Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ode to NOTA

When you decide to vote

You can refuse that note

-(or take it anyway)-

When the candidate gives them away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 6: Looking back with a smile

Monkey watching sunrise
5th March: Maybe it was a bit too much of the dehydrating whiskey we had the night before
or maybe it was the biological clock alerting the subconscious about the last day in Varanasi; but I woke up early at 6 a.m, freshened up and was ready for catching the sunrise from the balcony hanging over the Ganges. Enjoying a mild chill  in the breeze was one of humanity’s ancestors perched on the parapet of the dilapidated minaret to the left of the balcony.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 5: The eternal flow of time on the banks of the Ganges

The timeless zone
4th March: By the time the sun peeked from behind the clouds around 6.30 in the morning today, it was shorn of its usual full-bodied glory and glare of its crimson-red hue. The clouds on the sky absorbed most of it while the crowds on the boats, all stretched in excitement for the early-morning boat-ride, kept the rising sun behind them to instead click pictures of the early-morning activities of bathers on the ghats as well as the old buildings that appear to jut above the mark where the ghats end. The bathers at the ghats counted the quick dips that they took at the steps. Some cried themselves hoarse shouting , “Mahadev, Mahadev (O, Lord Shiva!).” The cries appeared more to be pleading for Mahadev to appear rather than praying to him. Ganesh later informed me that the boatmen too cried out the same phrase whenever they were apprehensive of  colliding with another boat.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 4: Music in the lanes & ghats of the city

3rd March: Ganesh & Deepak left early for a visit to Kalbhairavi & Kashi Vishwanath temples while I got busy in getting the room cleaned , the beds done and leafed through the Afternoon Raga by Amit Chaudhuri.
They arrived soon after with hot Jilabis and Alu-Parathas for breakfast along with  scary tales of being whisked through the Vishwanath temple from one panda (temple-usherer) to another, losing money at every step for a darshan (holy sight) of the Shivlinga and apparent salvation thereafter.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 3: Life on a Sunday and the middle path

Sunrise from the balcony
2nd March: Intending to catch the Surya-pranam at the ghats, we had risen early although by the time we could hit the ghats down the 36 steps of the Chousatti Ghat, there was clear daylight everywhere.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 2: The city that lives for the dead

Diffused sunrise from the hotel balcony

1st March: The sunrise in Varanasi is supposed to be a spectacular sight from the Ghat side as the onset of activities among the populace starts with a Surya-Pranam (prayer to the sun god) at the bathing steps. We were not as lucky as the sky was still cloudy and the sun refused to appear although it did wash the area with light diffused as if from a bright ceiling-lamp. The morning started with a stroll down the Ghats and then up the stone-steps of Daswashyamedh , the holiest ghat, for the vegetarian breakfast at a road side eatery & down the same steps again for a stroll upto the Manikarnika Ghat where flames on the pyres have never ceased since the crematorium’s inception centuries, if not civilisations, earlier. Varanasi is considered among the frontrunners for the oldest city in the world dating back to 8000 years. Frommer’s travel-guide on India has a quaint quotation of Mark Twain on Varanasi. When Mark Twain travelled to Varanasi in early nineteenth century, he found the city “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legends and it looks twice as old as all of them put  together.”

Varanasi Diary, Day 1: Welcome to Varanasi

The mustard fields of Bihar stretch more than 200 KMs along the tracks
 28th Feb: Riding on an overnight train (that ironically calls itself a superfast express ) through Bihar while on the way to Varanasi in UP is an experience by itself.
Near an hour after midnight, a huge commotion woke everybody up in the reserved train compartment. A large group of  devotees was returning home on the Shivaratri night after offering puja at the Baidyanath temple, near Jasidih junction. Soaked and drenched in the pouring unseasonal rain outside; they entered the train , pushed, shoved & jostled  till they found themselves spaces to crash . At half past four in the morning when the train reached Patna junction, one could hear the repeated announcements that no train will be plying in the up &  down lines due to some “chakka-jam" (  a sit-in demonstration on the rail tracks) agitation called by the political party BJP. Eventually after waiting for 5 hours without food or water, the train moved again bringing smiles on the faces of harried passengers. Some among them were even happier when they noticed from the door of the compartment , the tall minars of their village mosque (or any other landmark for that matter) approaching as the train rattled through the mustard fields & unknown villages of Bihar. As the landmark was sighted, these  passengers merrily pulled the chain , got down hurriedly and walked back to their homes.