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.....

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cafe as Microcosm of our Society.

While I sit here and leisurely sip my cup of latte, walks in a girl, with the obvious appearances of a poor girl. She stands scared, glancing in all the directions. In the meanwhile another boy walks in, with the confidence to execute a plan. He stays inside for a while and takes the stock of the situation. Suddenly he starts to walk outside, while picking up a purse of a lady. She realizes in the nick of the time and beckons the boy, who drops the bag and runs away, while his escort ambles following him. The staff springs into action and nabs the girl.

If I have missed, the boy should not be more than ten years of age and the girl seven. The girl blurts out about the gang involved in lifting the belongings. Now, the people around, discuss the incident for a while, describing the sharpness of the boy and the girl assisting him. After a while the gossiping returns back to its old rigmarole. The whole thing is lost in the discussion of the lawlessness and lack of everything.

Does the malaise lie there or deeper and further? It is very obvious that the girl and the boy are amongst the millions of the billion blue, who are only concerned about the world cup. These millions are not the spectators of the antics of the players on the field. They watch the daily dose of prosperity visible in the coffee houses, and the cars zooming past them, and the branded clothes brandished by the wearers, and the plethora of the things visible.

Is to snatch some of it to experience and give in to the desires, and commit what the boy did, should be taken as a failure of the law or is it the failure of the society which has made it a habit to amass much more than it requires? I fail to find the answer. I am the culprit and I am the criminal, as I am part of the process and I perpetuate it further and stronger. I am so sad and sorry, as I know that I will not stop it here, and I will move on and continue. Nobody cares and so do I .

Never did I have seen a mirror so clear, showing me the truest picture of me and the millions of the blue billion. The faces of the hurried boy and the scared girl fail to go away, as they badger me with their looks in their eyes of blame and questions unanswered. I do not have any answers, other than that I start the venture, which I had dreamt about and help the girls and the boys of the immediate community, who do not have to snatch and who have a friend in our venture . Hey innocents, I am with you and I know that it is not you who are responsible,it is us.

Take care.