Friday, 21 September 2012

Rhyming Varanasi and Delhi all the way......

(Texts and photos by Pupps Roy)

To purify the sinful soul, for a change of wind, or just for a short holiday trip and above all to seek salvation Delhites go to Varanasi. The city of lights, the oldest, ancient city of India and city of Ghats. Surprisingly a magical similarity is found between Delhi and Varanasi. The entire Varanasi resembles old Delhi while some of the areas look little like the Darya Gunj. Narrow gullies, kids playing cricket in the backstreets, paan stains in every step you take, amazing smell of sweet wafting in the air all the time and what not. This holiest city of India has awesomely large number of cows and buffaloes roaming on the road freely without any traffic control. American visitors find the cows are fattest here compared to the other places of India. They are like the fat American cows just like the similar to that of the Prize Heifers. Have we been transported to dilli? Pinch you are in Varansi and you are not dreaming.


Stop there.  The crazy sight of few red and yellow speckled snakes danced by a black turbanned man swaying to the sound of his cacophonous pipe and the beating of a miniature drum that brought everyone to a standstill situation in the bustling expanse of Pathani Tola, another crowded ignored area of old Varanasi. Isnt Delhi the city of snake Charmers? Name it to Varanasi now. Nomads are now in Varanasi. Villagers who learnt to live with buffaloes come to graze them on the city roads. The entire city is a zoo. Farmers feed on weed while the animals eat the wastes and occasional servings from some generous passersby. Not forgetting barking mangy dogs around the narrow lanes after the buffaloes. Some of them look like domesticated wolves. There are no deserts to find snakes but the charmers catch them from jungle and bring them to the city to make them dance and earn money. The teenager girl in burqa looks so cute as she pops out from the top window and then hides again. Restriction is everywhere but there are exclusions. This holiest city is a hub of non-vegetarian food but not around the ghats. You get all on the other side of the Ghats which directly doesnt keep any relation with the Ganges. There is always a love hate relationship.

Out of nowhere there stands a Japanese eatery. “Cafe Iba” is just next to the Assi Ghat. Decent Jap food in Varanasi comes unexpectedly. Upon entering you will see 70% are foreigners and out of which 50% are Japanese and rest are urban locals in fancy clothes trying their skills with chopsticks. An awesome Japdin can be enjoyed in just 300rs that too a hardcore non-vegetarian meal. Quirky decor and Japanese cold beverages will make you sit here for more. There is an archive of Japanese books. You either can rent or buy them or even can donate yours. But don’t compare this restaurant to that of the hoity toity japanese eateries in Delhi. This one is so different with a life and true Japanese simplicity.


Ghats are definitely a hotspot. Basking in the early evening heat to see the sundown and watching the Ganga Prayer from the boat is not to miss. Locals still throng the ghats while all the eateries and coffee shops around the ghats are still clearly designed for foreigners. Exotic food, cool sorbet and pizzas with home made mozarellas definitely attract foreigners. Some of them even offer beer and other hard drinks not around the Ghat though. Mint tea is served in every restaurants. But there is a smell of weed almost everywhere. It looks like every youth is high and doing their own thing unperturbed by the crowd. Have you been to "My Bar" is PaharGunj? You will find its ditto here in Sigra area called "Yelchiko". You can buy a beer for just 100 bucks. Worth a deal in a chilled bar with a chilled beer from this searing heat outside.


This muggy weather doesn’t make Varanasi more interesting. No saints on the road but only around the temple area near the Prayag Ghat. Their life goes on squatting around the circle listening to the super saint amongst them and then looking around for alms while smoking some pure weed as a breather. Jai ho! The whole city is so interesting with so many things happening midst of the hustle bustle that will definitely keep you busy with something or the other till the time you leave Varanasi. Many places to see and many things to do. The whole city looks like the movie set of "Delhi 6" which has scene for every climax.

There you go Varanasi. You are colorful, busy, quiet and serene as the ghats in the midnight, you light up like Diwali in every evening and you are like an addiction. You are like cocaine. The more you do it more you get into it except you don’t get a downer.  There’s no wonder why does the whole world come to your feet for a visit or for a dip.  Standing before Ganga I lose myself into its tranquility.  I am in my thought-shop now. Ganga is flowing in the reverse side due to the harsh monsoon this year. Maybe it’s uniting Yamuna somewhere near Delhi? I have no idea about it. I stood still.