My friend Artur had recommended to me a pension in Varanasi where I could rent a room for a few rupees. The best was its terrace on the roof, overlooking the entire city, always covered with a kind of pinkish haze made of pollution, incense and the smoke of funerary pyres. I sat to meditate there every morning, before the human hubbub concealed the songs of the early rising birds.
Despite the chaos, the crowds, the misery and the army of hashish sellers who assault foreigners, Varanasi is worth the visit, especially the walk along the “ghats,” on the banks of the sacred river Ganges. The ghats are concrete platforms and stairs leading down into the river, whose waters serve both to purify the crowd of devout Hindus bathing in them, and to drag the remains of the funerary pyres where the dead are cremated.
The sight of a charred corpse shedding a leg that rolled out of a pile, or the intense smell, identical to that of a barbecue, impressed me. Definitely, Varanasi is not for the sensitive.