Steel Notes Magazine November 2016 - Page 102

Steel Notes Magazine November 2016 and ash, it’s as though the last six centuries never happened. Varnasi was a wild time, yet uneventful in many ways I don’t remember the people I met there, and other than a boat ride on the Ganga amid decaying body parts, dead animals, and human ash, the incessant gongs and bells and chants, the intense movement in the streets, only two memories come to mind. One was at night, when I was walking through the city and wandered into an alley in the darkness. As I stepped carefully through garbage and god knows what strewn on the ground, one of the shapes I trod upon, a sleeping Brahma bull, bellowed and leapt to it’s feet, at the same time a giant rat, larger than a cat, ran right past me. I had no watch when I traveled in India and have no idea of how I managed to catch trains and keep a reasonable schedule, other than the fact that Indian trains are usually quite late, as is everything. My train leaving Varanasi for Madras left early in the morning. I had to get up about five and get going. By then I was so used to the sounds and timing of the temple bells I was able to use them as my clock. But despite that, I awoke late, gulped down some tea, and ran into the street to find a rickshaw. I found one in a side street and bargained for a two-rupee ride. Halfway there the driver started complaining and demanding more money. Outraged I yelled at him and told him if he didn’t shut up I would call over a policeman to beat him. I tell this with a mixture of pride and shame. I had been in India long enough to behave like an Indian. On the other hand, as little money as I had, another twenty cents for riding his bicycle rickshaw through the tumult all the way to the station would have made the driver very happy. He didn’t get it. 102 Steel Notes Magazine