Every day brings something new – a new place, new smells, new discussion, new thoughts, new realizations. Being here, in Varanasi, as I described to one friend, can be compared to getting hit in the face with a pie; it is yummy, funny, and exciting, but also overwhelming and, at times, pretty uncomfortable to have pie all up in ya grill. With all this newness, I am learning to accept the good with the bad and be grateful that I crossed the street and made it to class without getting run over by an auto rickshaw.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, time runs differently here – I am now living on Indian time. The days slip past me without a name but because school is now in session, it is easier to tell a Monday from a Saturday. Classes are going well here for the most part; a little difficult adjusting to being in a small non-air-conditioned room with 15 people – it makes all of us stronger in the end, right? My jewelry making tutorial is something that I have really been gaining more interest in. Jewelry making is so different from what I imagined – so far, I have learned about the percentages needed in making sterling silver (92.5% silver, 6.5% copper, 0.5% zinc), melting down those metals into one liquid, pouring and molding that metal, and there has been a lot of learning on my part about hammering. I have hammered at the small rod of sterling silver for over 3 hours and much more hammering awaits in my future. Hammering at this piece of silver, trying to make it even on all sides is rather meditative while getting out some bent up energy. It is so beautiful how traditional this style of jewelry making, how connected the maker is to the creation in all phases of the process. Furthermore it is so refreshing to witness how much my guru enjoys his profession and; quite inspiring. He told me a few days ago when I came to him with my crooked piece of silver, looking discouraged; to never feel bad about my mistakes – to be happy I have something to learn from. Hopefully I can apply those words of wisdom to many different aspects of life.
In regards to cultural adjustments, there are many. Walking out of my apartment and hearing the noise on the street, the many men and women buying vegetables or drinking chai as a cow strolls casually by, is becoming a normal sight. It would actually be quite strange if the streets were quiet and no animals were roaming around. Within all this chaos, there have been moments of uncomfortably when ignorant men cat call at me or a friend on the street because they believe we, as women, enjoy this kind of attention. I am doing my best to make it know that I do not appreciate the remarks and side-long glances, while learning a few Hindi phrases to combat this – MAAT (don’t)! It has been quite encouraging to be surrounded by so many strong women in my program who also grapple with the difficulties of gender inequality in India and America. Amidst this chaos, there is an underlying calm and peaceful nature here. It is hard to describe, but I feel it mostly when I am at one of the Ghats by the Gangaa River or when a gentle breeze blows over me, cooling my heated head and thoughts.
(On a side note, I am by no means am I trying to project the idea that all men in India yell at women in the street or treat women poorly – most of the men, within my program and outside of it, who I have had closer interactions with have expressed gentlemanly qualities).
Other miscellaneous adventures and insights that have occurred while being in Varanasi: late night discussions about human’s role in the world, insights into spirituality that lies outside the confines of religion and spills into the streets and souls of others, mornings on the roof of my home – amazed at the beauty of the Gangaa River, watching the moon rise on the Gangaa while sitting in Assi Ghat with music and pujas and little children selling candles, bargaining with shop keepers about the price of a kurta, spending hours in Harmony bookstore reading and sitting in the back room, on the floor, discussing life with new friends. Also, writing and writing about the ups and downs of being an outsider and trying to describe the new light that I see myself in and so much more.
I wrote this after seeing the Gangaa the first evening I was in Varansi:
Watched the Moon rise
on River Gangaa –
Like watching the
Had to brace and retrace
Contemplate and evaluate
the meaning of time,
blood bound meanings
like lemon and lime.
Oh, the sound –
with bells and voices,
reminding of Choices
made and yet to Be.
Can we – do we ever really see,
that all these people reside
inside of We – me you and them.
Watching the moon rise,
my Soul rose.