North Tour: Varanasi & Bodhgaya: A picture or 1,000 words?

Wednesday, 16 March

BODHGAYA: I’ve had no shortage of things to write about on this tour.

We’ve been continuously on the move. Always having something interesting to see and finding something fun to do, writing has been easy. The eventful never ceases to occur. Today, however, I find myself stuck. For once, it seems there’s really nothing to say.

But I’m still compelled to write.

Even when it seems like there’s nothing to say, there always is.

This morning we went to a place in Varanasi where Buddha gave his first sermon. I don’t want to be – as Holden Caulfield would say – a “phony,” so I’m not going to feign knowledge of the history behind our location or exaggerate my on-site emotions. All I can say is how I felt later when I thought about all we’ve seen on tour.

We’ve been to locations straight out of history books on almost every day of these tours. India has a wide, diverse array of cultures, each with a long, distinct history of their own. But though we’ve been to temples, forts, monasteries and museums across North and South India, most of us have no knowledge of their significance. That’s why we’ve hired tour guides, whose broken, heavily-accented English makes paying them adequate attention a trying task.

Around these guides, we’re normally more interested in snapping pictures than sitting still. It’s as if it’s more important to show others “I was there” than explain why being there is so significant. Most people interested in our exchanges would probably agree. It’s easier to convey poignancy through pictures than through prose.

But poignancy escalates when it’s understood. It’s the difference between staring at the Ganges River in awe, and getting chills that have nothing to do with the cool temperature. There’s something to be said for understanding what you’re looking at. With history, what you’re looking at doesn’t stay still like a picture. You can rewind it like a VHS and replay the events in your mind. Pictures are illusions. Life never stands as still as they would have you believe.

That’s why it’s so important to keep a record of what happens in words, too. Why I don’t want to forget being accidentally locked on the porch of a hotel room with Nikolas this evening for ten minutes. (We were saved when Jordan unscrewed the archaic lock.) Why I don’t want to forget ordering the wrong meal for dinner – twice – and ending up with a satisfied stomach anyway. Why I don’t want to forget the white paper streamers coming from our room’s ceiling fan last night, and how four of us just laid down and laughed, unable to stop hilarity from mounting.

There’s no point in pretending our actions are as memorable as the Buddha’s teachings.

But damn, life is good. I want to remember that.



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2 Responses to “North Tour: Varanasi & Bodhgaya: A picture or 1,000 words?”

  1. Nisha Khan: The Christian Canadian Says:

    I love this post. So much. Beautiful.

  2. Arif khan Says:

    Hey i am a student and a tour guide in Bodh Gaya u need nay kind of help call me 9430406213

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