FIRST FULL DAY OF HOLI HOUSE ARRESTcould have gone through with my planned visit to Sarnath but couldn't face the tension, the wondering about safety; also struggling with the beginnings of a cold. . .Spent the day reading V.S. Naipaul's India, such a fine book. . .which has inspired in me a serious reconsideration of my intended visit to Calcutta. . .do I really want to travel to a dead/dying dirty city with terrible traffic, terrible roads, terrible services, just to say I was there? Apparently, it is impossible to walk at all in Calcuttathe sidewalks have disappeared; the bad water gives everything a bad taste; nothing is ever cleaned. . .and it's hot there now; and having decided against going up to Darjeeling (two overnight train trips required in addition to the toy train journey(s) which would be slow and difficult to booktransport again), the extreme east of the country as a destination is not so beckoning as something more southerlysomething like Goa, for instance. . .I'm giving myself overnight to decide. . .
It feels strange to have stopped moving and the flood of language I'd hope to feel being released in me during this "leisure" time is not transpiringif anything the flood is going the other way; it becomes a time of voracious reading. . .My day (Indian interruption just nowI had called to order coffee from room service and to ask for a light bulb to replace one that went last night; two minutes later, a knock on the door, a waiter to take the order I just made over the phone; he wanted to send an electrician when I gave him the burned-out bulbthen he actually went to replace it in the lamp. . .), anyhow, my day began with a leisurely sleep-in followed by a large breakfast, downstairs, where I was joined by the hotel manager who warned me not to leave the hotel until after mid-day tomorrow; the hotel gates will be locked as a further precaution from tonight until then. . .After breakfast I retired to the garden for another pot of coffee and some reading; when the sun grew too hot I retired to my room for more reading, until about 1:30, then back to the garden for lime and sodas and pakoras, my daily snack; met Papu out front at 3:00 and told him we couldn't go to Sarnath today; then back to the room, napped, woke up and read some morea highlight, the battle between two lizards on the window screen: one grabbed the other's tail in its mouth, there was much flailing about and hissing and finally escape and pursuit through the crack above the screen outside.
After dinner, detoured to the TV in the lobby where the hotel boys and men were watching a Hindi moviebut they wanted to "show" me Holi in Varanasi so they turned to a local public access channel, where about eight or ten men were sitting cross-legged on a stage, faces covered in splotches of pink and green powder, wearing gold paper hats with balloons tied in bunches to the peaks, singing and reciting poetry to a studio audience of somewhat younger men, similarly stained and attired. . .apparently these are well-known local figures, doctors, professors, poets, hosting what amounts to a live New Year's Eve special. . .Outside, the roaring and percussing of fireworks; firecrackers and bothered dogs and frantic car horn tooting; distant crowds whistling and gleeful. . .impossible, here in the cantonment, not to receive an impression of shelling. . .since dark, the smell of bonfires.
Hotel de Paris, Varanasi
DAY 1 |