregnant "with a flower growing within" is gently placed into the Ganges without the burning first. If you have leprosy, or have been bitten by a snake, you also are placed into the Ganges without cremation first. The fires were burning, piled high with wood. Bodies were being cremated. Prayers were being said. We were honored to float by on our boat and observe their traditions. I found it difficult for me to watch but also spiritual.
A little girl in our boat leaned over my hands and quietly lit a candle for me which I was holding. The candle was placed inside the paper dish with the flower petals surrounding it. I gently placed the candle into the Ganges as we floated along and whispered a prayer to God. We hear that the Ganges is Holy Water, a Sacred Mother River of India, giving life to India. It is filled with pollution. As we floated along in the boat, we noticed body parts floating along side of us. We did not touch the water. We felt reverence for a people and their beliefs.
Today we will go to the Buddhist temple, the first one Buddha ever visited. The Dali Lama is there teaching. We hope to sit by his feet and to listen to him.
Peace and Love this beautiful morning of prayers,
Sue and Maya