Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Of madness over chai and philosophies over bhang

I wouldn't really care about introducing Kashi to you, for if you are reading this, you know what it is, what flows through it, which God was banished to it, what do most of its' citizens do for a living and what is the difference between Kashi, Varanasi and Benaras. Instead, I would like to write and initiate a discussion on what gives Kashi and its' people, its' distinct flavour of a tolerant, culturally responsive and a largely intelligent and informed society. Even though development, emancipation and all its' synonyms have largely shied away from the town, its' easy to see the flow of intellect and some stark opinions flowing through its' chowks and gullies. Sticking around at one of its' many obscure chai stalls, I sit down and reluctantly put my ears to work to hear the paltry citizenry making their voice heard with a louzy tone on a pathetic platform. Where is the rebellion, the guns, the blood? Or so I thought, for this paltry bunch like every other normal day would consist of professors, sadhus, recluse vagabonds, tradesmen, musicians, journalists, beggars, ignorant onlookers like me, the mediators-chai-wallas, the list is as varied as Kashi itself. Not leaving the boundaries of society and its' tentacles, this motley crew can be found at nooks and corners sipping chai in kulhads, discussing intensely, life and its' intricacies and looking beyond mundane topics of politics and cricket. With a varied range of intense philosophical dialectics and socio-cultural vagaries, I wonder if we have our own Sartre and Bertrand Russell at work.
One of my favourite past times in the city, its' hard not to sit amongst one and listen to these absorbing debates and discussions. And by the end, one is always left wondering what aids this vox populi in their wisdom fuelled conversations. Their perpetual bhang-induced state or the concoction of culture and religion in the city that helps them to look beyond the two or just a desire to explore new topics. For any, who read this and have remotely experienced what I wrote, I would love to read your thoughts for the same has baffled me immensely.