City of the Smiling Fire – 100 Days to Forever



Day 20: Agamuskara, India

In 2003, a few days in Varanasi began my 2-month trip through India. Varanasi is a place where India and the world come together. The old city is packed with a million people. It is also where many Hindus come to die, to have their bodies burned on funeral pyres by the Ganges River.

And foreigners like me come there because Varanasi is such a unique place. For me, Varanasi encapsulated the extremes and opposites that co-exist throughout India: wealth and poverty, life and death, sublime and profane, young and old.

Years later, as the world of the Rucksack Universe began to take shape, I knew I’d have to set a story in India. At first I wondered if Forever the Road should be set in Varanasi itself, but it never felt right.

The story needed its own city, steeped in its own mythology. From that understanding, Agamuskara began to take shape.

East of Varanasi, not far from the Ganges, on flat plains broken by a single, solitary hill, there lies a sprawling, white-walled city and a sluggish brown river. Both are named Agamuskara—or, “smiling fire”.

Agamuskara shares its name with the river that runs through India’s holiest city, which is also its unholiest. While no records survive to tell us when Agamuskara was founded, local lore maintains the area was settled by the first people to come to the Indian subcontinent. History also does not explain why the city and the river should be named what, in the Hindi, translates as ‘smiling fire.’ This mystery, the delights of daily life and Indian culture, and the unrivaled drinks at the Everest Base Camp Pub and Hostel continue to attract travelers from all over the world. (Guru Deep, India Through the Third Eye)
Forever the Road

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The City of Agamuskara

A small village was originally founded where the city is now, but the village has been all but forgotten. Today a bustling city of a million people covers the land on both sides of the river.

“You could run from one end of Agamuskara to the other in an hour, but because of the crowds it would take a hundred years.”

Agamuskara is beloved by both Indians and travelers. People from all over the country and all over the world come to the city for business, learning, culture, inspiration, and to live fully. And when it comes to living fully, odds are a person sooner or later will wind up at The Everest Base Camp Pub & Hostel:

The Everest Base Camp is the heart, soul, and pulse of Agamuskara, where the rivers of lives from all the world come together. (Guru Deep, India Through the Third Eye)

The crowds are thick, the food is good, and the smells are practically alive. But if anything can make Agamuskara seem extra crowded, it’s all the statues of various gods.

Some say there are more gods than people in Agamuskara.

It’s a vibrant city, full of life and living. As with most cities, it has old secrets, secrets that have been forgotten but should have been remembered. At the heart of the city, Agamuskara’s oldest secret festers. In Forever the Road, we find out what has been forgotten—and what happens when it escapes.

The Agamuskara River

Then there is the river. Brown and sluggish, the Agamuskara winds its slow way east. Eventually the river flows into the Ganges. Well, that’s what the river seems to do anyway.

“A river like the Agamuskara is a tricky one. A lad like you falls in, who knows where you’ll wind up.”

There are many legends about a secret, invisible river, waters within the waters, and they don’t flow east. Some say that if you could see the real Agamuskara River, you would see a bright blue rush of water. It flows north in a straight line, upland into the Himalayas, toward the Heart of the World…

Well, that’s what the legends say, anyway. And legends have a tendency to be talked about loudly by folks who’ve had one too many at the pub.

Because the river is just the river, of course. What else could there be to see but what is right before your eyes?

And why is a river called “smiling fire” anyway?

On Sept. 8, 2014, we’ll find out.

Tune in Next for…

  • Fri., June 20, Day 21: 80 Days Till Forever the Road: Forever So Far Recap
  • Tues., June 24, Day 25: Final Cover Reveal!

100 Days to Forever

On Sept. 8, 2014, Forever the Road, the third Rucksack Universe book, will be released as an e-book and trade paperback worldwide.

During our 100 Days to Forever lead-up, you can follow all the adventure on the blog via the 100 Days to Forever category, on my email list, and at the #100DaysToForever hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

Image: Ryan

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