Varanasi has been a trying city for me. As I said in my previous post, tourism really has taken a toll here. It has driven the prices up on the cost of living big time and people feel it. My time here can be summed up in saying, I feel like I'm nothing but a bank account. White skin equals dollar sign. It's true, even as an unemployed westerner, I am still fabulously wealthy compared to the overwhelming majority of people here. That's incredibly humbling to think about, but while my eagerness to be generous is there, it dims after being scammed three times in a row. It's a vicious cycle, and there is no telling who struck first, the tourist or the local. I understand both sides. Tourists pour through here everyday, stay for a few hours, days, visit this place like they would a zoo or an amusement park, one of the most holy cities in India, and leave. Slam, bam, thank you Varanasi. But it's also intimidating to be a tourist here. People are in your face for money, to buy things, to use their services, and they are relentless. No doesn't mean no here, it means try harder until there is confrontation or you give in to avoid it. There is no doubt some react poorly, as I did on several occasions. It's hard to be open with people when so many are trying to take advantage of you for a buck. As a guy I actually was able to sit and talk to said (he volunteered me to buy him tea :) ), "why should I change my methods when some tourists will fork over 3000IR ($50) without batting an eye?" after he pushed them to pay him for his time that they didn't ask for. Tough atmosphere to operate in .
There are nice people here. In fact, I'm sure most of the people here are wonderful. Just worn out from the tourism industry. While wandering the back streets, I met several really kind people. I tried to get away from the river. It's beautiful, it's so hard to, but I found myself more captivated by the life that happened away from it, back in the streets of what is known as "The Old City." Most Indian cities have street dogs and cats. Varanasi is the first place I've been to that had street cows, that meandered as they wished, eating from the trash, and stampeding through the narrow lanes on occasion. While I don't feel as though the photographs even come close to doing the experience justice, here are some images from my wanderings. I leave Varanasi today, and I have no idea where I'm going, but honestly I'm relieved to be. I plan to play overnight bus roulette. Wish me luck :)