The Devil Dog of Varanasi

ganges dead body underneath the stairwell

So spiritual!

After several years living ‘clean and sober’ I relapsed in a spectacular fashion whilst on a holiday in India in 1994. Me and my girlfriend were on a year long trip through Thailand, Hong Kong, Nepal and India.

In no time I was pretty much insanely high from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep. Our holiday was suddenly characterised by extreme levels of paranoia and strange, unpredictable behaviour on my part.

We needed to have a holiday from our holiday, and so we found ourselves in Varanasi, the most holy city in India. The reason it is considered the most holy, is because of the funeral ‘Ghats’ next to the Ganges River. It was just before the monsoon season when we arrived and we rented a room with a balcony overlooking the holy river.

If you were to suck the diarrhoea out of a hermaphrodite’s AIDS ridden asshole you would be consuming a product infinitely more wholesome than the filth that passed as the Ganges. At least the hermy’s bunghole juice wouldn’t have rotting corpses in it.

That is one of the first things we saw from the balcony, a waterlogged corpse floating along the dark brown water with birds sitting on it and pulling out pieces of intestine. A few meters away on the shore, bathers performed ablutions and women washed laundry.

We saw more corpses when we hired a small boat to visit the sand islands that sat in the middle of the river. You see, right before the monsoon is when the Ganges is at its lowest ebb and large sand islands emerge in the middle.

On the way out to one of these islands, the guy rowing our boat bumped into what I at first thought was one of those pink ‘Moon Hopper’ toys that everyone had in the 70s.

On closer inspection, we realised it was in fact a dead body when the face upturned and looked like a water logged cabbage patch doll. The pilot of our vessel grinned and thrust at the pink balloon stomach with an oar which ruptured it – causing the most disgusting gases to wheeze out and fill the air with their putrid stench.

          “Don’t the bodies get burnt?” I asked our guide.

He explained that suicides and the ‘untouchable’ caste aren’t allowed to be burnt and are just thrown in the river. Even for the castes that can be burnt, most families can only afford enough wood at the Ghats for the funeral ceremony.

As it takes a considerable amount of time to cremate a body, a large number are simply thrown into the Ganges half burnt.

When we got to the sand islands, they were exactly that; islands made of sand – nothing to write home about. I noticed something out of place in the corner of the island and went to investigate. At first I thought it was a dead dog, but when I walked around it, I noticed its eyes follow me. The dog had no fur and was covered in a thick layer of calloused skin. The boat owner came running over to me yelling and screaming.

          “Devil dog! Devil dog!”

He pulled me away from the beast and when we were a safe distance explained the situation. Devil dogs were feral creatures that lived off the human bodies that washed up on the far shore of the Ganges.

The one I had just seen was trapped when the rising waters cut off its exit to the far shore. It was going to drown in the Ganges and was probably hungry for human meat and desperate.

govt bhang shop underneath the stairwel

After our relaxing sojourn dodging corpses on the open sewer of the Ganges, we decided to take a stroll through Varanasi and before long we came upon the ‘Government Bhang Shop’.

This excited me as ‘bhang’ means ‘marijuana’ in Hindi. Seeing as top quality charas (hash) can be bought all over India, I wasn’t really excited about the quality of the bhang – which is just leaf. It was the whole ‘legal weed’ thing that got me excited.

My girlfriend took pictures of me buying a stack of dope cookies from the shop; legally eating it on the banks of the Ganges; and finally a photo of me eating one on the balcony of our guesthouse as the sun set over the Ganges.

Seeing as I had been smoking a lot of charas, the bhang did absolutely nothing even though I ate six large cookies. But it didn’t matter; it was fuckin’ legal!

That night I awoke in absolute agony, it felt like I had been disembowelled. I ran to the key hole dunny and immediately started puking and diarrhoeaing simultaneously.

My girlfriend discovered me curled around the dunny hole groaning like a demented beast and covered with shit and puke. The next couple of days were spent in a delirium as I burped up bile froth and a mucoid sludge seeped from my bunghole. I ran a high fever and kept having a nightmare in which a devil dog was gnawing my feet to the bone.

My girlfriend fetched a few doctors during that time. The first one saw my condition as an excellent opportunity to put the moves on her. The second one came up with an instantaneous diagnosis upon entering the room; “he is faking it.”

Luckily, the third one took some samples and did some tests. He came back with the results a day later; I had amoebic and bacillary dysentery, hepatitis A, severe food poisoning and a chronic giardia infestation.

piss drinking on ganges underneath the stairwell

Dead bodies and shit make the Ganges water piss coloured.

By the third day, I was well enough to eat a small bowl of rice and smoke some hash. The doctor had prescribed me huge doses of antibiotics and a bunch of other crap.

For a fee, I also talked him into prescribing me morphine for an ‘LSD addiction’ – this was just a formality as morphine sulphate could be bought in any pharmacy. Invariably however, pharmacy owners would charge an exorbitant amount for non-prescribed morphine, with a prescription they would have to sell me it at the proper price. I had this script stuck to my wall for years before losing it.

As soon as I could walk again, I determined to get to the bottom of my poisoning and seeing as the last thing I ate was from the bhang shop, it seemed like a logical place to start.

When I got there I was disgusted to witness an old man squatting on a large piece of wood. His balls were hanging out of his tunic and resting on the piece of wood. He was busy smashing up dope leaf with a round rock. Water from a container was poured on the leaf and this became a mash that was the main ingredient of the cookies. I pointed at the beaker and asked him if it was from the ‘Ganga’ the Hindi word for Ganges. He answered in the affirmative. I couldn’t believe it; the water was unfiltered and unboiled.

Over the next month I lost twenty fucking kilos as result of my ailments. But I didn’t let something so trifling get in the way of a relapse, no sir! My heavy drug use continued unabated.

I only really recovered after living back in Australia again for six months. As I was wont to do, I took a large dose of LSD for the flight back to Sydney – you can read about the shenanigans HERE. The giardia persisted for about a year but I didn’t really mind as it was like farting with your mouth which led to all kinds of funny situations.