Tuesday, February 21, 2012

KASHI


Kashi/Varanasi, 8:30 AM on February 20

I just took three dips in the Ganges chanting Gayatri Mantra (water is colder than I thought).  

Today is Shiva Ratri.  In simpler words: it is Mahadev's (Shiva) marriage anniversary. It can’t be his birthday as is believed to have never born and will never die. He is just there as a constant from eternity till eternity.  

Now, I sit on the boat in padmasana, warm sun looking down kindly on me. The boatman is rubbing Khaini tobacco on his palm with thumb of his other hand. His full introduction:  My name is Bacchi and my elder brother is Kallu of Sandhiya Ghat. 

Yesterday, we were at the burning ghats of Manikarnika. There the Ganges takes a slight curve towards the right. It appears like an empty stomach that is willingly consuming past to help shape future. Her womb is like a black hole. Things go in but never come out. Smoke laden air and sully dark brown temples smell of burning flesh. Human flesh. While dead lie relaxed on the pyre, no hurry, no worry, their half burnt body reveal like wooden bust, corrosive fire pulling them to another world.

Grief is such a personal thing like religion but people are obliged to indulge in elaborate public rituals, but it still remains so personal.  These rituals, highly symbolic, make people forget the loss momentarily that they will learn to live with, soon. 

The more I try to ignore the more flames quiver in my conscious realm. So I try to stop trying.  I now feel the flames are dousing.

I feel clarity. Fresh breeze hits my face. I see no use in the useful. I see mundane has profanity.  The boat is flooded with sunlight that is getting warmer. I feel the heat warming bones of my bent knee.  I hear loud chanting emanating from nowhere.  I hear sadhus argue for their share of alms, pittance, while laughing gulls stir up a cacophony as they attack a boat that offer crumbs of food. So much happening, yet nothing. 

I am reminded of my father. And make it a point to remember all elders who I knew and are now have left for some other world. Death, I thought, is not the end but a new beginning. There is nothing called dead end, not in the affairs of men.  

I am reminded of what a teenaged guide seated on a bench told to a young blond girl passing by. "Madam take a seat," pointing to a small vacant space next to him on the bench, " and have relax!" 

I am at ease occupied by my surrounding and thoughts. That is when Bacchi tells breaks into my solitude to tell: it is time to go. I look at him. And smile to tell him: “not so soon. I have miles to go before I sleep.” 

"Sleep in your room. Not here. I have to go," he replies in Hindi. 

More soon.

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