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A Collection

In the emails home and phone calls with our families, we get caught up in narrating the tasks we accomplished or challenges we overcame, the big events or experiences we perceive as significant, the food we crave and things we miss. But often, it is the bizarre little things I see everyday that I actually want to share with my family because it is these eccentricities that remind me of where I am, that I am living in and breathing in this wonderful and crazy city, and not merely moving between classes and tasks and events.

These are my observations from in between:

Grey hair died with henna turns bright orange. Sometimes I’ll see old men, hunched over and hobbling down the street, with this shocking hair on their heads (and sometimes their chins).

One morning, I was having breakfast with Saleemji in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, its walls lined with Pepto Bismol pink tiles, and I saw a man blow his nose on his lungi. Gross.

Here, babies wear thick, protective eyeliner on their lower lid and mothers draw dark blemishes on their foreheads, always in the same spot, to ward off evil spirits.

I got in a rickshaw in the Northern end of the city, but the driver had no idea where Assi Ghat was — surprising since this is the city’s Southernmost neighborhood and a popular spot for tourists — so he would stop every couple hundred meters to ask directions.

One morning, I saw a man swimming in the Ganga side by side with his dog.

My little sister Aradhya, whenever her mother makes chapati, takes some of the dough and sculpts herself fingernails. Once the manicure has hardened, she peels each nail off, one by one, and saves them in a purple, plastic, Cadbury Dairy Milk Lickables box.

I was cycling and passed a rather stern looking man dressed entirely in a vivid shade of lilac.

This is only the beginning of my collection — I am sure that these next two weeks in Banaras will add many delightful sights.