"I’m also from Uttar Pradesh!" I confess, in Hindi, to rickshaw drivers in Mumbai. Most of them are from Uttar Pradesh or Jharkand area. I don’t look Indian though, so they shake their heads disbelievingly until I explain: I’m actually from Canada, but lived in the ancient city of Varanasi before coming to Mumbai. They nod understandingly, and then we discuss how peaceful it is in the North, and how the Mumbai traffic makes everyone crazy.
Varanasi and Mumbai could be cities in different countries for all of the differences between them. I recently took a decision that will keep me in the metropolis of Mumbai for the next year, and with that, started to remember the small things that I miss about life in traditional India.
In Varanasi, things move more slowly, none of this big-city running around, this workaholic attitude. People take the time of day to sit on the ghats and drink tea, to chat together, to have afternoon naps.
In Varanasi, there’s music all the time: not pumping Bollywood hits, but age-old bhajans and ghazals that announce the arrival of each rose-tinged morning and evening: a promise of another day to come.
In Varanasi, women take their time down by the Ganga river, throwing soaking laundry over clotheslines. Men sit together in their shops and stalls, chewing and spitting paan. Kids use every place to play, and fly torn kites from the rooftops.
In Varanasi, there’s a lot less: fewer people and animals and vehicles, smaller spaces, less electricity and fewer other conveniences.
In Varanasi, there’s a lot more: more peace, more patience, more rest, more community, and more time to consider life as it passes by.
Bronwyn McBride is a student from Vancouver, BC, and now lives between India and Canada. After quitting her intensive study of circus arts and dance in Quebec, Bronwyn flew across the globe alone to see if she could live in a very different way. It wasn't her first visit to India, and wouldn't be her last!
Wherever she is, Bronwyn explores different ways to volunteer and get involved with local communities. She's worked with severely disabled kids in a Mother Teresa orphanage in Kolkata, crossed the country with a social change performance tour, and has spent long months through the boiling summer in Varanasi, working in a school for girls. Next up: enjoying volunteerism and a foray into Bollywood in India's cosmopolitan metropolis, Mumbai.
More of Bronwyn's writing can be found at: www.bronwyngrace.wordpress.com