Today was probably the day we were all looking forward to the most – a trip to Assi Ghat with the Disha girls. Ginie unfortunately came down with a fever last night, but being the superwoman she is, she fought it off and was back on her feet this morning. (I don’t know how she does it, but then again, I don’t know how she does all the other things in her life).
Ginie, Moyee and I met the Disha girls at Saint Thomas and headed out together on a bus. The Bluetooth speaker was blasting, Australian lollies were shared, poi’s were given out, and the girls tried their hand (literally) at folding origami cranes for the first time.
The drive passed by quickly, and before we knew it, we were off the bus, walking along Assi Ghat and sitting down in Ashish Café, FairFight’s old home base. Here, the girls tried chocolate pancakes for the first time and Ginie was finally reunited with some strong, black coffee.
After eating, some of the girls started practising poi in the restaurant – a very brave choice and amazingly no one got whacked in the head (win #1 of the day).
Another of the girls suggested we play Truth or Dare with an empty Coca-Cola bottle, and I said yes without knowing what I was getting myself into. Soon enough, we were asking questions like “Do you snore in your sleep?” and doing dares like dancing in front of everyone in the room, lying on the floor and counting to 10, or walking up to another table and laughing hysterically without any context.
I totally dug myself into a hole when I picked ‘truth’ and the girls asked me “Who is your favourite girl here?” (subtract the previous win). I tried to get away with saying Uday (not a girl, I know, but I was desperate) or Anjali (the girls’ caretaker), but the girls weren’t having it. In the end, I resorted to closing my eyes, spinning around a few times and picking the first girl in front of me. Phew, crisis averted.
We finished up our food and then made our way back to the Ghat, where we met up with Elisabeth from Act & Help and her husband, Jean Max. We sat down and, along with many curious onlookers, watched as Ginie taught the girls some mind-bending poi moves. It seems that some of the girls already knew poi, so they picked things up very quickly.
We then headed back to Ashish, got changed into our gis and walked to a nearby park for karate training. I led the girls through some punching and blocking partner work, then taught them the Kenpo Short 2 kata. During the bunkai part of the training, the girls seemed to enjoy it when I told them they could throw strikes at me, and when I did that in return to test them. I knew I liked these girls for a reason.
We were all having lots of fun, but it was starting to get late and finally time for the girls to go home.
We said our goodbyes and Ginie, Moyee and I went for a walk around Varanasi, before heading to the rooftop restaurant of Hotel Banaras Haveli for dinner with a scenic albeit smoggy view.
After eating, we went down to Assi Ghat again to see the lights and candles at night, then rode a boat along the Ganges River. I’m happy to report none of us fell in the water and had to incinerate our clothes (win #2 of the day).
We ended our day by taking a nice, quiet stroll through the main marketplace in Varanasi to meet up with our driver back to the hotel.
No, of course that last part didn’t happen. Anyone who knows anything about Varanasi, or Indian marketplaces, will know that we wade through waves of people and it was a miracle we didn’t lose our bags, lose each other or get run over by motorbikes (wins #3, 4 and 5 of the day). There were bright lights everywhere, the sounds were sometimes deafening, the streets actually felt alive, and when we surfaced on the other side, Moyee told me: “you haven’t truly seen Varanasi until you’ve walked through that”. I now understand why.
And with that, I leave you with another very long day and equally long blog post. Tomorrow, we’re having an early start to visit Project Mala in Guria. Until next time!