One thing I love about India is how it confronts every sense — it can be both a delight and an assault. This trip I visited Delhi and Varanasi. What I remember and loved most were the sites, the smells, the sounds: The spectacle of people everywhere, women in the bright colors they embrace and we Americans (Westerners?) seem to scorn. The wonderful smells of curries juxtaposed against car exhaust and human sweat. And always, everywhere, the cacophony of cars and horns and people.
The monuments and temples in Delhi are beautiful and inspirational. The memorial to Ghandi is quiet and moving. Still I most enjoyed the energy of Old Delhi. Entrepreneurship is alive: here you see a man on the street with his sewing machine – a pop-up tailor. There one man seated making tea in his stall – and just overhead without even enough room for the tea-maker to stand — is another shopkeeper selling soda and incidentals.
Varanasi was unique for me. I learned about Hindu funeral rituals. And we watched solemnly as families carried their loved ones wrapped in cloth and covered with flowers to the pyre for cremation. Sunset along the Ganges was nice but a bit of a show. In contrast, morning sunrise as we watched pilgrims immerse themselves, fulfilling for many a lifelong dream, was emotional. Their faces were calm and spiritual and happy.
And then we were back to the chaos with a visit to a spice market and shops that manufactured silk – using old jacquard machines with perforated cards that showed the pattern.