Varanasi

Credit — Subhadeep Saha

Walk along the Ghats

“We will try Ravioli and a Margarita, with extra Jalapeño please.” An Italian lunch order felt quaintly out of place while we sat on the sun-dappled terrace of Vaatika Pizzeria at the Assi Ghat. Navalji, a family friend and our local contact, was now doing us a ready introduction to the place.

Credits — Rehahn
Courtesy — James Prisep, 1830s
Credit-Santosh Verma

Slowly down the Ganges

The alarm bleeps and I wake up disoriented, flat on the floor, in a dimly lit small room with moss green walls, and a lizard next to the night bulb. Oh, we are in Varanasi; I realize a moment later. It’s 4.30 AM and I and Neeta get ready to head to Assi Ghat for ‘Subah-e-Banaras’ and the boat ride. The ghat is a mere half kilometer away, and the air has a slight chill. We walk past a row of kacha huts, with rickshaws chained to the nearest pole or to each other. At this hour the street is quiet, almost serene, a far cry from the daytime throngs we witnessed the previous day. Municipal poles throw a glob of an amorphous cone of sulphuric light on the potholed street, every hundred yards or so. Cows lay curled against the doorways to these shanty huts; few water buffalos lazily munch at their cud, but largely ignore us. The air smells of freshness, dew, and traces of dung bonfire. We make our way in that checkered darkness, avoiding the cow dung and such land mines. A motorbike vrooms past.

Image by Kraig Seder
Courtesy — James Prisep, 1830s

Epilogue — Kashi Vishwanath (KV) Corridor

In 2019, BJP leadership announced KV corridor — an ambitious Rs 600 crores project to open pedestrian corridors for the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who visit each year. The area was earlier made up of serpentine narrow lanes, lined with older structures that had fused with new ones, over the generation — shops on the lower floors, and homes above. Dozens of hidden shrines, some dating back centuries, were discovered as residents’ dwellings toppled — some 300 of them, and displaced 600 families in the process.

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Ajay Goel

Ajay Goel

This is a place where I post essays and random musings.