Varanasi Begins

Upon arrival before my feet hit the tarmac the heat of the city carries with it the smell of hot beeswax and honeysuckle, it wraps itself around my head and holds tight.

I’m entering an ancient place that is so frenzied and disorderly it should fall apart. I hold on to the side of the taxi expecting to see everything collapse at the next bend. It never does, and it hasn’t fallen apart for thousands of years, I must remember to keep my arrogance in check. The river will flow through this city long after I'm gone, and it does not care for my smallminded view of “the proper order” or what it means to finish or begin.

I record a video out the window with my phone for a few minutes, but my hands begin to sweat with excitement and 35-degree heat, the road is bumpy and unfamiliar, so I put it away, though I’m afraid of missing anything, or everything. I open my eyes wider attempting to take more in. My mind tries to set my visual memory stores to high definition, but short-term memory is blurry and unreliable. The dust from constant creation and destruction of the city gets in my eyes and mouth, even the dust here is sweet, yet it stings just the same. I am stared at by passersby, I’m the oddity that momentarily catches their eye, the strange anomaly in a sea of ordinary faces.

The driver has used his horn continually from the airport into the city, confidently foregoing indication or the use of side mirrors. The weaving of cars, motorbikes, rickshaws and tuk tuks blend with buses, trucks, carts and bicycles that all unite in a kind of raucous dance that I don’t know the steps to.

I am dropped off down short driveway past an old mansion formerly owned by the gardener’s father. I’m greeted by two friendly dogs that graciously guard the residency members from the angry monkey I still haven’t met. They make themselves comfortable in my studio as I unpack. The garden outside is being watered and small lizards patrol the tree trunks while squirrels survey the canopy. The horns continue their evening chorus. I think I’m gonna like it here.

window first day.jpg
Studio warming/welcoming committee. 

Studio warming/welcoming committee.