By Jonathan Levi, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

During my time in India, I experienced the biggest cultural shock of  my time at Semester at Sea. I am very used to traveling, as I have been doing this my entire life. In India, 44 other SAS students and I commissioned our own tour guide.

We traveled through Delhi, then on to Varanasi where we saw the Ganjas River. I want to say that I disagree with this being a tourist destination. Local people take tourists on boats on the Gangas River to see  the thousands of people pray together and creamate their loved ones who had recently passed..

Going to the area of the river where cremations occur was the most eye-opening, sickening experience  of my voyage, and quite possibly by entire life. We were able to watch a family arrive on a small boat to cremate a family member who had passed within the last 24 hours. I witnessed a body being burned on top of a pile of logs. I can’t begin to tell you how shocking this was for me.

We sat there inhaling the ashes of a person who had recently passed. Not something you do or see everyday. I felt very disrespectful taking pictures and paying money to watch these people say goodbye to a loved one.