What made me think would be the most exciting thing to do in life turned out to be an excellent opportunity to feel exactly how a ‘narrowed’ life can look like where the entire earthly human life seems to have been converged into a single platform called Benaras. Here one can not only understand but experience the real meaning of congested. The infamous or rather famous gullies in Benaras is a heart throbbing experience. Whether you walk or ride a bike. For me both of them seems like you have been inserted through a pen drive in some cosmic 3rd world created video game where you need to play ‘Dead or Alive’. It is complete madness and at the same time amazing to see the level of proximity that every vehicle gets compressed into and still manage to avoid accidents. Every place be it Hyderabad, Delhi, or even Goa is now a failure to me in front of Benaras. Here I can see 1 out of 100 girls in jeans and top, people wearing sun glasses even after dark, I can see the pride that every man holds in running even the tiniest of shop in any of the gullies in Benaras, with big I mean BIG photo frames of their parents and grandparents.
Finally the Ghats… Suddenly the weather is so good in Benaras that it just doesn’t stop raining. I had to go to the ghats even if it meant reserving an auto which I eventually did. I decided to take a walk to the left route starting from Dashwamedha Ghat. After crossing few of them, it was just emptiness. Except a few strollers and firangs there was not much of a crowd one would expect to see here. I figured that perhaps the weather was really bad and to add to that, it was a Sunday after all. Still I continued my strolling and probably reached Manikarnika Ghat. I say probably because there was just no time to search for any inscribed name. It was just like the movies. My eyes instantly became a camera dollying and panning the madness that lay before it. 3 burning pyres beautifully arranged in a symmetric order. Since I couldn’t dare to pass that ghat, I entered the gully to find another way out and whoa piles and piles of woods stashed at every nook and corner of that place, making you realize that those are the holy wet woods that would easily absorb you anytime they want too and you are nothing but a tiny spec of life which is worthless, worthless I say. Life seems miserable and confusing at the same time when you see all kinds of activities happening around you. Dogs howling to the tune of the crying sons and relatives, men happily gossiping on public interest issues near pan and tea shops and few of them even having a peaceful nap amidst all this chaos, and please note all this is happening at a space that is 4ft in breadth.
Go a bit beyond the Ghat of the dead and there are more gullies, gullies and gullies… Temples after temples and families here and there in tiny little houses, but predominantly gullies. It was just too much of Hinduism for one day. I belong to a very chaotic religion and I could no longer deny it after being there.
Assi Ghat has now become a common venturing place for me. I have been searching for a house with not much of luck. But it feels quite cool to sit on a boat for hours staring at the ghat and the Ganges and doing nothing. Last weekend, while I was on my way to Dasashwamedha, I witnessed a man getting electrocuted right in front of my eyes while fixing one electric post. All kinds of thoughts crept my head; the man must have had a nice breakfast before going out for work promising his wife and children to return soon. And there he was dead, another body waiting to travel to Harishchandra or Manikarnika Ghat. Well he died in Benaras where they consider everybody to go to heaven. We all Indians live in a very oblivious society and life here is very indispensible where every day we people have to play dead or alive. There is yet a sign of joy and happiness. Amidst all these chaoses there are also people who avoid all their surroundings as some omniscient place and treat the world as their own. I met a man in a busy road full of strollers and passersby dancing to the tune of some mehbooba song at some random chai shop. It’s high time I get a place near to Assi Ghat so I can begin with a better life there. By the way an apple here costs Rs 25/- each.