Travel Essay Contest -- Entry 4

I Must Be Off! is having its first annual Travel Essay Contest. Each entry will appear at first without byline or bio. These will be added at the end of the contest. As you enjoy these travel essays from around the world, please feel free to comment; but if you offer criticism, remember to be positive. These writers are my guests.


by Christina Lynn Rock

India assails the senses. It is not concerned with your mind’s slow processing time. India does not apologize for its vibrancy. At times, the country proves so distressing and profane that one's gauges nearly shut down at the prospect of decision-making.

The country overwhelms the faculties in every conceivable way. The smells of rot and decay mingle with the lush strands of jasmine the women weave into their hair. The mangled, bloodied animals that roam the street picking over remains of garbage left by hungry people.

The sheer number of people is dizzying. All vying for space on an unaccommodating plot of spent land. Just managing not to get run down on the street is a task that requires supreme concentration.

A sea of completely inappropriate billboards touting wares for a clientele that clearly doesn’t live here. The people that sleep under tarps are surely perplexed by the offer of 'A Super Fast Rebate if you buy NowNowNow, The Hoover Upright Delux 4000 Carpet Cleaning System'.

I am in Benares, amidst the filth and decay. The persistent vendors drive me to a point of supreme impatience, until I remember that they aren’t rude, or aggressive, they're simply trying to get by.

And I in my uselessness: they're starving and I'm putting on lipstick.

Somehow despite all frustration, irritability and agitation, I depart Benares with a smile. As I walked through ancient alleyways with my bag on my back, shopkeepers pop their heads out and wish me 'good journey', inquire when I will return, and fold their hands in the prayer 'Namaste'.

This is the sacred city on the Ganges, where Hindu India comes to die.  It is believed that if you die in Benares, you are assured instant enlightenment. Freedom from another cycle of death and rebirth. The burning bodies and crying babies and the shouts of vegetable vendors and the chanting sadhu's paint the air, mingled harmonics that ease your passage as you wander along the river, where India comes to expire.


Christina Lynn Rock is an American living in Cape Town, with a penchant for travelling, dogs, punctuality, the unexpected and birds. She loves to write about things that excite her, make her laugh, wonder, or want to cry. She has worked as an editor, bartender, pony-handler, nightclub promoter, spokesmodel and general lackey. She would prefer to continue to pursue her interests for both love and money.



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