Now that the sun is high and bright in the sky, I walk the ghats to take in the sights.
A herder bathes with his water buffalo, I befriend a goat who wags her tail a me and licks my fingers, I see another goat and unconsciously think of how good jerked goat meat sounds right then and there, a clear sign that I have been vegetarian for too long if thoughts like that come unsolicited, shop keepers beg for just one look, animals and humans nap, vendors sell amazing looking produce that I can’t eat right then, worshippers wash away their sins and clean their clothes, a woman dries her sari. There is eye candy for days, here.
Walking in the old city is like peering into the firey underbelly of the beast. Cooks stoke hot coals and fuel their appetites with an open flame. Walls are dusted charcoal black, and were it not for the bare, hanging lightbulb, this could very well be half a millennium ago.
Near the main ghat, the one whose name begins with a D that I can’t pronounce, a man asks me to come visit the shit he has for sale.
I stop dead in my tracks and ask him if he literally means shit, to which he replies, “Yeah, all kinds of shit. Cow shit. Horse shit. Human shit.”
He’s got my attention now.
“Naw,” he says. “It’s just that everyone always tells tourists that they have the best this, best that, so I tell them I have the shittiest.” I walk away, laughing, telling him I’m not going to buy his shit product.
Then, he spies French tourists and asks them, “Vous voulez acheter des produits de merde?”
I spin on my heels and yell at him that I had I know it was merde and not shit, I might reevaluate. He joins me, and we laugh to the ghat in franglais. Man, it’s nice to be shooting the bull.
There, I buy a lotus flower candle to set off a little darling of a prayer. A man stoops next to me, telling me that I first have to say a mantra, and I go along with the antic until I realize he’s reciting the gods in alphabetical order and is only at the letter b. I laugh him off and move down a bit, and he extends his hand for payment. I look at him wide-eyed and tell him under no condition am I paying him for a service I definitely did not request.
He persists, so I go to give him 10 rupees, which results in him scoffing at the denomination and leaving me be, visibly offended. Success!
As I come up the stairs, merde man asks if I paid my mantra inductor, and when I tell him no way, he responds with a smile and “good.”
Then, I don’t know how because I could have sworn that I went in the same way I came out, I lose myself completely in the back streets, overshooting my hole by a ghat or two.