Rishikesh, INDIA

“Arriving at the bazaar I am overwhelmed by all of the colours and the pushy salesmen and the myriad of fabrics being pulled and tossed and unravelled and displayed for us, splashes of pink and purple and turquoise. There is movement and colour and noise everywhere, with cars and motorbikes incessantly insisting on passing through the crowds, ear-splitting horns blasting left right and centre, startling us to say the least. Women in beautiful saris, bare-footed gurus, shoes and flowers and hindu icons.”
“I see a procession of men carrying a stretcher where a body is covered in bright cloths and flowers, thick tree branches slung over backs and piled by the water’s edge. The half-burned pyre behind us is burning hot and the breeze blows the heat and ash towards us like a blowtorch, speckling us in white. The men proceed to build a pyre with a tile platform and the gathered logs, then plunge the stretcher underwater and lift the body onto the pile. The entire affair seems quite solemn and a gathering of people watches noiselessly from the steps. It’s so random to see a man casually getting his hair cut a mere few meters from the whole affair… (I later learn this is a traditional sign of mourning). Then the cloths are discarded into the Ganges and the dead man’s outer garments are cut away from his body. It is the first dead body I have ever seen.” “I really like this village area; it’s fairly calm in the streets and the locals are smiley and friendly. There is an ashram on one side of the road, a popcorn vendor on the other, pigs rolling in cow dung in the gutter and the most beautiful women smiling peering curiously through their doors.” “We chat with a couple that lives next door. They explain to us (through our translator) that they live on what is currently a dry riverbed and that during monsoon season, their entire house and area is completely underwater and they have no choice but to move into government housing until the water level drops again. This means they have no real roof as it is continually swept away; instead, tree branches weigh down sheets of iron and plastic as a makeshift protection during the dry months. They tell us this is actually much preferable to their previous living conditions, even though there is no water source nearby and they must wait for a government water truck to come by once a week and carry all the water they can back home from the other end of the village.”
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