Coming up with only one moment, feeling or experience to write about for the Varanasi portion of the program has been a really challenging task. This has easily been my favorite stop that the program itself has made. Despite the warnings that we received about how dirty, busy, crazy Varanasi, (Banaras as we learned to call it) is, it’s been where most of us feel the happiest and most comfortable. Perhaps this is because we’re used to some of the things that would be challenging if seen right upon arrival, maybe it has to do with the aspects of the city that are targeted at tourists, maybe just being in a smaller city helps. One of the things that has made it for me has been the interactions we’ve had with families, coming into people’s homes, having in depth discussions often with kind students translating, etc. We’ve all stayed with a family in different parts of the city for about a week, having a variety of experiences but one particularly stands out. Last night we got back to our homestay, (a very nice house in Kabir Chora with a mother, father, 15 year old son, and various other family members coming in and out) around 9:30. The whole family was out on the balcony facing the street where we enter the home, yelling for us to come up and pointing towards a crowd with a bunch of neon lanterns and drumming. I wasn’t sure what was going on at all, there was this loud giant generator going and some dressed up people standing around. We came upstairs and they were all shepherding us over, yelling that a wedding was going on downstairs. A big wedding party marched down, with the generator smoking and rumbling followed by blaring music, bright lights, and fancy dressed up guests of all ages. Everyone was dancing in shimmering, sparkled saris and fancy suits, smiling and goofing around with each other, and looking up at the balconies above as we all watched, smiling too, and waving at us. Our host family was the happiest I’ve seen them, and seemed particularly happy that we were there to watch the wedding go by. After we watched for a moment, we gave our host mom some sweets we’d bought for the family, because they’d lost a loved one, and she was ecstatic. Some of my favorite moments of this program have been simple, sweet ones like this, especially ones that bring groups of people together like this; moments in which everyone is experiencing a similar emotion or reception of something. It kind of feels like a barrier breaks, that cultural differences die down for a moment, and emotion takes over which is really cool to experience.
Alley outside our homestay–