Inflation is killing India nowadays. Everything is at least twice as expensive as the usual price. It was Diwali yesterday but it didn’t fell like the Diwali five or six years ago. Usually people like to buy lots of crackers, buy new clothes, bring something new to their homes but this year everything was so… I think most of the people just stayed at home, cooked food, decorated their home and that’s all. Very few people fired crackers. I believe that it is good for the atmosphere if there are fewer crackers, but there was still something missing.
A lot of people didn’t buy crackers because it was too expensive this year. Usually all the chemicals that are used to make crackers come from China where they are cheap. But this year the Chinese used all the chemicals for the Olympics and delayed supplying them to India. So Indian factories had to buy the chemicals in India which was expensive for them. This whole thing affected pricing of crackers a lot and made it at least two times more expensive.
One of the biggest reason behind people not firing many crackers is that everything is so expensive in India nowadays. People have a hard time, so they prefer to arrange their living needs first. I bought tomatoes and it cost me Rs. 50 per kilo. It was never ever expensive like this before. Uncle Udo says that tomato costs Rs. 70-80 per kilo in Germany. So there is not much difference in the price but there is a huge difference in the income of the people.
I know that foreigners spend more money than us on agriculture, so it must be expensive there. But why it is so expensive here? I asked a lot of people how did their Diwali went and most of them said that it was not good because of inflation. I don’t know how long will it be like this, but if it stays the same way for a long time then a lot of middle class people will become poor again for sure.
It was Diwali yesterday and I enjoyed it a lot. I had invited a few couchsurfers to celebrate Diwali with me. I invited two US students and two British travelers. They came to my home around 6 o’clock and were just sharing their travel experiences of India. Later uncle Udo also joined us. My mother did puja first and then we decorated the whole house with candles. Usually I don’t buy or fire crackers, but this year I had lots of crackers because a few of my friends had bought some.
We went on the roof and fired crackers. It was first time in the last fifteen years that I fired crackers. I don’t like this because it damages the atmosphere. The smoke could be easily felt in the atmosphere during Diwali which I don’t like. I better like to decorate my home with candles, have good food, invite people over dinner etc… A lot of people in Varanasi gamble during Diwali night. I had also gambled last year at Bunti’s family place for the first time in my life. They had invited me this year also but I could not go.
Diwali is a very important festival for Aghoris. They do some special puja at the funeral place in the night between 12 and 1. I really wanted to see it but I again I missed it this year because the guy who was supposed to come with me didn’t call me. I was just waiting for him, and finally it was over 1 o’ clock so I couldn’t go. After firing crackers we had dinner. We had lots of good food, sweets, it was so nice last night. I really enjoyed it.
I had heard a lot about threats for foreign girls in Varanasi after it gets dark, but I never thought it was true. I have seen all the guide books telling that foreign girls should not wander alone in Beanres after it is dark. I always thought that it was wrong information provided by guide books. Abbie and Emily, the US students, were worried about going alone to their guest house. They wanted me to come with them. I went with them and I realized that guide books were true.
People were just commenting on these foreign girls. Somebody brought crackers and wanted them to fire them. Somebody was saying that they were so beautiful, somebody wanted to harrash them… It was overwhelming. I never knew that these things happen in Varanasi also. Maybe it happens in the downtown area only, because I have never ever heard of such a thing happening around Assi neighborhood. They were stopped by five-six people. Finally they reached their guest house and I came back home.
I have been hosting a student from Germany. His name is Udo, he is 58 years old and wants to learn Hindi in Varanasi. Uncle Udo contacted me about a month ago. He got my email address through hospitality club profile. Uncle Udo used to be a professor of German. He has worked for different universities in England, Germany, and Japan. Now he owns a language school in Munich, but he doesn’t teach there. He works for the government to assess unemployed people for the government help.
I asked uncle Udo about why he wanted learn Hindi at the age of 58. He said that once one of his friends had given him a Hindi grammar book as a birthday gift, which he never looked at and just kept in the cupboard. Two or three years ago when he was cleaning the cupboard, he found that book and decided to learn Hindi. He says that starting to learn something is the best idea if you want to keep your mind working in old age. I liked this idea. Uncle Udo started looking for online help to learn Hindi three years ago, so he knows all the sounds and he has a very good idea of the grammar.
Udo uncle asked me about Hindi classes in Varanasi, and obviously I suggested Professor Virendra Singh. Virendra Singh was not in Varanasi that time, but he was supposed to come by the first week of October. So I told uncle Udo to keep doing his research to find a Hindi teacher so that in case if Mr. Singh is not present in Varanasi, he can still have a teacher. He told me about Mr. Binit Mishra whom he found online for Hindi teaching. He told me that Mr. Mishra lives somewhere near my home, but I had never ever heard of this man.
Udo uncle came to my house on the 6th of October. On the very first day we went to meet Virendra Singh at his place, and fortunately he was back in Varanasi and had started teaching. We met Virendra Singh, and he said that he could teach Udo uncle for one hour everyday. Udo uncle was happy to get him. He said that since he had also been a professor, he needed a real professor to teach him. And this was the only reason he did not contact other schools in Varanasi.
Udo uncle goes to Virendra Singh every morning for one hour, and he so happy with Mr. Singh’s teaching. He says that Mr. Singh is the best Hindi professor he has ever met. Now Udo uncle has started speaking Hindi: he is still not perfect but has many progress. His Hindi is far better than what usually people learn aftert going to classes for fifteen days. He wants to go to Khajuraho and Gwalior before he leaves India. He will leave home after ten days. He is planning to come to Varanasi again maybe next year to learn Hindi and attend festivals like Shivratri and Holi.
I met six couchsurfing members within the past month. It was surprising for me that four of them did not know why they were traveling. They spent most of their time sleeping and relaxing in their guesthouse room. Two of them were from Germany and the other two were from the US. The German guys stayed in Benares for four days but never went to see Aarti or took a walk along the ghats. They spent only a few minutes watching a funeral and that was the only time they spent along the Ghat, they had not even heard about Aarti or Sarnath.
The US guys were students. One of them was learning Urdu with some institute in Lucknow for the past one month. She was preparing was for her research about tension between Hindus and Muslims. I really wanted to spend more time with her to learn about her research but unfortunately I had to leave for Gwalior the same day I met her. The other one was learning Hindi with Virendra singh and has been living in Varanasi for the past month.
The Urdu student knew about Aarti but she didn’t know anything about Sarnath. The Hindi student knew about Sarnath but he didn’t know anything about Aarti, even he had never been to Godaulia which is downtown Benares. I don’t know what he has been doing for the past month. After watching Aarti he said that it was very impressive, maybe the most impressive part of Benares for him. Natasha, the Urdu student, also liked Aarti a lot. I suggested that she should visit Sarnath and they both decided to go the there next day.
Swami Vivekanand said that if you have free time then it is best to travel, if you want to utilize it. Because this way you learn about different cultures, you talk to people, and it makes the world a better place. I think people travel to learn but these people, whom I met in the last month, seemed like they were traveling just because they had extra time and money or maybe they wanted to tell others that they have traveled. They could have learnt better staying in their own country if they had just spent sometime online. I don’t know why they were traveling.