Tuesday was a nothing day. It was the day after the Maha Shivratri festival and I felt like the river appeared to be feeling – quiet and tired. A bit of an anticlimax. I was waiting to leave one guest house and then waiting to be able to go into the next. Basically a day of sitting and reading. The room was finally ready and it was pretty basic putting it mildly but I had moved from a $35 a night room to a $14-$16 a night (which somehow went up to $18 a night as I had a window!) so I suppose it isn’t surprising and at the end of the day I had a bed and a roof over my head which is a lot more than many people around here have. I struggle with the concept of resting while travelling. I see every hour doing nothing as a lost opportunity to see or experience something. This attitude may present as a problem as time goes on as 5 weeks without rest might be reasonable however 12 months is impossible! I think Rishikesh will have a strong element of rest and self care.
On Wednesday morning I woke up feeling flat. So decided to walk. I feel like there is an element of me being on a walking pilgrimage. The tuk tuk drivers are not happy that I am not contributing to their economy! But for me, walking gives me the opportunity to see things and to have experiences. It also gets me out of my head. I decided to walk away from the touristy area and follow the river the other way. I happened upon a western woman who I asked if if I was able to walk across this rather long bridge. We ended up in conversation and she told me that she had been in India for 16 years and was involved in educating children from the surrounding area where education is not accessible due to poverty. They run purely on fund raising and contributions. She took me to the area where the younger children were learning and explained that many of the children from the poor camps probably have undiagnosed foetal alcohol syndrome. I almost cried when she told me that some of the kids who have gone through their ‘school’ are now in university. I didn’t take photos as there is some legal issues around what they are doing so it’s a bit underground. However I do have her contact details so can catch up with her to see how things are going. I also might do some fund raising when I get back. It is amazing how people come across your path. My mood was lifted by meeting someone so amazing who is doing something so wonderful. She said she was feeling a bit flat too and had ‘escaped’ to get a break when I ran into her and felt so much better after meeting me and telling me about what they are doing. The universe is an amazing thing. Also, as would be predictable, it has made me think about my future and what it is I want to do. I have 11 months to make a decision about whether I will return to my job or not and it’s highly likely that I won’t.
So where do I need to be? Is this encounter the universe giving me a sign? It is something I will think about as I travel around. I still feel that I need to continue on my current path however this has made me consider future options. India is a place you can love and hate at the same time. I love the reality and friendliness of the people however hate the poverty and persistent touting (be it boats, tuk tuks or even begging). Walking the streets gives me a sense of safety and inclusion into a culture which I do not yet understand. I wouldn’t even bother pretending that I blend in as I am like a white beacon but the responses to me being in their space have been sweet. Young boys on bicycles, motorbikes and cars wave to me with no (I’m assuming) expectations and are thrilled when I smile and wave back. The amount of times I have been asked to be in photos is fascinating. It isn’t the locals who ask but Indian tourists from other areas. Varanasi has been kind to me. I have put myself in some situations that I should have walked away from however I am leaving with no harm done and some more lessons under my belt. I have felt lonely on some levels however regularly have had someone to talk to. I’m enjoying the ride of a lone traveller and feel like I’ve been doing it for weeks however it has only been 5 days! And this is only the beginning… I feel ready to move onto Rishikesh.