Dialysis in Varanasi

One American student from Boston University named Andrew wrote me asking to rent my apartment for his friend, Rinat, from Uzbekistan who needed dialysis services in India for 6 months. They had contacted Appolo Hospital in Delhi before which was quiet expensive and obviously Delhi is very polluted and there was no apartment available near the hospital. They asked me about dialysis services in Benares and I directed them with email address of Heritage Hospital, Varanasi. They wrote to the hospital and found that Heritage offers dialysis for foreigners as well.

I also went to Heritage to ask about their services and charges. They charge Rs. 2500 for the first dialysis and Rs. 1000 for blood check up which is charged only once. Next three dialysis is Rs. 1700 and then 2500 again for the fifth one. So they charge Rs. 2500 for every fifth and Rs. 1700 for the rest of three. It was quiet cheap than Appolo and definitely Benares is less noisy and pollution free than Delhi. Then they asked me to rent my apartment for six months. But I don’t think I was ready to host a sick person who doesn’t know any English, only speaks Russian.I told them about the language problem but they said that they will bring a translator for one week. But I was still worried about the time after first week.

I asked them about present health of Rinat and came to know that he has only one kidney and his hemoglobin was very low, one third of the normal level. It made me a little bit worried about the situation because he was seriously sick. I think Rinat’s condition is very critical and anything could happen with him. They wanted me to contact Indian embassy in Tashkent and tell them that I will be hosting Rinat in India. I was not comfortable writing a invitation letter because if anything goes wrong with Rinat, I will be responsible for it.

I contacted my few friends in the US and Canada about the situation because his condition seems like a very western condition, I don’t know anyone in India who has one kidney. I knew people who died because of kidney failure but I didn’t know anyone who had only one kidney and hemoglobin was one third than the normal level. All of my friends told that they know a lot of people who have one kidney but they were also little worried about the hemoglobin part. Finally I decided, with help of my friends and family, that I will not host Rinat.

But I still wanted to help Rinat and Andrew. I told them that I would like to help them any way but be their host. I told them that I could find a guest house for Rinat, go to hospital, talk to doctors, show them around, hire someone to buy them food and other stuffs etc…. And they all got agreed with it. I have told them to fax me all the medical reports of Rinat so that I could discuss the treatment with doctors.

They want to hire me to assist Rinat for his whole stay. They want me to receive Rinat in Delhi and bring them to Benares, I think I will do it. I have contacted few students in BHU to find one Russian speaking student to work as Rinat’s translator in future. Andrew wants Rinat to learn Hindi also while staying in Benares. So I wrote Bhasha Bharti asking about any Russian speaking Hindi teacher and still waiting for their reply, I think it will be a hard thing.

Tour guide for Italians

I worked with Gianni and Marco, two Italians, as their tour guide in Benares from 19th to 21st. They contacted me through Giona, the Italian guy I had worked with last week. Gianni works in Event sector and Marco was a Architect. They were staying in Ganges Views Hotel at Assi ghat.

They had only two days for Benares therefore we could not go to all the places we wanted to. We missed Tulsi Manas temple, BHU Museum and Kina Ram Monastery. It was raining hard and Boat ride was also prohibited by Police when they were in Benares. But we had two short boat ride (evening and morning) from Assi to Pandey ghat.

We went to see a religious lecture also at Marwari Sewa Sangh, Assi which they liked a lot. They bought a lot of stuffs like a Shivalingam, a bull statue, a big candle holder which is used for Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat and lots of toys.

Italian guest visits Aghori society

I worked with a Italian guy named Giona Peduzzi. He contacted me first on couchsurfing asking to meet for a drink. We sent a lot of emails to each other discussing about tour of India and finally he told me arrange his tour of Banaras. He lives in Rome and works for Channel 5, the biggest private TV channel of Italy. He is a show designer and writer. He said that he writes two shows and both of them are Saturday night shows.

He arrived Benares on 6th of August and stayed until 9th of August. I had arranged his accommodation at my guest house. We went to Mother Teresa Home, Aghor monastery, Maths (where people live to wait for their death), Sarnath, Tulsi Manas temple, Sankat Mochan Temple (monkey temple), BHU, Durga temple (Ram nagar) and we visited Lali Baba also.

He was most impressed by meeting and talking to people. We went to Machali Bandar Math and talked to

I and Giona at Assi ghat

I and Giona at Assi ghat

one Sadhu who had been living there since more than 30 years and just waiting for his death. He accepted Sanyasa when he was only 50 years old and now he was over 80. Giona was shocked to see a person waiting for his death since more than 30 years. It was not shocking for me because I had already met this people while working with Sophia, an anthropology student from University of Berlin.

Giona liked Lali baba a lot. He said that Lali baba was the most fascinating character he had ever seen in his life. He liked the way Lali baba dresses himself for evening aarti, his garlands, skulls and lali baba using computer to chat. We went to Mother Teresa Home also. This is the place where I don’t want to go but cant stop myself by going. I don’t want to go because there are lots of mentally retired and sick people who cant even talk properly.

But I cant stop myself by going there because I want to do something for those people. I asked Nun about what do they have for entertainment of the sick people and she said that they have some music but occasionally like on festivals. I wanted to give a television to the monastery but she didn’t accept it because it was never used in past and she didn’t want to start anything new. I don’t understand what is bad about having a television to entertain sick people.

We went to Aghor monastery also where we visited their hospital, school and library. Giona was surprised to see their Guinness Book of World Records certificate which they have got for treating most number of leprosy patients in the world. I like this place a lot, I visit that hospital every time I go there. Giona wanted to go to Bodh Gaya for a day and then to Mumbai. He wanted to see a movie or TV serial shooting in Mumbai. I called Yogesh, who is a production manager in Bollywood, to show film city to Giona. He got agreed, I hope Giona will enjoy Mumbai with Yogesh.

Tawayaf culture in Varanasi

An anthropology student from University of Pittsburgh, USA wrote me. My friend Adam Sergent, a anthropology student from University of Chicago had given my contact to Megan. Adam stayed at my guest house 1 month ago while he was learning Hindi in Benares.

Megan was interested in Tawayaf culture, prostitutes and HIV. Adam had told her about my NGO so she was looking to hear my experience working for it. It was Megan’s 4th year of research and she was looking to have as many contacts as she can for the next and last year of her research. I was surprised to listen her talking about Tawayafs. It really made curious about Tawayaf culture. I already knew a little bit about them but never thought that I must know more about them. Now I will research about it.

She said that she was already working with a NGO in Benares that works with prostitutes in Benares but she wanted to contact NGOs in other cities also. I knew few NGOs in Azamgarh and Mau and I gave their contacts to Megan. She wanted me to give her a written document saying that Megan is working with prostitutes, Tawayafs and HIV in Benares because it would help her getting grant from Univeristy. I will contact my leagl advisor first and if possible I would help Megan. We discussed a lot about our experiences and have decided that we would work together in future.

purification in Varanasi

I met a French group on train, more than 15 people, who had got their hair shaved. Most of them were young. It seemed strange to me to see that much fresh head without hair. I asked one of them about why they had done this and their answer was for purification. I seriously didn’t understand it. They said that a lot of Indian pilgrims come Varanasi and get their hair shaved which they already knew So they had decided to come here and get their hair shaved.

I asked them if they feel any purified now and their answer was- They feel amazing after shaving. amazing happiness, no stress, inner peace…………… I asked them if they know why we get our hair shaved when we make any pilgrimage and their answer was again -for purification. They didn’t anything accept Hindus get their hair shaved when they make a pilgrimage.

I asked them where did they get their hair shaved so they said- At Dashashwamedh Ghat. I would never ever like to get my hair shaved at Ghats. The barbers at ghat never clean their razor properly, blades are changed every time but not razor, its crap. I used to think western people are very much aware about hygiene but these guys changed my thinking about them.

It was very strange to see those people. Finally I got separated by saying that ” You are a very brave girl and you have all these brave people with you” to the girl I was talking to. I don’t know if they were really feeling purified after getting their hair shaved but if it is true then I would also like to get my hair shaved and get purified. But I would not make a huge mistake like them to let the barber use his razor, I would buy a new one and give it to the barber to shave my hair.

kamasutra

I met a 85 years old man at Delhi railway station when I was waiting for my train. I had reached at railway station about 2 hours before of train departure. His name was Lance Dane. He came and sat next to me and we started talking. He said that he is a specialist of coins and have written over 40 books about Kamsutra. His father was a Indian and mother was British. He was born in south India, grown up in India, speaks fluent Kannada but Hindi. It was amazing to meet a guy who was specialist in Kamasutra. I always wanted to learn about Kamasutra so obviously I asked him a lot of question about it.

He said that Kamasutra temples are not only about describing different pose of intercourse, it describes the whole life of human being. My brother had also told me same thing so I became sure about it this time. He told me a lot about different Kamasutra temples in India. We discussed about Nepali temple in Varanasi also which has few Kamasutra sculptures and Lance said that this temple is very new and was copied by other Kamasutra temples in South India and Khajuraho.

He was going to Varanasi to participate in a conference about Art and Archeology of Kashi (Varanasi) where he was invited as one of the chief guests. I asked him if I could also participate in that conference and he invited me. He took my mobile no. and said to inform me next morning. He called after reaching Varanasi to invite me to conference. It was so nice to hear a lot of things about my own city which I didn’t know before.

Interview with Musahars in the village

Mushahar is a caste of Hindus. I got opportunity to meet and spend sometime with them when I was working for Financial Times in Varanasi. Mushahars are still considered untouchables in the society. Their traditional job is to pick up the long pepper (Pipal) leaves, make bowl of it and sell it to market.

We went to a village of Mushahar community near Mehndiganj, Varanasi. They still live in huts made by clay. Interviewee was a 24 years old married woman whose husband was a rickshaw driver. She had 6 members in the family including her husband, father in law, mother in law and 2 daughters. None of their daughters go to shcool. Her husband makes only Rs. 25 (50 cents USD) per day. No local person wants to sit on his rickshaw because he is a Mushahar.

Mushahar community get some job during the harvest time. They work on other people’s land to cut the grains. It was funny to hear that people eat the grains which got cut by them but they do not sit on the Mushahar’s rickshaw. Even though they work so hard on field during harvest time they don’t get paid in cash. Their wages is 5 Kgs or grains per day. So if they work for 1 month in a year they make 150 Kgs of grains which is worth Rs. 2000 ($50) per year. Their traditional job is good enough to make them happy in their life but since India is going through huge change in society people have adopted plastic bowl now which has put Mushahars in trouble. I don’t see any shop keeper using leaf bowl in big cities. Cities like Benares still have this tradition but it is also changing.

I remember after completing the interview interviewer gave Rs. 500 to interview because he was shocked to hear that their per day income was only 50 cents. We had a local to help us meeting the people and she said us to tell the villagers to divide the money. Then interviewer gave Rs. 500 more and said to distribute the money in whole community. But it became a big issue for them. They all started fighting. Interviewee was not agree to share her Rs. 500 but villagers were telling that her money should also be distributed. She wanted only rest of Rs. 500 to be distributed. Finally we had to run away because they had became so violent.

This Mushahar village where we went to had only hand pump and one well. Since this village was near Coca-Cola plant, they had huge problem of water. Their hand pump and well both gets dried during summer time and no one, who knows that they are Mushahar, let them take water from their resources. So during summer time they have to walk for at least 2-3 Kms to take the water. Since it is women’s responsibility to collect water for family in Indian villages, it makes Mushahar’s life much harder in Mehndiganj.

When we reached there they brought a Khatia (bed kind of thing made of ropes). I wanted Mushahars to sit with me and as I told them they asked my caste. When I said that I am a Bramhan they refused to sit with me on Khatia because they are a different caste.