HOTEL GARDEN, for "my" lime & soda & pakoras. . .admitting defeat, finally—I won't be leaving the cantonment again, until tomorrow, when the train takes me away to Bombay (actually the rickshaw to the train will come first). Abandoned by Papu, whom I had hoped to abandon (apparently he called—illness in the family), I was faced with the prospect of hiring one of the pushy, too-familiar men who haunt the front gates to take me down to the ghats for hassles with them over fares, hassles with everyone else in Banaras—the children, the beggars, the shop owners and drivers, above all—whose notice of me would compel them to speech; then the irritant of observing the tourist trade at work; the impossibility of pausing, anywhere, to sit peacefully, ever; the filth. . .I have this sense of having been hoisted to the top of a tall tree through the action of a scale—on the other tray is a pile of sand and grit and ash: heavy wasted time far outweighing me by now. . .outweighed by everything in these hours here I've rejected, I rise, become nearly ethereal—become incapable of engagement, or of lateral motion. . .outweighed by the waste remains of all the money I've thrown at "the problem" of requiring privacy, peace, and some degree of cleanliness in my surroundings—quantities, qualities, rare in the culture around me, even at odds with its prevailing values. . .Arch drivel written in the golden light of a garden bordered by red roses and bougainvillea while sipping lime and soda. . .Treed tourist waiting it out, waiting out the yapping of the rickshaw wallahs down below, passing the time in idle self-justification. . .The weightlessness of tourists is surely an illusion, anyway—and a dangerous one: although it seems magical, the packing of so many into buses that appear—presto!—in front of hotels, the occupants unfolded like fancy goods, spilling out to the delectation of the hotel staff, bolts of cloth so finely woven they could be pulled yard upon yard through the circlet of a wedding ring. . .In fact, every tourist is a burden and a penance—upon resources, a burden; for allowing this, a penance—one they are both being and undergoing. . .which makes them hell on earth to be near.

Hotel de Paris, Varanasi

IT IS A TRIBUTE TO THE REALITY OF INDIA THAT I CAN SEE IT THROUGH THESE WINDOWS. . .Went out myself a long while ago now (we've been in this station nearly an hour) to wipe off a view for myself but couldn't do much—not designed, evidently, to be seen through either way, these windows. . .a dim, yellow-brown view of, at the moment, a corner of a train platform full of small men walking back and forth, leaning, standing, some actually striding with an appearance of purpose but most—not. . .One young man wearing his western-style trousers too high works unselfconsciously at relieving his testicular distress in the midst of the crowd. . .Am having, so far, a "call me madam" kind of journey to Bombay. . .discovered, when the train finally pulled in an hour late, that I was in for the same narrow aisle sleeper seat (with flimsy, dislodged by every passing hip, elbow, idle finger flick-curtain) I'd suffered through on the way to Jaisalmer and back—so I moved to a four-seat compartment (also curtained, but floor-to-ceiling and much more securely) without waiting for the conductor to move me and here I remain, with his easy (and free) concurrence—so far, alone, and far enough up the car to feel away from the center of attention. Caused a little commotion with my first attempt to go out and wipe some small amount of grime off the window—they sent me back to my seat and then a boy appeared outside to swab something dirty and a little wet through the dirt. . .much entering "my" compartment then with wrist flick-flourishes through the curtain I have pinned (inadequately) closed to observe the effects of this "service" on me—and, secondarily, on window. . .Speaking of service, Papu didn't show up for our 6:00 appointment, for which I had steeled myself during a night of insomnia—having decided, on Claudia's brisk advice, to skip the home visit and cut him loose with a money offering of 700 Rs. . .but he wasn't there, so I went back to bed, after first telling one of the many desk clerks not to call me when he arrived. . .so of course, in awhile, a call, and I said—I'm still sleeping. . .and I kept him waiting until 8:00 and then I went out and gave him the money and little gifts for Puja and told him I'd get a taxi to the station, and goodbye. . .another beautiful demonstration of warmth and human feeling on my part. . .Pause to mention that I have been joined by a four-member family in the compartment and that the palpable damper I'm putting on their trip is to squirm for. . .oh well, only another 30 hours or so (at this rate, I have no idea) to go. . .Scenes through an opaque window: a man covering his eyes (from contact with the eyes of the train passengers?) as he defecates in a ditch by the tracks; stick-thin woman in an orange sari driving water buffalo before her with a self-referential stick. . .

Dadar "Express"/Allahabad Station



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