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September 1, 2005

Eight Foot Shrine

My watch broke earlier today. It just stopped ticking. I only owned it for a week. A week previously, I was in need of a clock and I was asking the driver of the auto-rickshaw that I was in, where I could buy a small alarm clock. It took a long time before he understood that I wanted an alarm clock. So he offered to sell me his watch. It's a really cheap, gold colored one.

He told me that he'd bought it three months before for fifteen hundred rupees. So I said: "well that's too much." He said oh no, I don't want to sell it to you for that much. I thought I had a problem with wanting new watches, this guy wants to part with them every three months. So I ended up buying it for five hundred rupees, after some haggling. And now it's broken. It's probably just the battery but I'll probably just deliver it to the bin.

That reminds me of the time that a good friend of mine was walking her dog in California. She had some mail in her hand and a bag for the dog's poop. She picked up some poop and then got to the mail box. Absentmindedly enjoying the walk, she mailed the poop. Well they're not too different, the mail box and the dog poop bin, are they. So the mail man got a surprise that day. It's easily done.

A rat just ran past my feet. Fast little things they are. I've seen a few of them. You see something big and black move in the corner of your vision and by the time you look, they've gone. There was a baby cockroach in my room earlier on today. The killing of it was quite an experience. I kept trying to whack it with my shoe, but it kept dodging out of the way. It got under my bed and I had to pull the bed all the way across the room to expose it. I got it in the end by bringing the shoe slowly down to within an inch of the thing and then giving it a one-inch slap, Bruce Lee style.

Where I was staying in Varanasi was quite close to the burning ghat, where they burn the corpses. Most times I would leave my hotel and pass the junction to the burning ghat, there would be a guy there who would say "burning ghat" to me very loudly. I think he assumed that I was trying to find the burning ghat and satisfy my macabre tourist curiosity. So one day, just after passing him, I swung around in my tracks, threw my hands up above my head and shouted "I'M ALIVE. I'M ALIVE." My voice echoed down the narrow alley ways and the bustle of life came to a momentary standstill. He never asked me again.

Now Varanasi is the home of Shiva and as such, there is are Shiva lingas everywhere you look. The linga represents Shiva's phallus and it is always protruding from a yoni, which represents Parvati's thingamabob. Parvati is Shiva's wife. Lest you think that Indians are mostly sexaholics, I can assure that it actually has a deep esoteric meaning, which I won't go into here. Anyway, just up the road from here, I just saw the linga of lingas. Bigger than anything I saw in Varanasi: about eight feet high and two feet in diameter. Astonishing. The brahmin priests were adorning it with flowers, sandal wood paste and water from the holy Ganga (Ganges).

No one bothers me in Rishikesh. I went on a leisurely four hour walk today, along one side of the Ganges and back along the other side, crossing the two suspension bridges on route. The only disturbance was the rattling of the beggar's cans as I passed.


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