Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – November 9, 2015

Smells Kashi

Petrol, excrement, urine, sweat, sacred cows, vagrant goats,
dogs, monkeys, betel, lime, turmeric, curry, sand, sandalwood,
saffron, incapacitated WCs, miscellaneous trash, rose petals,
decaying wood and stone buildings overlooking the Ganges,
burning wood and burning flesh, the indescribable smell of the

Shiva followers or scammers paint their forehead: three white
horizontal lines with a Kumkuma at the center.
Kumkuma is powder-based, composed of turmeric and lime or less
frequently of sandalwood and saffron, which has a sweet peppery

Ancient decaying wood or stone horror-flick structures overlook the
burning ghats and river, a few of them hospices for low-caste
Hindus who are to be cremated, the structures looming, gruesome,
though with something dialectical / spiritual lurking.
Their smell? Dream within a dream.

Rose petals, gardenia, plumeria, jasmine . . . decorate the Brahmin
corpses that are to be cremated.
No sweet fragrances for the lower castes.

Males squat and shit where / when they need.
If you are too fat or too rich to squat travel west, become white.
Grown females manage to evacuate in public and not be viewed.
Or they hold it.
The sparse public toilets are out of order.
People use them anyway.

Cow patties, dog, goat, human, monkey, pigeon shit.
Small carts sell dosa, masala, lentils, chutney, bananas, mangos,
papaya, unshelled peanuts, flavored ice, sweet drinks.

Petrol fumes gone crazy as cabs, cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles,
rickshaws, bikes, donkeys, cows, goats, dogs, pedestrians
maneuver for space / no sidewalk chaos / evading collision
somehow even touch by millimeters.
Muslim females, other souls too, cover their faces to salvage their
Fatal fumes assault children and creatures.
No one can see the color of the sky.

Ganges sand with blood and bone, burnt body parts, prayer.
How does the Ganges itself smell?

Like the world in pain.
World ecstatic.
Somewhere is the still point / sacred ray of reflected white light.
Scented no scent.


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