The sun sinks behind a 300 year old Mosque, illuminating the perfectly rounded towers. I remember visiting the Mosque during our Muslim week (what seems like ages ago). I stood on the balcony, looking out over the ghats, down at the boats in the Ganga. The city was so different to me back then; it was overwhelming, too foreign to appreciate, too smelly and dirty. Now, one week before we leave, it feels like home, so much so that I think part of me will stay in Varanasi, even when my body is long gone.
We reach the burning Ghat. Six funerals burn before our eyes; six bodies disintegrate into ash that eventually settles in the Holy River. It’s hard to look away from the bright fires. I watch from twenty feet away, so close the fire of the cremations heats my skin, but I still feel disconnected from the sorrow and the death. At other times I imagine that the woman burning is my mom or my sister and I wonder if watching their bodies burn would feel like a sacred experience or a cruel one. Maybe both.
We steer past tourist boats and I watch people take pictures of the Ghats with their expensive cameras. Can’t they see it’s impossible to capture this moment through a lens? I want them to put their cameras down and just enjoy the ride. We take pictures so that in the future we can look back into the past. But what about the now? I’ve learned that the now is pretty special and it has a lot more to offer than a photograph. How do we live in the now? I think it starts with self awareness. On this journey I’ve heard many different perspectives on the path to self awareness. Buddhists would say meditate. Hindus might say pray. Krishnamurti says each person must forge their own path and no dogma can lead the way. I don’t know what my path is. I’m just here, now, trying to enjoy the ride.