Varanasi Vignettes

Pigeons before dusk


the death of a tiger

A dark grey smoke bellows from the burning Ghats – heavy and suffocating it paints fluid shadows over sleeping dogs and soot. If you sit here long enough you’d find as I have, bits of ash and earth tarnish your white paper. Bits that where once living and others not.

Chants of “Ram ram satya hai” penetrate the never ending wood smoke as tourists watch from their viewing galleries and boat. In a city where people come to die, death itself becomes the spectacle.

When the smoke burns your eyes enough you leave. May be I’ll return one day at dusk to burn away in that very smoke that blinds me now.


Pehalwan, Varanasi

9’o clock shadows slant up Tulsi Ghat, the steps a giant jantar mantar of light play. The golden light settles as sweat on your brow as you are left squinting at the Ganga. Labhu Lohar swings is gada in swift clockwise rotations, slowly at first picking up speed as the sun plays khusti with his back. Behind him the city’s waterfront stretches out on either side, a long curve of the river bend.

Labhu Lohar Jnr is a pehalwan, baby-faced he frowns at me as I try to creep up on him to take his picture. I admit I did not talk to him except to learn his name and sadly learning it I walk-on regretting the death of my curiosity. Labhu but a actor in this
the theatres of life that brings the magic of Varanasi to life.


Varanasi Vignettes.

I disappear into the city’s complicated core, its narrow gullis and kopchas (lanes), a narrow labyrinth too small for even a cycle rickshaw to pass.

Vishwanath Galli smells of alu-kachoris, jalebis and marigolds. Long tailed green parrots came and went from the rooftops, flapping and squawking, while an armed paunchy policeman spat a stream of scarlet betel juice onto the broken pavement but I walked on with the crumpled piece of paper in my hand. I came across to a row of vendors along the front of the buildings on my right: there a girl in a blue school uniform stood at the open-front stall selling brass pots and pans.

“Ganga-fuji” I asked.

“Theeshra Gulli Right koh !” (third lane to the right), she said nonchalantly as she tried hard not to look me in the face.

I looked ahead and there squeezed between two buildings in a space less than 3 feet ran the gulli. The alleyway was no more than crevice- it appeared unthinkable to walk in it but as people entered and left I thought again. The light was dim and the cool damp air weighed down on my shoulders as I walk with others in a single file, often walking sideways to avoid the almost unavoidable rubbing of shoulders. The lane bends and is already blocking the entrance from sight behind me. Dodging a wet heap of cowdung on the road I walk on as the alley makes another bend and then meanders off to the right. There was a sign above the lane announcing my hotel and I double checked its name with the piece paper in my hand

Varanasi Vignettes