To begin my travelogue with Varanasi might seem like a very pious thing to do but with all due respect to Kashi Vishwanath(Lord Shiva) I did not feel one bit religious in the ‘Holy City’. It might have been entirely my fault I was not able to connect to any religious aspect of the place or experience it (other than a few minutes in the ghat) but what I witnessed in Manikarnika Ghat where the dead are cremated made me wonder as in WONDER why so many Hindus in Nepal are gung ho about ‘wanting’ to die in Kashi inspite of the Moksha assurance. But let me spare the ghat details for later and plan my Varanasi travelogues for now. I wish to divide my writing into three segments: The Gallis, The Ghats and The Ganges in Varanasi and hopefully I will be able to stick by this plan. However I can’t end this blog, as I have already started it, without writing anything further so here is a peek into the ‘my’ Banaras.
Literature on Varanasi never forgets to mention what Mark Twain had to say about this city- “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” But a touristy stroll around the city like mine will do little to help one understand the ‘age’ of this oldest continuously inhabited city. Perhaps, ‘बनारसको महिमा वाणीमा होइन अनुभव गर्नै कुरा हो ‘ (The glory of Banaras is a matter of experience and not words) like one Nepali student in Sampurnanand Sanskrit University had to say. 🙂 But every experience counts and I did not feel I was in such an ancient place though I always wondered if Laxmi Prasad Devkota ever walked in the gallis we walked in.
Varanasi for me was a city filled with impatient drivers who honked continuously; where cows, goats, dogs, bulls, rickshaws, motorbikes all composed the traffic and the ‘Suddha Sahakari’ ( Pure vegetarian) eateries in abundance which made me smile every time I passed by 🙂 I finally found a city which seemed to be extremely vegetarian friendly.
I still have the Godaulia hangover, the market where the loud noise of the generators never stops and definitely wish I had more ‘Thandai’ and been of more help during the haggling sessions every time we had to travel. And how can I forget the auto rickshaw drivers’ always ready with their “Hello friend. You need auto? My auto I have.” Other ‘Hello Friends” will want to shake hands with you on the ghats if you are a man and of course give you a massage. And thankfully, ‘Massage’ will mean hands-on-lie-down-beside-the-ghat actual massage. A city full of life , that’s Varanasi… I know its a cliche 😛 but its true!