WOKE UP TODAY MISSING THE OSCARS, but checked the TV after breakfast and they were on! Live! Anyway! Only had to watch the last interminable hour-and-a-half or sothey were running long, as usualand was spared the presentation of the Irving Thalberg award by a brief power outage. . .Kept Papu waiting but figured it was in my power to make it up to him so didn't feel extremely guilty about thatand I did make it up to him, later. . .After the show, went to a nearby bank to change money, having given my last 2,500 Rs to the desk clerk to secure comfortable passage for me to Bombay; incredibly unnecessary wait at the bank while eight do the work of twoslowly. . .no computers, rampant ledger-mania and duplication of labor, no mental effort apparent at any point, no action of the mind that might tend towards efficiency. . .but of course, a silly crappy noisy thing has been the object of investmenta semi-musical whistle-buzzing light box over the cashier's window that displays the number (which matches the brass token one receives from the first of several functionaries who are not cashiers) of the next customer. . .after all that, no encashment certificate and no redemption of torn/damaged money. . .Back in the autorickshaw after nearly an hour and over to Bharat Mata temple to see the gigantic and terribly dusty relief map of Indiaa temple to nationalism, to the memory of Independencevery intriguing, very moving, very dusty. . .back to hotel for a break, shower, snacks; ticket (2nd AC) secured, change and account of transaction immediately forthcomingthis steered me away off my decisive course to change hotels, somehowthis and the better air here, and the gardens.
At three back in the autorickshaw with Papu to Sarnath, riding out into eventual near-countryside, lots of green, at least, and good-sized trees; lots of Tibetans walking around in ochre and dark red robes, lot of Japanesethe relative (to Hindu temples) cleanliness of the Buddhist temples very impressive, even startling. . .new things look new and old things look well-preserved and everything looks well cared-for. . .Still Holi-time so the deer park was packed with strolling Indians, countless boys and young men among them, holding hands as the young men do hereimpossible not to attract unwanted notice, not to draw a crowd whenever I took out my camera. . .tried a little street theater, miming great wonder and excitement at the changing of the film; a circle formed of at least seventy men and boys, mostly pink-stained, exhausted by thrills, needing more, of any kind, or they'll fall asleep on their feet; Papu dispersed themhe blames the putting of children into service too young: working (I suppose he means this nextthere are language barriers between us) instead of going to school, they don't develop "sense"they will always join a crowd forming around a Western tourist taking out a camera if they've seen it a hundred, two hundred times beforethey have no way of knowing whether or not something is worth looking at, whether it's interestingtheir means of perceiving interest are utterly stunted. . .not knowing what anything they see means, not knowing how to look, really, they rely upon custom (the custom of their class) and habit: they always stop to look at what they always stop to look at. . .fights, falling-down drunks, accident scenes, dead dogs, female tourists.
Riding out today, getting into the streets for the first time in a few days, I was surprised (a little) to find myself enjoying the sights, the sounds, the sweet and the peppery smells, again; still, I have so had it with the infinite exhaust fumes, the "too latesurprise!" pungency of curbside toilets, the enormously clawed-to-shreds road surfaces. . .as much as anything I've had it with the stink and stain and projectile ubiquity of paan. . .
Hotel de Paris (still), Varanasi
DAY 1 |