Benaras, oh how I love you.
This love affair goes back to when I was about 12 years old. I lived in Dulwich south east London. Music was such a huge part of me then and I remember walking to Dulwich plough to buy records from a shop that was part barber part hardware shop and a small part for records. How proud to walk out of that shop holding Roxy Music's For your Pleasure or the Stones Goats Head Soup...
Soon I wandered further afield and would jump on the number 12 bus to Oxford Circus.
One day as I stepped off the bus all set for a day walking around Carnaby St I was stopped by a man in saffron robes, I remember his greeting Hari Om and he handed my a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, Hindu Scriptures. Had no idea what I was looking for but became totally obsessed with the paintings of all the Hindu gods.
But how could I take this home! My parents would assume I was joining the Krishna devotees aged 12. Anyway I did and I hid it in the garage and whenever I needed a fix for Hari Krishna I could be found round the back of the oil tank in the garage.
The Hari Krishna mantra had just been released (I think) as a chart busting song in the UK.
This passion has stayed with me all my life and by various connections I had several long conversations with George Harrison about it all. I was also coming to the end of a project, cowboys, and wanted something more interesting. George advised me that the time was right for me to go to India and start my own journey.
I went and started a project on the River Ganges, which was later published by the BBC as a book to accompany a series on India.
I traveled from the source to the mouth over 4 years. Travelling with a good friend who lives near Varanasi.
But the place I gravitate to is Benaras. Every single physical and emotional sensation is tapped here.
Over the 45 visits to India I have made this is the place I love the most. I know people who have grown up along Ganga. I love to hear their stories.
For me now to wander the lanes sit on the river is a joy.
As a rounding of the circle I was sitting on the banks of the mother river in Benaras when I was told that George Harrison had passed away. My friend Rajawat and I drove out of town and I performed a Puja.
I will be heading back soon...