Monday, February 27, 2006

Shiva Rati/ Bhang / Bambolee

Wow. What a public holiday.

Imagine this:

A religious holiday, that involves loud music, a parade, and lots and lots of free drugs.

It seemed like yesterday, everyone in Varanasi was high. Consumption of bhang (marijuana leaves), mostly in lassi (milkshake) form was everywhere. They were being given out on the streets, outside many temples - all for free, of course. I really can't do it justice to describe just how many people were in the streets, sipping a green/white liquid out of clay cups. The elderly, young kids, even babies (usually being helped out by their parents) were consuming the stuff.

I've been to Amsterdam before, a city where all the tourists seem to be high. But this was a city where most of the working people were doing it too - all in the name of Lord Shiva.

Funnily enough, I was expecting a semi-quiet day.. thinking that everyone would be taking the day off to spend at home or in the temple... but no.

Many people still went to work - they just went to work high. My cycle-rickshaw driver was zig-zagging pretty wildly in the morning - which made the usually dangerous ride even more scary.

In the evening, I escaped the intense dancing crowds and took a night-time boat trip down the Ganges. It was very nice, gave me a chance to see the bathing crowds from a far away enough distance that it wasn't claustrophic.... And of course, it seemed as if half of the people sitting on the ghats were smoking ganja out of chillums...

Saw a floating bloated body in the river too. Mmm.

I still can't quite get my head around the drug laws in India. Foreigners are regularly thrown into jail (or pay huge bribes to avoid being sent there), seedy looking gentlemen (and some children) offer to sell you drugs in most cities when you arrive, yet its perfectly allowed (and even encouraged) on this holy of holidays.

Go figure.

I'm taking care of my final errands now (I leave Varanasi this evening on the night train). Mega food poisoning has hit, which is making me very very thankful that i'm travelling to Calcutta by train (with a toilet, phew) and not bus.

I -may- have internet when I arrive in Port Blair (the capital of the andamans), however, I expect to leave there as soon as humanly possible for Havelock Island, where I expect to have no contact with the outside world.

Off I go.

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