Saturday, December 6, 2008

A well-dressed cow

If you need to beg for money in India, make sure you have a nicely-dressed cow.

We spotted a “sadhu,” a holy beggar dressed in orange rags, walking from shop to shop along the narrow streets of Varanasi. Most beggars are ignored – there are just too many of them – but his ally, his cow, won him a plate brimming with donations.

This cow wore a bright sequined cape, garlands around his neck and a crown of flowers on his head. He was the cow equivalent of an Indian bride.


In both Nepal and India, drug dealers are everywhere. We were offered hashish three times on the way to breakfast. Three times on the way to breakfast!

A simple “no” won’t deter the dealers. Indians are persistent. So we’ve started messing with them.

Like last night. As we were buying apples at a fruit stand, a dealer approached us and asked, “Hey, you want some hash?”

“I already have a hat,” my friend said.

“No, hash, hash,” the dealer replied.

“Yes, I’m wearing a hat now, can’t you see?,” said my friend, who was bare-headed.

“I’m talking about dope,” the dealer replied.

“Are you calling me a dope?” she said.

The dealer laughed. “You are happy like flower, not sad like rain,” he replied.

Talk about a shitty job.

There’s a large yellow curtain, tied to wooden poles, opposite the clay oven at the restaurant we frequent.

Behind this yellow curtain are six water buffalo. These buffalo voluntarily confine themselves to the space behind the yellow curtain; backstage.

Needless to say, the buffalo create a lot of crap. And someone’s job is to pick up this crap with their bare hands, pat it into “dung pies,” and stick these shit pies to the sides of the restaurant’s walls. The walls are tiled, end to end, in shit pie after shit pie. Handprints are engraved into each one. Once the pies dry, someone peels them off the wall and burns them for heat.

Let’s just hope that whoever has this job isn’t also the cook.

We’re in our Varanasi hotel room and someone is throwing stones and trash at our window. We can hear a loud “clang!” twice a minute.

We can’t see, through the streetlight-devoid alleys, who the perpetrator is.

“Screw you!,” my friend yells out the window, after trash smacks the window pane for the two dozenth time. “Quit it!”

She looks at me, confused.

“Am I yelling at a monkey?,” she asks. “I don’t know.”