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I was welcomed to the City of Light this year by a cycle rickshaw ride from the train station that was a nice change from the ever-frantic auto rickshaws. The familiar odors of the city rose up to greet me as well: The pungency of burning garbage, the sour of urine, and the sweetness of Ganga as her shore retreat after monsoon. These familiar smells were joined at this time by those emanating from the heaps of goat, buffalo and camel parts that were discarded following the Muslim festival of Id. The city tried to suppress the smell under white lime but to little effect in the heat and humidity.

The old man cheerfully peddling the bike stopped two other rickshaw wallas to collect money from them. He was a shrewd and demanding businessman, let there be no doubt. He collected some money from both: a sum total of 70 R’s (or about a $1.30). And although this collection happened right in front of me, he somehow had no change when it came time for me to pay the bill of 80 R’s. To his great disappointment I found some change to pay him with.

Last year when I was here, there was a week when the corps of a puppy seemed to be following me around town. I saw it first when another puppy was dragging its already rotting corps along the banks of the river. Despite his hunger and his youth he seemed to recognize that something was wrong with the picture: a puppy eating the bloated corpse of another puppy. I continued to see the same corpse sitting along side several other garbage heaps before the climactic final viewing of a bicycle stopping at a busy intersection of the alleyways only to have his back tire slid out from under him as it dragged the slippery corpse beneath it.

This year I took note of the rather fresh kitten corpse with one eye blankly fixed on the sky. As I write this, the same kitten already showed up near another alleyway garbage heap about 200m away.

Two years ago when I arrived at the alleyways from the train station with my girlfriend at the time we enter a short distance behind a group of devotees following their guru down to Ganga. Guruji had no lack of enthusiasm. When enroute to Ganga they came across a momma cow taking a pees, he took that auspicious moment to scoop the urine with his hands and throw it at his devotees who were trembling with excitement. We who were clustered with them were not quite so overjoyed. My girlfriend, whose first time it was in Varanasi, felt quite the opposite as she trembled with disgust. She later explained that coming from a Muslim culture she could not imagine a religion or culture more opposed to Muslim ways than the ways of Hinduism.

The local drug-dealing duo managed to harass me four times on my first day with such persistence that it’s already become a comedy. They have been coming to me with the same light hearted persistence every single time I have seen them over the past seven years. Our final meeting of the day culminated in a heart to heart over why I haven’t bought anything from them in six years. In his own defence he told me about how he’s changed over that time: he got married, had a child and actually gives away much of his profit to a disabled woman and her daughter. He asked for a second chance to once again acquire my trust and friendship. I told him he had a month to become a human being and not just the local drug pusher.

Amongst this backdrop were hugs and warm welcoming’s, news about friends who were missing from their usual posts, and many friendly welcoming smiles amongst the usual stares of curiosity.

My studies in Astrology continued immediately as well. Sanjay seemed as eager to get back to it as I am. I found again the spirit of astrology that seems to be getting lost in the details of my self-studies in Canada.

It feels good to back to a place that for some reason makes more sense to me. Where consumerism is on an individual level between two people rather than between a corporation and a consumer. But mostly I’m happy to be again with with people who share my passion for philosophy as a path of spirituality. Study as tapasia, conversation as satsang, mere sitting and going about town acting as asana. It all seems so easy here in isolation from my work and my car and the many other so called “conveniences” of western living.

Om Namah Shivaya

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