Varanasi revealed herself slowly, then all at once. As the sun rose over the Ganges, the city showed us that she'd never slept—the ceremonial cremations had continued through the night, alongside the pujas and offerings on the banks of the sacred river. As our boat navigated the shoreline, I felt an intense sense of gratitude—for the privilege of visiting this holy place, for my wonderful friends huddling near me to share their warmth in the freezing cold, for the gorgeous wedding of a classmate witnessed days prior. Moving to this side of the world has presented challenges and opportunities in equal measure, but I am so grateful for all of them. Here's to many more adventures in the months and years to come 🥂
I spent last week racing across northern India—from Kolkata to Varanasi to Agra to Delhi—and each stop was more exhilarating than the one before. Here’s a snap from the paan market in Varanasi, where local entrepreneurs bulk-buy ingredients to make paan, a highly addictive chewing mixture of betel leaf, areca nut, and tobacco.
When I was 16, I went backpacking for the very first time. One day, after hours of aimlessly chasing down Lonely Planet's must-see's in São Paolo, I found myself seeking shelter from the punishing rain inside a massive, labyrinthine bookstore. I navigated to the poetry section, sank into a corner armchair, and drank in the musty smell of aging books the same way I'd been coaching myself to drink a cup of coffee: slowly, with a straight face. ⠀
I grabbed a book off the shelf to my right, cracked the spine on a Pablo Neruda's "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair," and began to read: "Leaning into the afternoons I cast my sad nets / towards your oceanic eyes. / There in the highest blaze my solitude lengthens and flames, / its arms turning like a drowning man's. / I send out red signals across your absent eyes / that smell like the sea or the beach by a lighthouse. / You keep only darkness, my distant female, / from your regard sometimes the coast of dread emerges." ⠀
Ten years later, as I watched this man tidy his boat in an Indonesian harbor, the words came back to me in a flash: "Leaning into the afternoons I fling my sad nets / to that sea that is thrashed by your oceanic eyes. / The birds of night peck at the first stars / that flash like my soul when I love you. / The night gallops on its shadowy mare / shedding blue tassels over the land."