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07/08

India, Day 22 – Varanasi

I was a bit apprehensive about meeting the two Americans I’d contacted through their travel blog – and equally apprehensive about the New Year’s party at Hotel Surya. Would they be some of the rare individuals I click with and feel comfortable spending time with? Would the party just be noisy and awkward and alienating?

I’d spent the day wondering how we were going to meet up. I had a phone number for them, but a) I don’t like using phones and b) when I eventually did try it, it didn’t work. Also I think, from the e-mails exchanged, that neither party wanted to specify a time and place to meet. Eventually, having e-mailed them my hotel details as a suggested meeting point, I got a phone call (I had to take it at Reception, as the phone in my room doesn’t work). The event at Hotel Surya was to start at eight, so I said I’d head over there for that time.

I needn’t have worried about meeting the two guys. Nathan and Adam were friendly, intelligent, not at all ‘jock’-ish and we spent the evening talking about science fiction and fantasy, experiences in India, a little politics and assorted random nonsense. They’re Magic: The Gathering players, and although they’ve never roleplayed, they know a fair bit about it. One of their neighbours in their small town was Gary Gygax, co-creater of Dungeons and Dragons.

The party was OK – amusing, really. It was held in a marquee in the grounds of the hotel (mostly, anyway – there was a buffet inside). The empty swimming pool had been lined with disco lights and on one edge were the PA and DJ’s station. For a while, there were fire-dancer men in the pool swinging flaming sticks around (and one of them did fire-breathing). Their flaming-stick-spinning was fine up until they tried to do something a bit more complex – then they slowed and stumbled a little. The DJ sounded awkward, and when exhorting the crowd to cheer was apparently satisfied when more than a few people responded. We joked that they must all have been bell-boys who had been told to put on the show.

We drank beer, ate the snacks brought round by the waiters and took advantage of the buffet. When midnight came around it didn’t seem to be particularly marked – there was no countdown, just a single pathetic firework. With that over and done with we left not long aferwards.

Meeting these two guys was a pretty bizarre coincidence. They’d posted something about spending New Year’s in Varanasi; a few hours later, I’d done a search for exactly that and found their travel blog – and we’d turned out to have a fair amount in common.

I got a cycle rickshaw back to my hotel and they walked to their much nearer hotel (disputing the right way to go). On the way back I passed a building – I don’t know what it was because I’m not sure which way we went – consisting of columns and a roof and inside an enclosure. On the desterted street outside there was a small donkey just standing there and looking utterly forlorn with its head down and eyes open.

We the rickshaw arrived at the Ajaya it was closed. The shutters were drawn across the entrance and locked, and the reception area was completely dark. I tried the shutters, shook them a bit, looked around for another door; meanwhile the rickshaw rider was standing there waiting for his money. I tried asking him for his opinion, but he didn’t have the English to answer much. I had the details for the Americans’ hotel so I asked him to take me there – basically back all the way we’d just come. As we got to the first road junction, I remembered there was another hotel nearby so I directed him there instead.

When I asked if they had rooms free, the man on Reception just shook his head tiredly, so I went back out to my rickshaw. As I climbed in, some of the other staff approached and wanted to know what the situation was. I, in English, and the driver in Hindi, explained that Hotel Ajaya was closed. One of the men disagreed. I thought that was strange, given that I’d just been there and he hadn’t. So three men from Hotel Modern walked with us back to Hotel Ajaya. Once there they roused the guy who was on duty at Reception – he’d been asleep in a bed placed right in the middle of the foyer. I gave the rickshaw man 50 rupees (we’d agreed 30), shook hands with the Hotel Modern staff, wished them happy new year and ran up to my room.

And that is the story of how I saw in 2008.

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Categories: Travel
  1. savasana
    1 January 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Happy New Year! May 2008 be your best year yet! 😀

  2. 3 January 2008 at 8:56 am

    Thank you. Happy New Year to you, too (on this 3rd of January)

  3. 3 January 2008 at 9:00 am

    Thank you. Happy New Year to you, too (on this third day of January).

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