Saturday, August 8, 2009

Holy Shit



The holliest city in India, by the holly Ganges river. Hundreds of pilgrims come everyday to cremate their lost ones. The purpose of being cremated here being to free oneself from the reincarnation cycle.

The city is a mayhem thanks to a rather bad handling of waste disposal and such. The sewage goes straight into the Ganges, where pilgrims bath. This is the holliest city in India, near Krishna's birthplace (Vindhravan), and they don't hesitate to throw the corpses straight into the river, letting the body float towards its delivrance. A special treatment for the higher castes they say, but outside of Varanasi this is regarded as source of pollution of the water. If it was just for that... Corpses of cows and dogs, garbage, sewage flowing in. The water is actually so polluted and full of bacterias that nothing could hope to survive in it. And they bath happily. They rub themselves with the water. Brush their teeths. Take generous gulps of water to wash their mouths before spitting it out in thin streams of holliness. Blessed, happy.

The place is a contradiction in itself.

Small streets vomiting garbage in all corners. Smell of piss, shit and burning corpses. An old Indian man is crouching by a huge cow dropping. He dips both of his hands in it. I quickly look away, slighlty disgusted, as he plays with it for minutes. I'm later explained that they use small balls of cow droppings for a better combustion.

I can't help but thinking what would happen if I took a poop in the middle of the Vatican. The huge gap between our treatment of (very) holy places and theirs is so wide that it is ununderstandable. What is their notion of respect of religion and the city? They seem to not respect their environment and public places like we do, which makes me wonder. We do take off our shoes before stepping into a temple or someone's house here. The notion seem almost inverted, where what is holy does not need to actually be "clean" because it is clean by essence.

My bad experience of the place is surely related by this:
The first day I arrived in Varanasi I fell ill, after a 14 hours train ride sleeping on the floor because of no beds available. Arriving in the city, bad tummy ache, feeling nauseaus. The migraine became worse thanks to the state of the city and rubbish everywhere (see above), then heavy sweating and feeling exhausted. I became worried when I started having difficulties to breath after the smallest efforts (Standing up and walking for a few metres), and I decided to pay a visit to the hospital. Thirty odd Indians are standing there in line, obviously impatient, waiting to retrieve an admission ticket. As a foreigner, western, I get a special treatment and, as I try to go at the back of the queue, a police officer stops me. He escorts me through the back door straight to the office on the other side of the window to get my ticket straight away for a Rs10 note. An Indian is asked to stand off his chair by a table where doctors are seeing patients to have me seated. Moments later I'm with one of the doctors, to whom I tell about my condition. Nice and quick, enjoyable to be treated in such a way after having walked 3 kilometres to get to the hospital. I'm sweating a lot, feeling very tired and my mouth so dry that I find it even hard to talk. I describe the symptoms to the man. 1 tablet of antibiotiques and a couple of "Electral", minerals to mix with lemon juice, water and salt. The whole hospital visit and purchasing the medicine have taken just over 10 minutes. A pill and I'm feeling better after a few minutes - Sweet placebo effect. I rush to the travel agency office to book my train to Kolkata. 16:25 train. Perfect.

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