After saying goodbye to Agra and everything that was sold there (maybe to say goodbye to us forever, since it is not a city we would return to) we decided that we wanted to return to that more mystical and profound India that we love so much. Our untidy itinerary took us to visit Mathura, about 50 km from Agra, one hour by train.
At 4.05 in the morning stopped the train in a station while at the same time my alarm clock rang! Our reservation said we would arrive in 20 minutes and we had nothing prepared. The backpacks were still tied and we did not see each other with the possibility of collecting everything quickly to get off the train. I still remember asking a lady a thousand times: Mathura, Is this Mathura? Yes, we were actually in Mathura Junction.
At that time of night we did not dare to leave. So we went to the 'waiting room' and went to sleep on the floor in the company of thousands of women and children. I never thought I would sleep so well on a floor. At 6:30, with the daylight, we went out in search of a hotel for that night. The first steps in the city make us see that there are no tourists.
We took the guide and went searching for hotels in Mathura but the place is horrible and we were asked 900 INR for a pathetic room. We decided to keep searching and, finally, the third one is going to beat us. We found a hotel for 500 INR, although I do not remember the name. It did not really have a name either and we realized that it was a hotel for locals or at least there was not a outsider there.
The hotel was just for one night, nothing clean but stretching the sack on top of the bed is not much of a problem either. The good thing about the bathroom is that although it was not very decent, it was more or less acceptable.
We got a Rickshaw that takes us to Vrindavan and leaves us at the ISKCON temple. We had hired him to return us to Mathura but when he arrives he says no.
We arrived at Vrindavan knowing that in addition to being an important city it is the city where Krishna grew up. It also owes its importance to being the city where one of the important ISKCON temple is located. That is to say, one of the most important temples for the adepts to a certain Hare Krishna movement. And with that said we met, with many singing and dancing to the rhythm "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama".
We see hundreds of devotees dressed in white and with the whole head shaved except for the strand of hair that is allowed to grow. And among the hundreds we met many Western believers. It was easy to recognize them by skin, eyes, features and gestures. We were surprised by the large number of targets camouflaged in the set of devotees.
We visited the temple, the architecture and the luxury was exemplary. It was not a common temple. Several came to give us explanatory brochures in Hindi, to sell us books and ask for donations for the cows. It was the first time they asked us for money for a cow! Then we went looking for a place to eat something and I do not know why, we have a tense feeling in this city. I do not feel completely comfortable and there is nothing obvious that gives me a reason. We found a place to eat there and we went for a walk around the ghats of Vrindavan, towards the kali ghat, the main ghat.
We also knew Vrindavan as the city of widows. It was easy to recognize them. They are dressed in white with a metal vessel to store the food and silver they collect in the eternal tour of the city. It was a Sunday that we peered into one of the many temples of Vrindavan and discovered a ghat with many women (all in white) praying. Then we learned that maybe it was some ashram of widows where they spend the day praying and cleaning in exchange for a plate of meals. We did not think it appropriate to photograph them.
After traveling through Vrindavan with very different realities, we decided to give Mathura a new opportunity. We arrived wanting to know another sacred city (previously we had been in Haridwar), to soak up mysticism and share with the local culture. Mathura showed us how ignorant we were, how much we still need to know.
Mathura is one of the 7 sacred cities of India. It is considered a sacred city because Krishna was born there. His existence is surrounded by legends and myths that range from his childhood antics to his adolescent love affairs. He is recognized for having been a good shepherd who protected all his cows and in passing for having been with almost all the shepherds of the region. It is easy to recognize him in images. His skin is bluish and is usually in the company of cows, a bow and his transverse flute. Each of these elements is linked to the different scenes and vicissitudes of his life.
We arrived on a day of rain and unbearable humidity. The heat overwhelmed us. In this context it did not take us long to realize that we were the only two tourists that visited the town. And so our stay began there, successive and unfortunate events made us reconsider our visit in the city. But luckily they became simple anecdotes:
The first has to do with the journey that unites the cities of Mathura and Vrindavan. We took a shared rickshaw with another 6/7 people (when the capacity would be for about 4). When so many people traveled with the knee out, until another rickshaw got too close and squeezed the knee between the two vehicles. The result was a simple bruise. Luckily, nothing more.
Another anecdote that we took from the visit was during walking the streets of Vrindavan. It was midday and the sun was breaking the earth. It was very hot and there were almost no people on the street, just us looking for a quiet place to eat. And in that we were when a monkey, with all the skill came running behind and without even messing up stole my sunglasses. Before we reacted, it had already climbed a tree. We saw it there, sitting, breaking the glasses.
What to do under this context? We arrived on a Friday and had train tickets for Sunday night. We did not have many options other than to lament. Or we could take it easy, knowing that on a trip not everything is rosy all the time, and enjoy as much as possible our little stay in both cities. We are inclined for the second option.
After the long day, we return to the hotel to have dinner, since they had told us they would prepare dinner. But upon arrival we realize that if we want to dine they offer us only rice with paneer for an exorbitant price. So we indignantly go to sleep with half an energy bar and a bit of mango juice for dinner. It was 10 o'clock at night and we did not find anything near the hotel where we could eat something!
The next morning we left on our train to Agra , a city that we have already explained in a previous post and in which I have already been twice. At the hotel we were also told that there would be a rickshaw waiting but after the run-in at dinner it was clear that there would be no transport to get to the train either. We left and they were behind us for a while so that we paid the welcome Chai.
We did not want to pay after how they had treated us. They also told us that it was courtesy. So we left at 4 with our backpacks! We had no other way to get there than to take a cycle rickshaw and in 10 minutes we were there. We negotiate 15 INR and when we arrive they tell us 150! Being there I do not know what happens to me but I do not like to feel that I'm being taken for a ride. I go to sleep as soon as I get on the train. It is my favorite sleeping pill and I wake up from a brake in Agra.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
AUTHOR Kalyan Panja