Under the Bodhi Tree
Bodhgaya, Bihar, India, 2008-09-09 12:00 by Laerke
We started this India adventure with a taxi ride from Kolkata airport to Howrah train station in downtown Kolkata; a train station that sees more than a million travelers each day! The yellow taxi looked ancient, but after being tickled the right places by the driver we were off into the streets of Kolkata. Undiluted India played out in front our eyes - the busses looked like they had barely survived a war, and the trams looked like they hadn’t quite survived that same war, still they all jostled for space in the streets crowded with what seemed like all of India! Within that first hour in India we had seen overstuffed auto rickshaws, grown men peeing at the side of the streets, grown men holding hands, chubby middleclass Indian being ferried in hand pulled rickshaws, sugarcane juice vendors with their little carts, people taking showers by the side of the road, a man with two monkeys, beggars, street children, Tata trucks in all the colors of the rainbow and a dead man.

The train delivered us to Bodhgaya in Bihar. Bodhhgaya is the very place where prince Siddhartha a.k.a. Buddha attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree - a temple marks the exact spot and a descendent of that original Bodhi tree remains, its roots clutching the same soil as its celebrated ancestor. Some kind of holy man in white robes picked up a leaf from the ground right under the tree and gave it to me. Most Buddhist countries have a temple and or a monastery in Bodhgaya and we toured around the tiny town visiting the Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Bhutanese temples. It was kind of funny seeing colorful saris in a Chinese temple. Many monks from around the Buddhist world makes pilgrimages to Bodhgaya, which you should think would lend a international air to the town - but it still seems very Indian and you can sort of sense that we are in Bihar, the poorest, lest literate and most lawless state of India. The fast growing Indian economy definitely isn’t happening here.

The view from our window is a glimpse into Indian village life; right outside our window is a swampy garbage pile, just beyond that are the most beautiful green rice paddies, and to our right we can see cute half naked kids playing and shitting outside their depilated homes. It is quintessentially India; the disgusting and ugly mixed up with pure beauty – and all of it is right in your face (and nose).

We have now been in India 24 hours and the body count has now increased to 2 dead bodies – and we haven’t even reached Varanasi yet!