Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Let us Explore
If Banaras is capable of evoking multifarious emotions in the visitors, it is also capable of imparting the most important lessons of life. It displays life and its panorama with stark candidness, which is the truth in life and truth of life. All sorts of people flock to the city.
The seekers of peace, who had achieved every thing, but the trophy of peace which eluded them ,come to the city and roam the streets, knocking the doors to find it. If they could ever know that peace, happiness and stillness are like the dew drops , which forms when the atmospheric conditions are just right, and could not be seen being formed and then bought or dug out.
Another set of people who grace the city are the tourists, who had heard about an exotic fair , a melee which never comes to an end. It is like a staged play for them, where they see a cow flirting with them, and posing for the photographs, which would form the most authentic proof of their visit to the country. How could a tourist return without clicking the photograph of a cow?
Then they had been told about the central theater where the act portrays life from the ancient times.
The rising and the setting sun, which can be seen from the ghats , has never been tired , and so are the people performing rituals. Is it not fascinating that at one ghat there are people performing the rituals for a newly born baby, declaring him to be a Hindu as per thread ceremony, sanctified by the hymns and the purity of the priest ; and at the adjacent ghat mourners are performing the last rites of the dead.
Wow! this play has been running here incessantly and it has gained such popularity that the patrons have been coming from all the corners of the world to watch it in full splendor, with the firing Canons and flashing Yashikas.
Third set of people are the people who are the central characters who are in the lead and supporting roles. These are from the rural areas surrounding Banaras. They throng the city to avail the various facilities such as medicine, shopping, and combining it with the religious and spiritual pursuits. They are the spices and the colors gracing the city's play. Their suffering, longings and demands hold no importance to the visitors and the awe struck tourists. They get sprinkled by the holy water of richness and dazzling prosperity, and go back with the buried desires in the chest boxes, only to be opened at the next visit. They neither participate in the great Indian exotic play , nor do they visit to appreciate the great show.
Last and not the least are the inhabitants of the very city which has grown beyond any comparison and dimensions. The spectrum which holds these people is an amazing one, where you find the simplest pleasures in the most difficult times and most difficult lessons being taught by the simplest of the people in the easiest manner. People of Banaras, who are also called as Banarasis , are the uncrowned kings of Gossip. They can sacrifice anything and give up all their belongings , but not the most favorite pastime . It is just not an activity, where people meet and talk and move on.
It is a ritual in its own. It has the prerequisites starting from the beetle nut leaves stuffed with flavors and the tobacco, few rickety benches or a platform to squat, sweeter than the sweetest chai , a newspaper for reference and the shining armors of the war , the gossipers. For the inexperienced the statutory warning should be posted that the seriousness and the excitement of the gossip should not be taken at its face value, as it is mostly misleading.
One headline , the most unsuspecting one will evoke the emotions, and it would seem that the place would turn into the armless battlefield. The tempers would rise, the raises voices, animated faces and the endless sips from the tiny earthen cups to fuel the fire. If someone has been a party to this discussion , the discussions happening at the parliament would be pale in comparison.
Visitors might have seen everything but if they have not been to any such debate, they have missed out one original relic of the city , which had survived . Besides there is no animosity between the people when it comes to post debate atmosphere. They would return back to their bunkers tired, but not bitter. However while going back they would not forget to take back some street food, which in itself is an institution and deserves number of posts dedicated to it, as each vendor has a story to tell about the food and its patrons.
The life, the real banarasi life revolves around these people, behind the curtains of the stage called ghats. And the spectators are rarely given a peek inside. I would try to do that , as life in Banaras is beyond the typical Indian description of life, comprising of marriages, miracles, gods, awe inspiring personalities, etc etc.
let us explore.....