I worked with two American girls, Maria and Olena, as their tour guide in Benares. They contacted me through my apartment add on craigslist. It was the first time when I was asked to arrange a tour of Benares. It was very exciting for me because I always wanted to work in tourism sector. Maria and Oleana both were from New York. Maria was learning PR from New York University and Olena was doing law degree.
They were very much interested in real Indian life therefore I arranged their accommodation at my place. They had only two days for Benares and I wanted to show them as much as I could therefore we started right after they arrived in Benares. We came to home for a while and went to BHU right after an hour. After BHU we went to Dashashwamedh ghat for aarti. They liked aarti a lot, they were amazed to see that Hindus still spend more than an hour everyday just to pray a river, obviously Ganga is just a river for non Hindus. After Aarti we went to see the Bull shop which was one of their best experiences of India.
Next morning we went for a boat ride. After boat ride we went to Sarnath but could not go inside the Buddha temple because it was closed during the time we reached there. By the way we went to Sarnath Museum which Maria liked a lot. After Sarnath we went straight to Lali Baba which was best as always. We stayed at Lali Baba’s place for almost one hour, saw him wearing all those 350 necklaces, playing with skulls, doing puja etc………..
After Lali Baba we went to Kina Ram monastery, Tulsi Manas Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple (monkey temple). We went to a restaurant to have dinner where Maria and Olean asked me about Hijras, it was strange for me to hear about Hijras from them. We discussed for almost an hour about Hijras. Maria and Olena both were interested in Indian cuisine so I made them spend sometime in my kitchen with my wife. They also cooked Pasta with the Parmesan cheese I had. They were happy to eat real Parmesan in Benares and I was happy to see someone using it.
My overall experience of arranging a tour was just amazing, I enjoyed a lot. I would like to do this again and again. After Benares they left for Goa to celebrate New Year.
I had a tenant from DC named Nick Chang. He was a Taiwanese but had green card of USA. He was a software Engineer. He was a Buddhist and wanted to visit few Buddhist sites in India. He wanted to visit Sarnath so I suggested him to hire a auto rickshaw for round trip. But he was uncomfortable doing it because he thought that he would not be able to meditate if somebody was waiting for him. I knew that it could be a hassle for a foreigner to deal with our auto rickshaw driver so again I suggested him to take a auto for round trip but he was not interested. I called Raju, the driver whom I hire always, to take Nick to Sarnath. Raju left him at Sarnath and came back.
Returning time Nick hired another auto which was quiet expensive than Raju’s auto. Nick said that he had reserved the whole auto but rickshaw driver let other people come. It was not so bad but definitely not good either. Driver stopped auto at railway station for a while saying that he wanted to buy something and when he came he had a young girl with him who also sat next to Nick. Driver started auto and this girl started touching Nick. Then driver asked Nick if he would like to sleep with that girl. Nick immediately said No but driver was kept telling him to go with that girl.
First he asked for Rs. 5000, then 4000,3000 and finally his last price was only Rs. 1000 for an hour. Nick never wanted to go with her so he never seemed a interested party to driver. Finally he asked for Rs. 500 to spend sometime in auto and Nick again said no but this driver just wanted Nick to buy that girl any how.
By the way when driver felt that Nick would not buy the girl, he stopped auto about 3 KMs before the place where Nick had to go. He said that his auto had some problem that he could not driver it any more. He said that Assi, where he had to go, was only 3 minutes of walk from the place he had stopped auto. Nick just wanted to get rid of it and he thought that Assi was really 3 minutes of walk so he left the auto. But he had to walk for over 30 minutes to get to my home.
Nick was stressed with his first day in Benares and I was shocked to see this new form of prostitution in my hometown. I had heard about prostitutes at Railways station but never realized that they are this much active and auto drivers are their touts.
A girl from Colorado named Erin wrote me to meet in Varanasi. She was friend of Krista whom I had work with in Benares. Erin came up with her one other Czechoslovakian friend named Katerina. Erin was a social activist and Katerina was a student. Erin works with a NGO that works for homeless people. They wanted to stay in my house as paying guest but I could not arrange it because there was renovation work going.
She stayed at a guest house near Shivala ghat. The owner of her guest house brought them to my place. Erin and Katerina wanted a boat ride on Ganges. So they asked their guest house owner first who wanted to charge them lot of money. They asked me and I got them a boat for 5 times less than what guest house owner wanted to charge. She bought a bottle of whiskey to gift to guest house owner but he didn’t except it because he was angry about why they asked me to get them a boat.
Erin told to guest house owner that she had bought this bottle because he is her friend but he said Erin to give that bottle to me because I was her better friend. It seems like he was very very angry at me, better I don’t meet him again. Finally Erin switched to another which was near my home. We wandered together in Varanasi, enjoyed my friend’s wedding. We used that bottle of whiskey which she had bought to gift her last guest house owner.
Roli did heena work on their hand. They wanted to look like a Indian girl and wanted to wear a saree in the wedding. Bunti gave them her saree and helped wear it. They were looking nice. We danced a lot in Babalu’s wedding party. I wanted them to be safe so I suggested them to return to hotel before late night. By the way we returned to the hotel around 12’o clock night but hotel gate was closed. We knocked the door a lot but no body came to open the gate.
Finally I offered them to stay in my house. My house was not ready to host any guest but we didn’t have any other option. They came to my home and slept there. I took them to lot of places in Benares. It was great fun wandering with them. Erin left to Amritsar alone. Katrina was still in the Benares but never contacted me again. I don’t know where she left.