Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Admitting defeat

Benaras, India

I doubt you'll be surprised to learn that National Novel Writing Month was a bust.

Internet access has been rare on the road; time to write rarer. (Is rarer a word? Danae says it is, but that it sounds like fingernails on a blackboard.)

Benaras is far and away my favorite Indian city so far, in spite of the plague of vapidly spiritual tourists. Like the Kalighat temple in Calcutta, Benaras feels like it belongs in another time. But Kalighat is only one building, while Benaras is a whole city. I guess in my imagination both places are sort of lumped together in one big dawn-of-civilization experience: It's amazing to go to the Kalighat and stand in front of the altar, piled high in rotten flowers and old blood, and realize that on this spot, every day, people sacrifice a goat to an old school, blood-dripping, human-skull-wearing, scare-the-bejesus-out-of-you mother goddess.

But my favorite temple is right here in Benaras: the monkey temple. I think it has another name, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

Sadly, we managed to reach the monkey temple during Hanuman's nap time, and so were unable to see the idol. (He has an embroidered black curtain, to keep his worshipers from bothering him.) But it's still a beautiful place. Although it's in the city, it is surrounded by a tree-filled park (for the monkeys, natch), and it feels like you're in the heart of the jungle, at the headquarters of a very jungle-themed religion, which, in a way, you are.

While taking the requisite dawn boat ride on the Ganges, we saw two separate funerals at the burning ghats. The deceased had not quite made it to the pyre on either occasion, which is just as well. One of my great fears in life is that one day I will smell burning human flesh and it will remind me of something incredibly tasty.

This should tell you all you need to know about the number of things I'm afraid of.

But, through it all, there's been almost no writing. I've done just enough to see that the Awful SpaceOpera is indeed awful.

A good way to appreciate the finer qualities of my magnum opus is to read this article, sent to me by my cousin—my story is everything the author says it shouldn't be.

Ah well. Back to the drawing board. Perhaps I should work on the Hunchback some more. Have I told you about the Hunchback? No? Well, that's a story for another day.

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