Holy cow! It’s already December and it neither feels like it or looks like it!
The Road to Varanasi
It was long and very bumpy.
The road went from highways as we know them quickly on down to rural country roads that passes through neighborhoods that has houses into which you can peer into their kitchens and living rooms as you drive by. I went from buying a coffee at a very regular looking gas station near Lucknow to getting a refill directly from someone’s kitchen as we got stuck in traffic in a random village. Cows…sheep…lots of them.
Once finally in town, the traffic was crazy and the route we needed to take was closed off by police barricades. The driver parked his car in an jam-packed underground parking. There were so many cars and motorbikes in there, I’m not sure how the oxygen we breath had room to circulate!
“Yada, yada, yada…Bas!” Those were the sounds I heard from the staff attempting to guide our driver into his spot.
Having found the hotel, I freshened up and unpack my backpack and packed it again so it’s city-walking ready. In retrospect, bad idea.
For a short walk, it may be better to just take a stroll without a bag, backpack or anything you fear could be pick-pocketed. The crowds were so think that every time my backpack rubbed against something or someone, I hoped that I wasn’t voluntary donating to the community…
Back to the hotel, a quick nap and dinner then off to the ghats to see the ceremonies.
I liked the enthusiasm of several Western tourists during the clapping and singing along. I’d participate but I’d much rather like to know what’s being said first; what does all this mean? Pesky little questions the mind asks…
I did, however, see Jesus.
Truly, I saw him so many times. Always with tattoos and the man-bun; clearly I didn’t get the memo that male tourists have to don their best Jesus Halloween-costume. What’s with not showering either?
Anyways, I did my best to pay attention during the ceremonies but my attention kept being diverted by a million things; all of which deduct from any sense of holiness. After growing fed up with swatting mosquitos and simultaneously firmly shutting down street vendor, I thought I’d go back to my room see if and how dinner had destroyed my insides.
All good, I’m writing down these thoughts here and others and prepping the plan for tomorrow. Then, a stroll thru alley ways at night in search of trouble will be the best way to end the night.
…I’ve researched and have given up on finding a bar near the hotel. Hence, ice cream will do. Don’t you dare deny me this, Benares!
Finally feeling better. I’d say 80%.
Good enough for me, let’s hit the road, Jack!
Booked the hotel and transportation to Varanasi. Considering all the factors, turns out that a private cab is the best way to go. And it’s only $50 bucks! I’ll have to sit in a car for 7 hours but no worries: I got some books and work I can always do, but I’ll probably just end up sleeping for half of the trip.
Currently, I’m in an uber ride on the way to “The Residency “which is an important site here in Lucknow. I’ll upload this later when I reconnect on the Internets, as I like to say in remembrance of our dear former president GWB. Miss him yet?
Back to the Varanasi trip coming up, I’m super stoked. What intrigues me is the belief amongst Hindu’s that if you die in this city, your soul will achieve liberation from the constant birth and rebirth cycle. This makes the ancient city of Benares an important religious city for those seeking their life’s end.
We are fast approaching our destination, I’m sure the uber driver would like to get paid. So, I gotta go for now but be back muy pero muy pronto! Beto 😊
It’s been almost two months here in India, and boy, did I hit the ground running. More like a crash landing. It’s been go-go-go since I got here: saw the Taj, tried some Yoga, eaten everything, one month of intensive Hindi Lessons, visited a bunch of temples, Goa, Pushkar, random villages, gave an impromptu Ukulele concert for some disadvantaged youth… It’s been a crazy ride so far, but even happier, bought a Sitar and had some lessons. (One life goal: check!)
Finally though, the body has put its foot down with a firm hand.
Very firm hand
I was visiting a Sikh temple in Old Delhi at about 5:30 am, perfect time to go– Zero tourists, only the most devoted believers praying earnestly. Above all, easy parking.
It’s a great time to think about Life’s Big Questions, ponder the meaning of life, well, mostly wondering what the hell am I doing with mine. Also asking is there a decent place to grab a burger anywhere in India? You know, all the deep matters of human existence.
Strolling through the temple, relishing all the bright vivid colors of the decorations, feeling the music and chanting reverberate in my chest, and stepping on the occasional peanut with my bare feet ( I hope that was a peanut, let’s not look back to check)…I make my way from the interior of the temple to the bustling outside.
Time for tea!
Most people were heading towards the outside to go for some tea and sit down on the floor in a small courtyard; quietly but intensely chatting with one another. I grabbed a cup of chai, which is wonderfully warm and well spiced, sweet.
It felt good in the tummy. Mostly because it was so early and was still rather chilly out. Of course, I didn’t bring a sweater or jacket. Who does that? Frankly at that ungodly hour, I’m surprised I was even up.
After I finished the warm tea, placed the clay cup back in a huge bin with soapy water in it, and proceeded to follow the flock to see what was next in this religious experience.
Off from the center of the main courtyard, there’s a huge stone with holy scripture engraved onto it, and it seems that the thing to do is to approach it, place your forehead on it slightly, then walk around the stone and touch it again with your forehead. Lastly, a few words in prayer.
I gave it a try. Maybe… just maybe there’s hope for my soul yet.
Doubtful but it’s worth a try
At the next station, there was an earnest fellow with a great beard pouring water out from a shiny silver vase into the cupped hands of believers. They drank from their hands, said a few words in prayer, and then proceeded on.
My homie Sanjeev told me it was temple water that would purify and cure you inside. My soul could definitely use a rinsing or maybe three. Lord knows, so I lined up to take the purifying water, and when it was my turn, I cupped my hands and watched the water rise in my hands.
When the water level was up high enough, I bowed towards my hands and drank. The morning, still without a sun in the sky, kept on its darkness. Hard to see but, the water in my hands seemed cloudy as if mixed with milk. In any case, it was sweet…
It was sweet. Until it wasn’t.
When I got back to my room, I felt a rumble in my tummy. By the time evening rolled in, I knew I had to visit the doctor to get some bomb meds for the Code-Red situation, which had laid waste to my stomach. Code-Red, you know?
It’s quite easy to see a physician here. You walk in, pay about 5 bucks, tell them your problem, and they send you to the appropriate doctor. He basically knew what was up already. It was the infamous “Delhi Belly”, a catch-all phrase for stomach issues in India. He smiled while he wrote the prescription, and I paid 3 bones for 6 different meds that I would have to take for the next 10 days, y ya! Eso fue todo.
No pasa nada, these things come and go; not gonna kill ya, probably won’t make you stronger though.
Walked back to the pad to eat the blandest dinner I could make: corn flakes and milk. Popped my pills and hit the sack. A well-deserved rest.
Nov. 23 Thanksgiving
I knew I’d get sick eventually in India, given the stuff that I eat anyways and also with my insane notion that my Mexican stomach could handle whatever India could dish out. Took two months to get sick; I think I did alright. Especially since my American doctor warned me that I had a 25% chance of not getting sick.
Tbh, I was looking forward to getting sick because of my other insane notion that once I do get sick, I’d be invincible and could really tear into the amazing street food that continue to taunt me with their smells and visual appeal. With so many crazy notions in my head that I actually seem to believe in, the only logical conclusion is that I’m loco, homie. Watch it, homes.
With a strong and positive mind, we can accomplish so much. So I knew this would only get me down a little. I’d get some much needed rest, and then Superman would rise again.
Next morning, I woke up and turned up the cumbia. Always! Nice and loud to put some pep in my step and start the day off right. Already I was feeling better.
Showered, did the whole morning routine, music still bumping; now it was playing Bronco. That probably annoyed the hell out of my American neighbors.
(Wall. Huge. Huge Wall)
They were probably hoping to come to India to be far away from those crazy Mexicans, lo & behold! Who did they get as a neighbor? Arriba! Arre, kaybronies!
On the road again…
Packing bags for a trip to Lucknow and Varanasi.
Uber to Delhi International (which I’ve seen a whole lot of and know my way around like I know LAX), a quick one hour flight to Lucknow, which I slept through soundly. Afterwards, I got to the hotel still feeling like a human.
The eager young fellow working at the hotel was dead-set on booking a car for me to see the touristy spots in town. I was rather looking forward to dipping in the pool and chilling somewhere very close to a toilet of my fancy.
Since my internal batteries still had some juice, I was like orale, pues. Sign me up! I could knock out the list of things one “must” see and use next week for researching the things for my list for Beto’s World and other sites.
Lucknow was teeming with life from every nook and cranny of the city. As evening took over the skies, a different face of the city appeared. Majestic, ancient Arab-style buildings and proud statues of former leaders all nicely decked out. Crowds moved through the dusty cobble stone streets of the old city lined with vendors while kids played in the park. And don’t forget the random cows, monkeys and dogs going about and doing their own thing. That’s the thing about India – somethings always happening.
Get used to it in India. Vendors will try to hustle you always and everywhere you go when you look like a foreigner. The driver, who doesn’t speak a lick of English. Sad to say my Hindi is as good as his English. He took me to a shopping district even after I told him and the concierge vato that I hate shopping.
Take me eating, not shopping; I need to take advantage of my nuked out insides and these bomb $3 pills I got.
Of course, they don’t listen and I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Just roll with it; the motto for surviving India.
So off we go into a shop that sells the famous Chickan embroidery that Lucknow is renowned for. A lady, elegantly dressed in sunset colors, sits on a large wide mattress with piles of fabrics up to the ceiling behind her. She knows my size instantly and rapidly throws out options for shirts at me that I have to dodge like the Matrix. Literally throws them; mannerisms are a bit different here.
Again. You just gotta roll with it.
Typical dude that I am, I don’t care for shopping. My stomach begins to tremble slightly like California before the Big One.
Nonetheless, the prices aren’t bad, 20 to 30 bucks for a hand made shirt with intricate embroidery.
Then it dawns on me, …the sooner I buy a shirt, the faster I can get the hell out of here…
Jumped back in the car and Vamonos! Hágale mijo, let’s go eat. With my new red Kurta decorated with stunning beige hand-made embroidery chilling in a carry-bag beside me and we rolled through downtown Lucknow.
The Walking Dead, Season India
It was about this time that it finally hit me.
I ordered the famous kebabs of Lucknow and smooshed them into my pie-hole, letting gravity do the work to bring it down into my belly like a lazy elevator as I was so tired from the day. Each savory meat bomb filled with spices slowly unloaded into my trembling belly while calming and warming my insides.
At this point, I was done….exhausted from head to toe. I felt like the “Walking Dead”. But props to zombies, at least they are walking. I could have just as easily laid down on the restaurant floor and like your drunk uncle at your prima’s Quinceañera, pass the F*** out!
Forgot my hat there too, btw. My fav one that I got in Fort Worth, Texas. Cry me a rio grande, boo-hoo.
Like a drunk sorority girl, I don’t recall how I got home but was magically transported there nonetheless. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I passed out so fast and so hard, oh yeah baby…for like 5 minutes! I swear my naps usually last longer.
5 am. Haven’t slept more than 5 minutes. Mmmm qué la fregada!
My elbow still hurts from the ‘tennis elbow’ I’ve been nursing
Heat rashes or some other allergic reaction appearing all over my chest and arms
My stomach feels like Mike Tyson’s punching bag…
…So does my head
Head to toe: so heavy. Can’t even get up to pee
Fine. I’ll go pee. Why is the world spinning? I didn’t even drink!
The breakfast buffet was a magical moment: it was a cloudy trance; a series of blurred, colorful, incoherent, delicious images. What the hell sort of drugs did the doctor prescribe? I’m weary as I paid only $3… so God only knows what the hell I just put in my body. I’m not gonna do a damn thing today, I’ve decided. Actually, my body decided for me.
I slept. Got a massage. Slept again. Went to the the pool and the spa. Self-love sort of day. Didn’t open the laptop and avoided my phone. Drank lots of water to put out the fire in my bowels and slept again because apparently lifting a bottle of water to my lips is quite the task.
A cheesy lamb burger and two tequila shots; man, I’m a happy camper. Finally found my burger or as close as it’s gonna get. See the length of this post? Yes, I’m feeling better. It’s now 2 am and time to go night night. Buenas noches and have a beautiful day/night/morning…as you want.