India: Life, One Second, No Life

I arrived in Bangalore/Bengaluru in the morning and passed a couple of nights there, but nothing of note happened except a nice picnic in the park, a rowdy bottomless cocktail drinking session, and a ‘ladies night’ which I was invited out on by three boozy Americans but ducked out of because I was shattered and day-drunk. It’s a nice enough city; not too hot, clean, expansive and brimming with shops, bars and restaurants, but I was jaded from the past few days and was perfectly happy to take it easy.

I said goodbye to everyone, to Mandy and Sarah, to Lily and Conor, to Steff and Spyros; Alex did not get a fond farewell, because he arrived a day after the rest of us from Hampi, where he had encountered the lovely yet divisive Pierre. Pierre had left his clothes in Goa, and Alex had brought them to Hampi for Pierre to collect. However, Pierre was Pierre about it, awkward and a little rude, and so, in Alex’s own, eagerly recounted terminology, he ‘threatened to knock him out if he ever saw him again’. Big man, Alex – a 38 year old threatening to beat up a teenager. Real fucking tough.

Everybody was heading south to Kerela to get a house boat together, which sounded fun, but would mean cutting time out of my stint in the mountains, which I had no real desire to do. So, once more, I left behind all the friends I’d made and wandered away. I got up at 5am and stood in the road outside the hostel waiting for the airport bus. An old man spoke to me for a while, and asked how much money I made, which was odd. A few Indian people have asked the same; I always lower the amount so as not to seem like I’m rubbing a first world wage in their face. I dunno.

As I stood waiting for the bus, I watched a cute brown mouse scurrying around on the morning tarmac, from pile of litter to pile of litter. It was nice to have company. And then, in complete silence, an eagle swooped beside me, plucked up my poor little friend, and spirited it away to the treetops. A life ended. What was startling was the complete lack of ceremony. In a David Attenborough documentary the bird stalks the mouse, violins rise shrieking, a cymbal crashes and the talons descend. But in the street, not even a flutter of wings. Once again, Aloo Baba’s teaching echoes true, the teaching we found so comical and meaningless upon our first hearing: life, one second, no life.

I can only hope the mouse was having a pleasant morning up until the eagle’s shadow blotted out the sun. Perhaps it was an omen. If The Alchemist is to be believed, then yes, peril awaits. However, I think not. Just an eagle taking breakfast.

I got my flight to Varanasi with a 4 hour layover in Delhi, during which nothing much happened. I landed at the airport outside Varanasi after the sun had set, and hired a prepaid cab into the city, an hour and a half away. My driver took a strange route; off the motorway and winding through bustling nighttime villages. I got a little worried and asked him what was going on – every now and then when travelling, it suddenly hits you that you are a thousand miles from a familiar face without a working phone and nobody who loves you knows any more about your location than the continent you’re on. But everything was fine, as usual.

And so I arrived at Varanasi; the city I’ve wanted to visit since before I can remember. I’ll leave this entry here because I want to dedicate an entire piece to this insane city. It really is something.

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