CraSh Williams' Blog

Posts Tagged ‘monsoon’

Varanasi – Cremations on the Ganga

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on September 3, 2011

Varanasi, one of the places I’ve always wanted to visit is a twelve-hour train journey from New Delhi Railway Station – twelve hours pah, having just been to Goa and back, a combined journey time of 60 hours with a full-scale monsoon meeting you the other end, with rain the size of a lake hitting you, twelve hours was going to be a breeze.

Only I was going on my own as Shelley pulled the NRI card having insitsted on staying in Delhi to catch up with friends and family, all of whom were questioning me as to why I’d want to go and visit such a place, moreso during Monsoon – the Ganges would be full to bursting the narrow alleyways full of cow shit and the general filthyness of the place. It has all of this in spades –  like a pigeon taking a dump on you is deemed good luck in the UK, here the same is true of cow-shit. Luckily for me, I’ve managed to tread in it several times…

As for coming here, well for one, it’s one of India’s oldest cities and is situated on the banks of the holy Ganga, or River Ganges – it’s all the place all Hindus go to bathe – absolving them of all previous sin. Also many old people come to die here as it’s the main highway to nirvana – you see them sitting there, praying to die with their wife in the background telling them to jump straight in – some look ready to go!

It’s also a place where they carry out cremations next to the river and should you unfortuantely be poor then you’re tossed straight in – there’s many horror stories of floating corpses, mostly headless with eels emerging from the neck though, so far I’m yet to see one!

We did however stumble across a cremation, two in fact – the first one was looking a tad small and we actually passed it by not realising that particular pyre had been underway for several hours and all that was left was a torso (we were told that the male torso is usually the last thing to burn and for women, the hips.) Bumping into a guy ‘…I want no money from you, honest guv…’ he gave us the grand tour and in actual fact turned out to be the owner of the ‘burning-business’ at this particular ghat. It was quite interesting, as mentioned above – if you’ve money, you’re burned, if not, you’re chucked in!

Apparently babies, pregnant woman and holy men are not cremated either, being as they’re pure…

Luckily for us they had one pyre ready to go, a whole bunch of logs with a body covered in a sheet laying across. The head of the family, in this case a young man with his head shaved circled the pyre with fire five times before setting it alight. We watched a while and once the smoke became too much, we were taken above for a grand-stand seat…

Being unable to take photos (though I did snap one before the fire started) we sat and watched as the fire took hold with the body quickly appearing from beneath the burning cloth. To be honest it was all a little surreal – the family don’t actually watch the cremation so there we were, directly above watching it all take place, us, the owner, couple of kids and a cow.

It didn’t take long and before too long the owner commented about a charity around the corner selling silk with some of the profit going towards wood for the poor fold… To be polite we went to look but none of it really appealed so we made our excuses and left, much to the dismay of the guy looking to make some commission.

Later today, along with Luis, a guy I met on the train – an American whose family are Mexican, are heading out to take a dip in the Ganges – not that I’m religious or anything like that but should I choose to get all religious at some point in my life, at least I’ve been in…

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Go West

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 27, 2011

We’re now in Palolem, southern Goa which is bang in the middle of Monsoon…

Whereas I thought it would be raining for an hour or two a day, it’s properly honking it down – when it rains you go from dry to drenched in the space of a nano-second – theres the very real chance you might drown (from the head down) whilst trying to find a shelter which if truth be told, is a total and utter waste of time.

When it rains it pours – it does not matter how close to shelter you are, you’re immediately drenched.

This is happening four times  a day and we’re thinking it’s time to start heading back…

So what next? If truth be told, we were planning to spend a good few weeks here in Goa though having arrived and experienced the monsoon and with everything shut we’re thinking of heading west. The whole trip has been awesome, in fact the best thing I’ve ever done in my life though there comes a time where you become travelled out; too many hotels, restaurant food taking its toll, taking trains from a to b and having no control over your life – not being able to enjoy the food you want (cooking your own food) and dare I say it, missing friends – well, not in my case but we’re ready to return…

Having no plans, our next plan is to take a flight to Athens, jump on a ferry and spend a good few weeks enjoying the Cyclades, starting off in Sifnos before exploring further – London/Bristol beckons and we’re heading back…

 

 

 

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Monsoons, Trains and Autorickshaws

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 26, 2011

We needed to get out of Chandigarh, a cool city but just too clean and unlike the rest of India – where were the cows wandering the streets and hoards of dogs who always seem to be asleep in the middle of the road? The general grime and humanity which seems to characterise every big city in India?

Grabbing the 7am train to Delhi, we settled in for the ride (3rd CAR AC) back to the big bad city.

One of the things I love about Indian trains is the total disregard of health and safety – during one of our recent journeys there was an electrical fire at the end of our carriage, smoke billowing out with no-one seeming overly bothered. The guard merely passed by carrying a tool kit from which he took a pair of wire cutters and to rectify the problem set about cutting as many wires as possible! To clear the smoke he opened the door of the moving train, leaving it open for any Tom, Dick or Ravi to fall out of!

Realising I could open the door has seen me spending several hours hanging out of trains whilst blasting though the Indian countryside, the wind in my face whilst enjoying the ride. Pulling into Delhi was memorable – slums are built right up to the edge of the railway line, some slums are a couple of KMs in length with families’, children, chickens, cows and goats all living immediately adjacent to the railway line. Being stood at the door you do get a much differing view from being behind double glazing enjoying the coolness of double glazing; children waving and smiling, old ladies going about their daily lives cooking, washing clothes, chatting and laughing with friends, young boys flying kites and the old bold man, sat staring at you whilst curling out a log whilst grinning!

Sometimes the train will stop and several people take the opportunity to jump aboard selling chai, offering pakoras or in once case carrying about thirty books for sale, all trying for a quick sale before the trains sets off. After being in the well-ordered (if somewhat boring) Chandigarh, (the Milton Keynes of India,) New Delhi Railway Station comes as a shock. On leaving the train it’s a case of following the person in front and making your way to the exit, you’re either in a team of people going one way or there’s a team of people coming at you, it’s chaos albeit in an Indian kind of way – it just works and eventually you’re disgorged from the train station.

Being monsoon it can rain at any time and as we stepped out of the station we were immediately hit by a very large spot of rain – the sky darkened, everyone became a little furtive, it was about to rain and rain hard. Most of the time we’d spend a good 10/15 minutes arguing with auto drivers as on seeing me the fare quoted is usually double the price a local would pay – we always end up paying Gora Tax (gora meaning fair-skinned or indeed honky!)

Jumping in the first auto we could find and dumping our bags in the bag the skies opened and it properly pissed it down, not just any rain this was of biblical proportions and even though we had a door on one side of the auto – both of us pressed up in the corner within ten minutes we were soaked through. Within twelve minutes the roads were flooded due to the storm drains being unable to cope with such quantities of water in such a short space of time.

Our auto, with no functioning windscreen wipers nor any grip on his tyres (auto drivers seem to prefer the slick look of Formula 1) ploughed on – though was constantly stalling due to water entering his engine. On one stretch of road we were pulled over whilst the driver was trying to restart the engine. With visibility down to 20 yards cars, buses and trucks were hurtling passed us – almost at full speed, throwing water over and into our auto and aqua-planing through huge puddles covering the road – it was actually quite scary and not being able to see behind due to our bags and no windows you’re constantly braced for someone to come sailing (sorry) straight into the back of you!

Eventually we arrived at our destination to be greeted by hot cups of sweet chai and plates of dhal and rice – home cooking at its very best. We stripped out of our wet clothes and sat down to enjoy the great food.

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