22nd February

The train ride was uneventful and Sindee and Sarah joined us in our cabin at about 10:30 a.m. We filled in the day playing arsehole and talking and we rolled into Varanasi at four PM. We haggled with a rickshaw driver to take us to Yogi Lodge for 15 rupees but he took us to a place called Jogi Lodge by mistake! [This scam is common in India. A hotel will give itself a name similar to a popular place, then pay touts a commission to “mistakenly” take people to the wrong place]. 

So we walked up into the Old City and made our way through the filthy, narrow alleys to a place called Shanti Lodge¹ and booked in there. After a couple of Pepsis each, we went out for a walk down by the sacred Ganges where people were busy bathing, praying and burning their dead. An enterprising kid took us for a trip upstream in a wooden rowboat and it gave us a good view of the ghats and the myriad activity going on around them. We floated slowly past the Burning Ghat where several funeral pies were burning and several corpses wrapped in golden cloth and garlands of flowers lay waiting for their turn on the funeral pyres.

After we finished our boat ride, we went down and stood on the steps above the burning ghat, where the attendants were stoking the fires and turning the blackened husks of the bodies so that they burned evenly. It was a bizarre site: human bodies burning atop piles of wood while people dried their washing by the heat of the flames and young hucksters peddled postcards to the watching tourists.

That night the four of us enjoyed an evening of Arsehole while we were stoned to bits on bhang lassis.

¹When I revisited India in 2020, I stayed at Shanti Lodge once again.

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