TIRED OF INDIA! TIRED of not being able to walk down the street without being endlessly hailed—Hallo madam!—by infinite numbers of rickshaw wallahs too lazy to make their livings providing transport to the great numbers of Indian people who need it, people I see trying to hail rickshaws, who lower their arms when they see Papu already has me in the back. . .No, these men would rather spend hours lying in the lees of luxury hotels, waiting for tourists to emerge, on the off chance that one might actually engage them and thus become both income and victim for the next several days. . .meanwhile, the populace waits—when grown tired of waiting, the populace walks, trudging through dust and clouds of blue-grey exhaust and streams and pools of urine.

Tired of Indian laziness! Yesterday at Ram Nagar Fort, the maharaja's old palace, now (very partially) a "museum," appallingly dusty, appallingly filthy—the ladies' toilet, beyond belief—everywhere, occupying every shady spot big enough for stretching out in, there were men at rest. . .three, just inside the doorway to the arms and ivory collection, taking tickets (well, one taking tickets and two watching him) call out "Not to touch!" when I run my finger through the thick fur of dust on a gun stock steps away from where they sit; another raises demands for baksheesh after standing up to put on his turban and point through the missing panes of mirrored glass in a set of padlocked, decrepit, peeling doors to the former formal receiving room beyond: a vision of decay under crystal chandeliers—grey rotting silk walls, chairs, carpets; three tiger heads on one side of the floor, their skins gone, rotted or simply taken away and sold, face another, left intact, across the room. . .I scolded the three men in weapons and refused baksheesh to the jabbering turbaned old man, who was angry. . .grudgingly gave a little to the temple attendant at the shiva linga out back overlooking the river but cut off his attempts to "earn" more as an impromptu tour guide (the dramatic, sweeping arm gesture at the city on the distant other shore, completed by the thundering pronouncement: "Varanasi!" I said, Please, how could I be here and not know that was Varanasi?. . .), part of my process of discovering that brahmins are a problem here—any group of people not allowed to sweep or dust would be a problem in India and at Ram Nagar Fort they're nothing but a blight—like wormy parasites eating up their surroundings and hastening decay—reclining, recumbent parasites.

Saw, later, back in the city before one of the alleyway temples, another "holy man"—Shiva-mad, covered in ashes, his hair dressed in a cone of bead malas topped with a marigold mala crown, wearing/draped in a tiger skin (maybe one of the skins missing from one of the heads at the fort)—wild-eyed, still young but sadly crazy, junkie-eyed. . .arguing, it seemed (and if so, unsuccessfully), with the man selling flowers out front for a share of the food offerings inside. . .or maybe just making angry noises, venting spleen—at such times it would be nice to be able to ask someone what's happening. . .Papu is always happy to explain but since we are both only pretending he speaks English, this is rarely helpful.

Hotel de Paris Varanasi