Thursday, July 06, 2006

Varnasi notes - Sati and staying alive

Come here, the guide says, let me show you something. There is a cow shed by the cremation ghat. It is dark, smelly, and the ground is slippery with urine. Look at that, he says, pointing to a staircase that leads into a black hole underground. A dim light is switched on to reveal a shivalinga in the middle of a small room. It is barely 3 feet wide and similarly long. When he took over the place, the guide points to the cow owner, he tripped over something. He dug and dug until he found the relic. He consulted ancient books which told him it was a sacred place where women threw themselves onto their husband's pyre.

***

The Nepali widows lay down a large bedsheet and talked in a jabber. Meri hindi khichdi, one said. Mine too, I told her. Using simple words, we talked about her life. She became a widow at 9, returned home to her mother who died 51 years later, visited Varanasi four times along the way and loved it. I used to feel so peaceful here, she said. And then I moved here for good. It was a terrible time. We cooked our own food if money was left after the rent. The rent was 300 a month. The Nepali government gave us 1400 for six months. Did I ever think of what? No, no, no, god forbid. Why sin that way? It's okay, you're young, you don't know better. But never ask a widow why she can't marry again. But I am happy now, all I want is moksha.

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