Haroom, who owned the place where we were staying, had an extensive group of family, friends and contacts in the area. He was always interesting to listen to as he was, as he said “ a “Varanasi boy” and therefore knew the place inside out. He was also well educated with a Masters in Economy and Sociology. It made his take on things really interesting because you would get a nice mix of the religious and the social. He could also arrange a Tuk Tuk that came with a really nice driver and no strings. Over the last few days we had got to the point where we could get good information and an honest view of things. It seems once you are known and liked different rules apply. Saranath was wonderful. I found the elegance and cleanliness of the Buddhist temples calming. People were friendly and went out of their way to direct us when we seemed lost. People inevitably suggested we take their Tuk Tuk but when we refused that was usually that. We stumbled into the place where Lord Buddha Gautama is reported to have preached his first sermon 2523 years ago; elegant, spacious, clean.
The Temple of the Tibetan community in Sarnath is likewise has a calm reflective air about it. It also has rubbish bins marked Plastic, Paper and Waste. It was a splendid place. Like Varanasi it is a place of pilgrimage and many countries have established a Temple or Monastery there.
We ended up at the Dhamekh Stupa and the ruins surrounding it when the sky darkened, lightning began and we ran out of time. I left wondering how and why the social norms have developed so differently in these two stunning religious areas.
We made our way back to the Hostel and had a hurried meal. Buba, our cook, came out to give us both a hug. When he hugged me he said “ you my brother” Buba’s brother was there as well. He gave Jo an extra hug and said “ you remind me of my mother” Buba smiled at me and said “ yes its true, she does”. As we left Buba said it we ever came back we were to go to his village and stay with him. He then looked worried, started gesticulating and shaking his head saying” no money, no money, just come and stay” Haroom had come in early and was downstairs waiting to see us off.
As we left I felt that we had just started to arrive