The Varanasi Trifecta

Today we’re scheduled for a boat ride along the Ganga river at sunrise, but due to morning gridlock we don’t quite make it in time. Not a big problem though, the sunrise is still beautiful when we do get there and hop in the long row boat. Along is a little girl selling flower-filled floats with a little candle inside which you light and put in the river to commemorate loved ones recently passed. The girl deftly jumps off to another boat as we pull out from Dr. Rajendra Prasasa Ghat.

Morning is when most of the people are bathing in the river and we see a lot of them at the main Ghat. The light if beautiful and we we take lots of photos. We go all the way down to the burning Ghat we visited yesterday before turning around and going back. Our guide this morning is much worse than Raj though and we’re thankful that we’ve already been given a much better explanation of everything that is going on.

We hop off at the Manikarnika burning Ghat where an untouchable is giving us a short tour of the process. I knew most of it but still give a 50 rupee bill when he’s asking for donations to the hospice. This draws the attention of another one of the workers there and he demands a donation as well, I tell him no, why should I do that? He hasn’t show or told me anything. He then grabs my arm as I walk away, something that I haven’t seen so far. This is definitely over the line and shout at him while breaking loose. Nothing serious happens though, he just slinks away and I’m able to rejoin the group. Once again we navigate a labyrinth of alleys to reach the bus and I can’t stop being absolutely fascinated about them.

Nurse Karlsson has been on about a Yoga class she’s read about in Lonely Planet and Ulrika and I tag along after breakfast to find the place. The Yogi is supposedly giving lessons every other hour throughout the day. We’re a bit late and have to resort to one of those “I’ll show you the way and you look in my shop”-guys in order to get there in time. Unfortunately he shows us the wrong place, the Yogi has moved to Australia three years ago a guy says. Our “guide” says he knows this other place though and we agree to at least check it out. Turns out that the other place actually was the one we were looking for and we’re just in time for the class to start!

The Yogi suggests an hour’s class after quizzing us on our experience and we agree. Then he’s off to a flying start with a, very fast, sun salutation. After seeing that we have a hard time keeping up he takes it down a notch though and the rest of the class is really enjoyable. This guy is more of the real thing and keeps the mumbo jumbo stuff mostly to himself. We do get to recite some mantras though, but that’s really part of the experience. I’m sweating like a sinner in church and in the end we’ve all gotten a great workout.

The Yogi asks us what our plans are next and we tell him that we’re heading for the German Bakery (which Petra had also read about in Lonely Planet). He warns us not to try the hard bread, “it’s awful!” We pay the guy 300 rupees for the class and leave after signing the sizable guest book. Finding the bakery isn’t as easy as we’d hoped though, the alleys are really narrow and when asking for directions the answers are really vague. In the process I get headbutted by a cow as well, does that count as a religious experience? When we eventually find it we realize that we’ve passed it no less than three times already!

The German Bakery sure looks like a bona fide hippie place with rugs to sit on at low tables. We find the hard bread in the menu, only to see it described as “Knaeckebrod”. =P Sadly enough they don’t have any today and I order a capsicum omelet since I’m curious to find out exactly what capsicum is. Turns out that it’s regular green pepper, or paprika, depending on where you’re from.

The service is remarkably slow and forgetful but at least it’s a moment of peace and quiet, something you don’t get that often in India. Before going back to the hotel though I have one more thing to cross off my list, and that is a dip in the Ganga river.

So we head back down to the river at Dasaswamedh Ghat which is the main bathing Ghat with steps leading down into the river. On the way we’re pestered by yet another salesman, it seems like he wants to shake my hand and sometimes that’s enough to make them go away. So I take his hand and he proceeds to take me into some sort of police grip! …until I realize he’s massaging me. Petra and Ulrika don’t even try to contain their laughter while I’m being attack-massaged right there in the blistering sunshine! Fifteen minutes later and 100 rupees poorer we’re on our way again and it’s finally time to brave the Ganga river. I keep my fivefingers on since there’s no telling what’s down on the bottom and descend down the steps down into the river. It doesn’t smell bad or anything, it’s just the color that’s more or less like mud. Both Petra and Ulrika document the event so that the others will believe me.

I don’t stay in long, just enough to get wet all over before going back up and returning to the hotel for a serious shower. I add a dip in the pool to get some chlorine for good measure before hooking up with Sara to go check the movie schedule at the mall. Turns out that the movie Raj recommended isn’t showing there so we just grab the schedule and return to the hotel. We agree on a movie called Robot and agree to try the Indian specialties at McDonalds.

We get the most expensive seats, which are 150 rupees, and head over to McD. Just as in the US the prices are excluding VAT which is always a source of annoyance. They have the awesome-sounding Chicken Maharaja Mac on the menu, which I get. Elin, who’s a vegetarian, get the Paneer Wrap. Both are really nice, but we don’t really have time to enjoy them since we’re already late for the movie.

We head over to the theater where it’s showing. It’s closed though and the staff informs us that they’re still cleaning it. I decide that there’s still time to buy some popcorn and get the largest one they have (which is smaller than the smallest one in Swedish movie theaters). Eventually they let us in and the movie starts almost immediately without any commercial whatsoever. It’s freezing in the theater and I regret not bringing a sweater. The movie is great though, so much better than I could’ve ever hoped for! It’s sort of an sci-fi action Romcom, with all the elements Indian cinema is known for: Singing and dancing sequences, cheesy overacting and bad slapstick. The script isn’t half bad though, and you actually get something out of the movie. Towards the end I realize that I’ve actually seen a review about this movie from MovieBob! Seems like he liked it just as much as I did, and I would definitely recommend seeing it. The lack of subtitles never was an issue since the overacting made it really easy to follow the plot anyway.

One funny thing was in one of the sequences Monto throws his hands up in disgust saying “South Indian dance!” Apparently there’s something really wrong with that because he’s not very happy. The rest of the audience is also loudly participating in the movie, shouting, clapping and generally cheering when the hero does something good. Too bad the volume is turned up to eleven so that we can’t hear them half of the time.

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