India with Judson 2017 travel blog

The Grant connection

Camel on other side of the Ganges

Wedding party on other side of Ganges

Jud at Lahiri's house

Sunrise over Ganges

I forgot to mention that Sarnath is the location where Buddah gave his first lecture after reaching enlightenment, and is very holy to those following Buddhism. It is one of four special locations for Buddhists. The others being Lumbhini, where he was born; Bodh Gaya where he sat under the Bohdi tree for seven years, protected by a king cobra, until he reached enlightenment; and also Kushinigar, near Gorakpur, where he left his body.

Very many hours last night - from 2:30 onwards, the snarling, yelping, growling, snapping, howling, baying, and literal screaming of dog packs fighting each other over Ghat territory. It ebbs, then magnifies, as they fight and destroy each other moving up and down the ancient stone steps. Jud has figured out the exact space below our hotel where 'our' dogs reign supreme, so it's right below our windows facing the water, that the battles ensue as roving packs migrate from either side and attack. This is something I didn't know about before, and makes me anxious for those swamis and poor folk sleeping outside on the cold concrete and stone.

Jud watched one dog tightrope walk along the mooring line rope, get to a boat, and curl up in the middle of the boat to get some sleep. No cats in sight.

Our last morning to be jolted awake by clanging bells, blowing conchs, chattering passers-by, and melodious harmoniums with chanting in the background. I can see why people get up to meditate at 5:30 am. They're already up!!!

I also forgot to mention that Brian, after ingesting a beedie, some paan, some Indian whiskey, and a beer, (such a yogi!), gave away a pair of his reading glasses to some strange squinting newspaper-reading man on the steps of the Daswasamedh Ghat.

As we wend our way through the now familiar maze, young men call out Jud's name to say good-morning. He's well known now amongst the locals after spending the evenings with the row boat men, sitting in their boats, and travelling miles through the maze to some of their houses after dark.

Last night he went somewhere with someone (we were obliviously sleeping or reading) to a house, down several flights of stairs to check out some large sandalwood beads, only to find a herd of cows down there. He said they were the most beautiful cows he's ever seen, and went down on their knees before him to be rubbed like a pet dog. They are only allowed out infrequently and chaperoned, so they do not mingle with the garbage cows.

With Jud's size and Brian's goatee, we are an anomaly. When we were in the tuk tuk returning from Sarnath, we were bumped up against another tuk tuk several times, holding four young men. Later we bumped into them on the Daswasamedh Ghat, and they were jubilant, and asked us to be in their selfies over and over again - mainly with Brian and Jud.

Returning from our favourite South Indian breakfast restaurant, we'd discovered the doors to Lahiri's house to be open, so we were able to visit again, this time with Judson. So we have fulfilled one of Yogananda's sayings that "we are blessed to have walked the sod that saints have trod". Jud has been exposed now to our line of Gurus in their own environment. His karma and dharma are unfolding. I was able to have about 20 minutes alone to meditate again.

We arranged for porters and a car to take us to the airport at 8 am tomorrow morning, then went looking for an ATM that works with our cards. This journey led us through more myriad, dark, twisting lanes shoulder-width apart, lined with thousands of tiny yard-wide shops, patrolled by Kalashnikov rifle toting army soldiers, bulls, roaring motor cycles, bicycle vendors, and pedestrians. Slightly claustrophobic. Always needing to look down to avoid the poop.

Later we hired a very inexpensive boat to row us across the Ganges to the flats on the other side. The boatman told us about his family. Turns out his daughter, Priyanka, just married a Scottish man two weeks ago. Her name is now Grant. Surprise, Brian's mother was a Grant. So the men bonded over family! His new in-laws brought a bottle of Grant whiskey over to the wedding in Varanasi for him. Brian's lineage of Joseph Grant goes back to that whiskey. The daughter is now in Scotland.

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