Sunday, May 11, 2008

A river with a pool liner or: Wedding Crashers III - Attack of the cellphone cameras

The march stopped last week to celebrate the birthday of the Panchen Lama. If still alive, he would be 19. At the age of 6, the Chinese took him into “protective custody”. They now refuse to divulge his location which made him the youngest political prisoner in the world. We halted by the holy Ganges River which washes your sins away according to Hindus. Since it was awhile ago, all I have are these impressions written in my notebook:

Men stripped to their underwear vigorously dunking themselves a certain number of times while women wade in with full saris
Kids trowling the bottom of the river with magnets to retrieve the coins thrown in as offering
Sadhus patiently waiting for alms and woe to any kid who tries to cut the line of seniority
Wading into water with so much plastic that it felt like a pool liner
Small candles floated into the water in leaf bowls with small offerings
Garlands and cremated ashes thrown off the bridge

We also crashed a wedding there. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes and most has faded from my mind. I know they had 800 guests, lots of food and no drinks but the smell of secret liquor on many breaths. Boys on the dance floor got so excited to dance with me that they literally shoved each other out of the way. Then my friend Maryala started dancing with one of the little girls and the entire dance floor shut down so over forty guys could crowd around and take video with their cell phones. That’s when they asked us to leave. I wanted to say to the guys, “This is why you can’t have nice things.”

That turned into an annoying night (yet still humorous) because the police found us and insisted on helping. As soon as they beckoned us over, I knew we just lost an hour of sleep. The head honcho took us into his office lit by a coleman lamp to subject us to an endless circle of questioning. After every question, it’d be a minute of blinking and staring off into space while that little piggy mind kept getting stuck in a sand trap. Finally, they wouldn’t let us hitch a ride and we had to take some expensive commuter bus back to our campsite which we almost missed in the dark. I had a beer under the stars and called it a good night.

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