Thursday, July 28, 2005

Back to Triveni ghats and Onward to Shri Trayanbakshwar (Day 19)

This morning, Maria, Tony and I headed back down to Triveni ghats to witness the other daily ritual that occurs there. In the morning, people bring buckets of milk to the ghats, pour it into the river, then bend to collect more, and repeatedly pour the water in from above their heads. It's kind of neat to see people doing this, eyes closed, at daybreak, as a thick fog slowly rises up from the river. The other interesting spectacle is seeing men and women of all ages getting in and bathing. First, because the water is no cleaner in the morning than any other time. Second, because it is COLD. I think the quote I uttered at the time was, "These men may have balls of steel, but they are small." Anyway, as I walked around, I met a river ecologist who told me about the significance of the river in non-religious terms. He told me the major river systems actually form the image of a cow (don't know if I believe that). I walked onward, and saw a cow trotting along the ghats. This is the most movement I have seen a cow make so far on this trip. Most of them just lay down, usually in the middle of highly trafficked roads. It began to rain as we headed out, and was pouring by the time we made it to the hotel.

Which signaled nap time for me. I had a great nap, and some crazy dreams (maybe due to the malarone, but I usually have crazy dreams, so who knows.) Long dream short, I had a vision of a kid sprinkling something on a rock, and making it become a star. Somehow all of my graduating class had gone on a senior trip to India, and met me in Haridwar to sit in circles and see this. But whenever I took a picture, the screen would show up black. Then I stood up, and the hall was empty.

I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing. My ayurvedic massuer had arrived. I thought ayurvedic massages involved a steady stream of oil on one's third eye, but this one was more or less a regular massage, but the best $12 massage I'll probably ever have. My heel was still in all sorts of pain, which the massuer helped me figure out. When he was finished, I felt quite relaxed. So much so that Lee decided to schedule a massage for himself. While doing so, he also expressed interest in a banana lasse, so I ordered two. They were decent, but it was the quickest thirty rupees I spent on the trip. After that, I relaxed, showered, then packed up some of my stuff and moved it into Maria and Christy's room so Lee could get his massage in peace.

That's when the fun started. Christy and Tony were out on the balcony, and Christy pointed at some grey monkeys running around on nearby rooftops. I got the rest of some crappy trail mix, and we chucked it on the roof of a nearby building. Soon, about 20 monkeys, including moms, dads, and "little oo-oos" were running around. Soon enough, they realized where the food was coming from, and started heading up. Within ten minutes, we had two mamas, two baby oo-oos, and a guardian papa sitting on our balcony. Tony handfed the dad, who just took the banana chips from his hand. But when Tony tried to pet it, it got mean, and thus we immediately went inside. We proceeded to throw banana chips out the window while snapping pictures for the next hour. During this time, the babies started playing tug-of-war with Maria's orange skirt, chewing and rolling to their hearts' content. Then they played a little tag. Then they wrestled. All of this while mama sat by the window and tried repeatedly to get in, as she was in full defense mode. In time, she decided we weren't a threat, and backed off. By the time Lee, who is mildly insane, came to the room, we thought it'd be ok for him to go out and pet them. And he did. One of the babies touched his palm a few times, and the mama let him pet her side and tail. But when he tried to pet the dad, dad got mad again. This kind of ended monkey time. We headed to lunch and I was finally able to get some chaat (I got aloo chaat, which was cold potatoes and herbs). After lunch, Moses was ready to go, so this we did.

So from there we headed to a 13-story temple called Shri Trayanbakshwar. The walk down to it revealed it as a touristy destination: when little streetside shops selling carvings accept credit cards, you begin to realize their targeted audience might not be locals. After walking through the small town, we came to a large bridge. As we walked across, an older man saw my mala (beaded necklace) which I had around my wrist and thumb. He took my hand, raised it in the air, and shouted "Ram! Ram!" Knowing not what to do, I just sort of smiled and said Bom Bolay, which he reacted kindly to. Christy told me that "Ram! Ram!" is a dedication to Ram, and is similar to bom bolay or hello. Anyway, it was pretty cool. Also on this narrow, shaky bridge were cows and motorcycles...

On the other side of the Ganga, standing like an enormous phallic symbol, was the temple. This temple required the visitor to walk all around each level, ringing a bell at North, East, South and West (you are supposed to touch these walls when in Hindu temples anyway, so the bells were a nice "touch"). The temple featured images of Gods such as Ganesh, Ram, Brahma, Kali (God of Death), Saraswati, Durda, and Shiva, to whom the temple was dedicated. The images appeared in separate small rooms, many of which have been converted into stores (in fact, one whole floor was all shops). On about floor six, a small boy smiled at us, and we said hello. We had gotten most of the way along the floor when he came running towards us, shook Lee's hand, smiled, and ran back to his mom. It was SOOOO cute. Toward the top, we started seeing, instead of images, these egg things with lines and dots on them. Christy told me that you were supposed to look into these eggs, and through them you would see the image. I'm no good at magic eye posters, and I couldn't do this either... After walking back down all 13 stories (my heel was purple again), we headed back to the car, and after some brief shopping, got on the road to Delhi.

The trip home did not go well. For some reason, most of the major roads had been shut down, so we were rebuffed in our return effort about three times. Each time, we were redirected to roads of worse quality. Eventually, we stopped for a meal at a hotel. We did the unthinkable: We had a meal without daal OR paneer (Tony will contend that one of the dishes had paneer, I will contend that Tony is a complete liar). When we finally got into Delhi, we had turned a five-hour drive into about a 9 hour drive. We made it to a gas station in the nick of time. Many of them close down at night so they won't get robbed, and this has the unfortunately side effect of creating long stretches of road where no gasoline can be purchased. While at the gas station, one of our group members kept holding out a stalk of marijuana leaves out the window, and asking the attendants, in a superb towelie voice, "you wanna get high?" This person even offered it to a guy holding a gun, who took it, looked at it, and HANDED IT BACK. See, the plant grows literally everywhere. Collecting it was no challenge whatsoever, and possessing it was no cause for alarm for anyone. They just thought the person offering it was kind of strange. That's why we made sure to tell them we were British before we left.

We got in late, and headed straight to the couches to pass out.)

1 comment:

Hogan said...

I want some baby oo-oo's!