I think this place got the sweetest cows and bullocks I have ever seen till now. This writing of mine is going to cover a lot of ‘khichdis’ (mixtures) that I ve experienced in the recent months which I didn’t ve enough time to reflect upon, but I should have.
The Durga Puja of Benaras was an extravagant affair. All the ‘Bengaliness’ came up inside me. Though I didn’t know any Bongs here, it was anyways great to go around the gullies and streets in and around the ghats where the idols are extremely close to you. There are gullies in Varanasi where 2 person cannot walk parallely, forget about having ‘pandals’ and 5, 6 idols. These fellows here adjust it accordingly with all sizes, big and small. There is a place called “Bangali Tola” where most of the Benarasi Bongs reside. I heard my mother tongue being spoken by so many people after a long time. It was an unusual happiness. Usually I would get nervous in such situations. But that day was exceptional. There was one puja in ‘Beniyabagh’ which had electronic show where Anna Hazare pops up near Goddess Durga and shoots an arrow at a Politician and says, “Bhag Bhrashtachari Bhag” (Run you corrupt fellow). And to fine tune it with the story of “Goddess Durga” slaying “Mahishashura”, they give her back vocals where she calls the demon a “Bhrashtachari” (corrupt). I have heard this story of Mahishasura being evil and all but ‘corrupt’ was a fine addition actually.
Saw the birth places of Rani Lakshmi Bai and Kabir Das, saw Tulsi Das’s hangout spot in the ghat. Saw where Buddha gave his first sermon. It’s hard to believe such ugly changes that have taken place in the very place where such great philosophers were born and had spend their time. When I was passing by the birth place of Kabir, random sayings of his started hitting my mind; “When Kabir was born, the world laughed and God cried… Such were his deeds that when he died God smiled, but the world cried”. That place today is filled with ‘filths’, ‘dust’, ‘population’ of competing human beings who like to respect the past but can’t afford to get stuck in that dimension.
One tiny temple of one 'Baba Badal Bir’ in a gully called ‘Khojwa’. There is a full grown adult ‘peepal’ tree above the terrace beneath and across which are its roots that are spread. Mind you it has not touched any ground.
Baba and Julie went for a bicycle ride few days back. She was a happy monkey that day. That day when I sat at Assi for the Ganga Aarti, couple of Goats happily sat beside me. Every animal including Dogs, cats, Monkeys, Cows, Bullocks etc.. except Bulls seems to be very friendly, sweet and humble. Makes you feel like patting every one of them. As far as the Dogs are concerned, they are good as I said, except the ‘Man eaters of Harishchandra Ghat’. They like flesh. They are what I would like to call the Aghori animals of Benaras.
Yesterday, 11th Oct, I went to Ramkrishna Mission and witnessed the ‘Aarti’ after perhaps 10 years. Blur memory of the lyrics, but undoubtedly the flow of the music is awesome, takes you to a journey actually, if you are a music lover. These gies add a last line to their ‘Aarti’ which other missions don’t; “Bolo Kashi Bishonath Onnopurna Gonga Mai ki Jai”. While walking back home, since my hindi reading has developed quite exceptionally well, I managed to read an inscription on a temple wall saying “Gouria Math”. I could hear a voice over a speaker. Without giving any thought, I entered the premises. One saint was talking about the 4 varnas and the four stages of a sanyasi. Didn’t get that part cause I entered mid way. What I did get was; “Chaitanya Gaurango says ‘kirtan’ happiness is more precious and far greater than the happiness you expect in heaven”. This followed by a couple of ‘kirtans’. It was not the best I have attended till now, but certainly singing ‘Hori Bol’ this time felt much better than my childhood days.