After an unimpressive drive from the airport at Varanasi, I arrived in the district I was to stay in. The space approaching the Ghats at the River Ganges was cramped enough with the remnants of day to day living to give the impression of a refugee camp. With its badly decayed buildings falling down on top of renovated spaces, its population relatively dishevelled by the standards of North Americans, an occasional body disfigured from polio, unkept streets defined by soil, compost and fresh produce at regular intervals, this was the India I’d imagined most. There was a heavy concentration of pedestrians, scooters, cows, and water buffalo. My driver pulled over beside a grouping of parked scooters and said that was where he was dropping me. Just as I started on my “I can’t pay you until I get to my hotel” patter, an unusually tall, gaunt, man with a deep voice opened the door beside me and said insistently he would be taking me to my room. He iterated what the driver did not – that there was no way to get closer to the hotel with the taxi. I was caught up on a wave, but I was laughing inside as if being thrown around by the wildest ride of my own choosing. The chaotic-looking mess of humanity and narrowing lanes in front of me implored that I just go with whatever comes next. I felt like I’d finally made it to ground zero.
But India was like that. She was always meeting my needs and surprising me with kindness just as I’d begun to judge her out of my confusion.
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