A student named Allen Roda from University of New York came to my guest house on the 12th. He is doing research on Tabla making which sounds like nobody has done before. He is going to write about everything about tabla making e.i. where does the skin come from, who makes them, where does the wood come from… just everything. He already knew few people in Varanasi and had already contacted them before. I thought it would be good for him to meet Mr. Deobrat Mishra. I introduced him to Mr. Mishra and Allen told me that he really liked Mr. Mishra’s suggestions.
I wanted to introduce Allen to Mr. Praveen Uddhav who is senior lecturerer of Tabla at BHU and by chance Mr. Mishra also advised Allen to meet him. We went to Mr. Uddhav’s place and met him. Mr. Uddhav seemed a little bit concerned about Allen meeting with other Tabla makers in Varanasi. He introduced us to a Irish guy named Steve at his place who had been cheated by a tout a few days ago. Steve said that he came to Varanasi to learn Tabla. He wanted to do M.Mus. from BHU.
He met a guy named Siddharth who told Steve that he will have to buy different instruments even if he just wanted to learn Tabla at BHU. Steve believed him and went for shopping with Siddharth. Siddharth made him buy 30-40 different instruments worth $23,000. I don’t know why Steve believed him. He paid this big amount and bought all kinds of instruments that were available in the shop, even he bought western drums and other instruments. After it, Siddhrath stopped meeting him. After few days Steve went to BHU for admission and met Mr. Uddhav. He said Mr. Uddhav that he had bought all the instruments and wanted to get admission in M. Mus.
Mr. Uddhav asked him whey did he buy all those instruments if he just wanted to learn Tabla and Steve explained what had happened with him. He still did not know that he was cheated. Finally he came to know that he needed only a pair of Tabla to start learning which is something like $100. He went to the police and lodged a FIR against Siddharth. Police arrested Siddharath’s father because he was now not in the city. Siddhrath’s father gave Rs. 4,00,000 ($8,000) back to Steve and promised to give the rest in next few days. I feel so sorry for whatever happened with Steve but it happens in Varanasi.
I think this is the reason why Mr. Uddav did not want Allen to meet too much new people. I think it is Okay with Allen to meet as many people as he wants. I am sure he will never ever give even $23 to anyone without making proper enquiry. We saw Mr. Uddhav’s 8 years old daughter playing Tabla. She was too good on Tabla. Mr. Uddhav said that she can play all the different sounds. She just needs to boost up her finger’s speed on Tabla and she will be just like other famous players.
I think Allen met at least fifteen new people which is very good for his research. He is leaving on the 18th and will be back again for his research in June when he will spend one year in Varanasi. He wants to come with his wife, Nikki, who works for Federal Reserve Bank. Nikki wants to spend her time in Varanasi volunteering. She was looking for a organization that can give her some work related to economics and she found found one called Cashpor India. They are a micro finance trust and give small loans to poor people. I think this trust will be perfect for Nikki.
One American Marine retired officer came to my guest house for one week. He had contacted me through craigslist before 3 months of coming to Varanasi. He was writing a novel and wanted to stay in India for one year. This time he just wanted to visit and see the place where he could stay in future. I was so excited to host him because of his job, I thought I will learn a lot from him about American Marine.
He hired me for two days as his tour guide. I gave him tour of Benares and he fell in love with my city. Benares made him remember of his childhood time in New York. He said that New York also had the yellow lights before 60-65 years as we have now. After my job was over, he started wandering in city on his own. I was little scared about it because he was 70 years old, but he was so energetic. Once we had to go somewhere and I found him sleeping that time so I asked him if he was sleeping and his answer was- I sleep when I die. I never want to forget this sentence.
But there was a problem with him that he started eating a lot of street food which made him sick. Once he ate over 1 KG of yogurt and 12 bananas at a time and got really sick. He got cough and cold, his BP and Sugar was so high that I had to take him to doctor and doctor said that everything was just because of that extra yogurt and bananas. Finally he left Benares after one week which was quiet relaxing for me.
An American contacted me to book his train ticket from Varanasi to Agra. I told him to buy ticket online but he could not do it as it was so complicated for him. He had told me to meet for dinner in Benares. We met in Benares in his hotel near Assi ghat. He was staying in very nice hotel. When I entered in his hotel, I found one 50 years old man talking to two western girls that he was unable to find a train ticket so he mailed a guy in Varanasi and offered dinner in exchange of booking his ticket.
I knew he was talking about me so I asked him if he was Christopher and obviously his answer was Yes. I am sure he had thought that I helped him in greed of a dinner at a nice restaurant in Varanasi. He was happy to get his ticket and then he asked me what restaurant I wanted to eat at. I had never thought about his offer, I thought he just wanted to talk me but his thinking was quiet strange. Usually I don’t want to eat in restaurants so I said that I didn’t want to eat with him.
Then he said that he had told his hotel that he will eat out somewhere in any restaurant therefore hotel will not prepare food for him. So I took him to a restaurant where he had his dinner. We talked a lot about Coke issue and again he was not agree that Coke was doing wrong. He thought that it was people’s and Indian government fault.
Next day he called me again asking if I would be his tour guide and I excepted his offer. We went to a lot of temples, wandered around in city. He was very much interested in meeting people so I got him meet to Lali Baba. I am sure he was quiet happy with my work but he paid me very little salary. I think he was the richest person I had ever worked with but the least salary I had every got in my whole life. A person who was a piano player and had housing in upper east side of Manhattan, where the average per head salary is $3,20,000 per year, paid me only $10 for one day of work.
I could not ask for more money because I didn’t see the money he paid me. Later when I saw that green note, I found that it was only and only $ 10. It made me remember about what Lane told me- You don’t need to be rich to spend and poor to save money. hahaha, It was so funny.
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.