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- On the Road - Busan, Come Fly With Us Contest
- 작성일 : 2017-04-29
- 작성자 : Becca Opstad
Here's a travel story entry for the Flight Contest. I hope you like it!
Last year, during our backpacking trip, my boyfriend Brendan and I travelled to Varanasi with our friend Curran, who lives and teaches in India. Part of the reason we decided on Varanasi was Curran wanted to scatter some of his grandmother's ashes in the Ganga river, which flows through Varanasi. He'd mentioned to us months before, when he was visiting us in Busan, that in her later years his grandmother had taken an interest in and then began practicing Hinduism. Additionally, her death more or less allowed him to live in India, as the money she left him in her will allowed him to pay off his student loans, which would have otherwise tethered him to the USA. So, with the Ganga being a vital symbol and landmark in Hinduism, Curran saw an opportunity for closure and honor that he thought she would appreciate.
After a few days of ambling around Varanasi, Curran approached our hostel owner about scattering ashes in the Ganga. Our hostel owner, citing the well-being of Curran's grandmother's soul, insisted on a proper ceremony, and he went about making the arrangements. That evening, as the sun began to drop, we piled into a little boat with a Brahmin and the boat driver, who also served as translator, and started towards the opposite river bank. When we were in the middle of the river, the driver cut the engine, and the ceremony began. At first, the ceremony was composed mostly of offerings to the river -- flowers, rose petals, milk from a coconut, Curran's grandmother's ashes balanced atop a banana leaf. There were periods of chanting: some of which the Brahmin performed on his own, and some of which we fumbled through unceremoniously. There was an offering of money, which we expected. Then Curran washed himself in the Ganga- a beautiful gesture in the world's fifth most polluted river.
After Curran climbed back in the boat, the Brahmin asked for more money. The way the driver put it, "how much was your grandmother's life worth to you?" The Brahmin suggested an amount that we all mentally converted as roughly 300 USD. That afternoon our hostel owner told Curran the price of the ceremony, and that was all that he'd brought. While he certainly could have arranged something when the ceremony was over (a suggestion the Brahmin would make minutes later), Curran didn't want to pay any more money. So what started as civil suggestions about putting a price tag on the life of a loved one evolved into demands for the same, but each time Curran answered with, "I've given you all I can give." This back and forth went on for some time with the Brahmin dropping the price with each offer, however he stopped at the equivalent of 150 USD. But Curran wouldn't budge. So, we all sat there in a little boat on the Ganga, hoping the other side would see reason.
Finally, the Brahmin gave up with a phrase we heard many times throughout our stay: "If you're happy, then I am happy." However, his tone seemed to suggest, "I worry about your grandmother's fate in the afterlife." From there we finished the ceremony on the opposite riverbank, and then we headed back. Parting ways, the Brahmin and boat driver were both warm and gracious, as if the whole money dispute never happened. The Brahmin even gave each of us his business card. As we walked back to the hostel, the three of us talked about what a strange and beautiful experience the whole thing was. Then Curran said, "My grandmother would have been proud of me for not giving them money. She was kind of a cheapskate."