Friday, October 26, 2007

kashi bashi

benares trip was an eye opener in more than one way. it was my first real trip minus parental supervision (i want to forget the nightmarish memories of shantiniketan), so basically we were six girls and a guy absolutely on our own in a city which overwhelms all your senses and faculties with the sheer energy it exudes, the tremendous livingness it pulsates with. benares is crowded beyond imagination(by humans,bulls and monkeys and horses), it is dusty, dirty, with terrible roads, even worse transportation, the stink of cowdung clings to your nose no matter where you go, but god is it beautiful!! its breathtaking,and in a very palpable way it is also holy. the vishwanath temple with its labyrinth of convoluted galis, prasad snatching monkeys who pee on pilgrims, the stampedes which occur every hour, the slippery floors slick with mud and rotten leaves,flowers and milk, heavily armed policemen at every bend in the lanes, is holy and you can feel it. not because of the shiva linga drowned in a tub of milk, but because of the thousands who make this pilgrimage everyday, from every corner of our vast country, with so much faith in their hearts.poor, underfed, illiterate, they probably spend their lives' savings on this single venture, they stand for hours in a confused queue, bewildered, tormented by monkeys, jostled and frisked by policemen, sometimes not understanding the language even, they wait patiently for a glimpse or a touch of the linga, have done so for centuries past, will do so for centuries to come,believing, truly believing, and that is awe inspiring, that unquestioning, unshakeable faith is what makes the place holy.
the ganga arati was another spectacle that enthralled me. we hired a boat from dashashwamedh ghat and went down the ganges looking at all the ghats, from the one where raja harishchandra slaved under a dom, to the one where rani mukherjee danced for laga chunri mein daag! it was twilight, and since it was the day after bijoya some bhashans were still taking place. we sailed down to manikarnika and i was mesmerised by the burning pyres and the smell of scorching flesh. it was like being caught in a time warp, it was so ancient, so enduring...i never was an atheist,but i never thought i could believe so much in any ritualized, institutionalized religion as i did then. i snapped at friend for trying to take pictures of the pyres,for some reason it seemed sacrilegeous and irreverent.we headed back to dashahswamedh for the arati. it was an hour long performance by four priests (7 on prayag ghat),and it was perfectly choreographed.the arati takes place everyday,yet the the ghat was crowded as if it was a once a year affair.i thought of huxley of all people,but with a shock i realized i did not share his rational attitude,nor his cynicism.i did not despise these people for believing that a dip in the dirty, polluted waters of the ganges wouldsend them straight to heaven, the idea of being "lukewarm" in their faith seemed ludicrous and unreal to me. i was a part of these people,not a detached observer, for all my education and scientific bleeargh the arati moved me spiritually (inspite of its obvious artificiality)and emotionally. i returned to the vishwanath temple again the next day braving the risk of being trampled to death. while watching the superbly synchronized arati on dashahswamedh and prayag ghats i furtively dipped my hand in the slimy waters of the ganges and prayed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

irish cream myths

it tastes of very cold coffee, with a dash of caramel and a generous dousing of remy martin...its heavenly...believe me....just that calcutta's weather is not really tailormade for anything irish, coffee or cream, i sweated for hours....but its worth it...butter and alcohol, laced with milk and melted sugar, with a hint of coffee...or coffee and alcohol with an aftertaste of butter....the taste is so fluid, so smooth, so changeable, i could describe it in a hundred other ways...i know now...this is the much publicized nectar ...the stuff with which greeks washed down their daily ration of buffalo meat(if you have read iliad you know all about the buffalo sacrfices and then the meat and the hides etcetera)...oh yes!!!either that or the other drink which their indian counterparts had a penchant for..somras... and it deserves all the hype....