Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 8th January 2016



Varanasi or Benares as it was called during the British Raj, is the Hindu Holy City where they cremate their dead on the steps leading down to the Ganges.

I really do not see what a visit here had to do with retiring to India. I know we are all in the Autumn of our Years and the next step is inevitable but I don't really want my nose pushed into the fact. Varanasi is, apparently, rich in history and historic buildings - none of which we saw. It is a tourist destination - yet one of the most polluted cities I've ever been to. It was probably beaten into second place by the town of Krasnoyask in Siberia which I visited a decade ago. To me, the place reeked of death and the pollution was so great it set off a cough which I've only been able to shake off months later.

I tried desperately to get out of this particular visit - having experienced so many deaths in 2015 and the recent death of someone very dear to me who was being cremated around the time of our visit - I think you can see from whence I'm coming. It is definitely not the sort of place which would be on my itinerary if I were a tourist and I certainly wouldn't be taking friends there. It does boast an enormous amount of history but there are a million other tourist destinations in India which I'd prefer to visit and apparently the infra-structure for tourism is not well developed in Varanasi.

We left Jaipur at 3.30 am to get to the Airport in time for our flight to Delhi and transfer to the Holy City. Hitting the ground running at around midday we were met by even greater heat and humidity than we were experiencing in Jaipur. The streets were narrow and dirty and the pollution was incredible. Patti had wisely brought a proper mask - the kind you see worn by many Chinese tourists (accustomed to horrendous pollution in places like Bejing). I only had a scarf which I needed to hold to my nose and mouth most of the time.

I won't regale you with all the details of this most unpleasant visit - it may be the Holy of Holies for Hindus but, apart from the interesting Evening ceremony by the Brahmin priests, there was very little to recommend it unless one has a prurient curiosity in death and the dying process. I’m sure I would feel differently had we been taken to some of the historic sites.

We all have to die and cremation is becoming the predominant choice in the West but we do it a trifle more discreetly. I find it bad enough leaving the Crematorium, seeing the curtains close, and knowing what comes next and that, unfortunately, has been a regular experience in 2015.

The only bright part of the event was meeting a delightful little boy selling the Marigold and candle votives which one lights and sets afloat on the Ganges. He hung around Patti and myself and we had quite a long conversation with him. His brother was one of the 'boatmen' on the Ganges and, pulling up to the wharf and speaking to his little brother, he offered us a trip. Sadly we had to refuse as it was getting late and the group had to return to our Hotel.

In contrast to Varansi the Hotel in which we stayed was excellent and it also offered a bath - because of the precious nature of water, we'd mainly experienced only showers. We'd been on our feet all day and by the time we returned to base it was 9.45. I was past wanting to eat and felt so filthy that I poured a deep bath and soaked off the grime and the memories.

Having had virtually nothing to eat the previous day I was really hungry and was at the Restaurant door for breakfast before they opened. Miriam was sitting in reception and I learned that she was supposed to have been visiting an Ashram which she supports financially. Unfortunately she'd got her days mixed and the visit didn't happen. Now that is something I would like to have visited - it is an Ashram looking after and educating something like 25 Street boys. I would also like to have experienced more of the History of Varanasi.

If I were to spend any time in India, teaching English to children like them would be an admirable way to spend one's time. I can't bear to be idle and have to have a project on the go. My Dear Departed Father used to say he didn't know where I got my energy and must have had 'Ants in my Pants'! Not sure what that means but ..........

About 10 years ago my Father expressed a desire to re-visit the country of his birth. By that time he was 90 and relatively frail. He wanted one of his family to go with him, all expenses paid, but we discussed it and decided the risk to his health was too great and that he might be bitterly disappointed with the changes he would experience after an absence of 60 years. I'm glad we prevailed and he was left with his memories intact.


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