27 February, 2021

Banaras Diary

Ghats, galis, gaalis, gyan, pealing temple bells, mue­zzin’s call to prayer, karma, dharma, a lifetime of riddhis, a home for the dying, mukti, moksha...In Outlook this week, a diary from Kashi.

Banaras Diary
Valsalva By The Ganga

The itinerary is preset; all the moves are synchronised, segueing from one bandish to another. The invite, the aisle seat, live Kabir bhajan at the exit gate, the taxi tailgating through a melting mass of men and machines on roads that teleport locomotion into an intergalactic war. And I, narcoleptic from the occupational hazard called three straight graveyard shifts, find my karmic wounds flare up again. Airplane ears—the throbbing pain that converts Kabir’s Jhini jhini bini chadariya in Kumar Gandharva’s vibrato into a gypsy’s jangling tambourine medley. Help. I pray. Aha! The Valsalva man­oeuvre. I blow out lungful of air, mouth closed, nose pinched shut and cheeks inflated. Puffer fish pakodas, anyone? A caveat lands on the WhatsApp group: “Welcome to organised chaos.” It’s Imtiaz Alam, our warm-hearted cicerone. The cab weaves through the rush and I switch to the Weaver, the most...

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