EDITORIAL || Of Peripheries and the Centre

Photography: Author

The heart of the city is often a picture of the chaos that makes our hearts the very last place where our lives seem to come to a still. It is only in the periphery, the outer realms of existence that the cool breeze of life brushes our hair aside to vaporize the beads of sweat clinging to our fortune-telling foreheads.

This being the tropics after all, warmth is often mistakenly sought as we end up receiving a stifling spell of heat that neither satiates the seeker within nor gifts her the eye that might make her see past the burning sun and the indistinct shapes within.

If you have had the privilege of visiting the holy city of Varanasi-on-the-Ganges near the heart of my beloved nation, it would be safe to assume that it is at the ghats, the ancient riverbanks at the periphery of the bustling city, where you have felt closest to your inner self.

The inner city quarters, on the other hand, is a cacophony of upstream lanes replete with blockading cows, shady babas, stores that sell bidis (local cigarettes) that are as long as a foot-long Sub, plush cafes that have magically sprouted for the untampered tongues of a tourist, music schools that host regular evening concerts.

Of course, a trip to Varanasi would be incomplete without a genuine struggle through these lanes and by-lanes, battling agents of the religion to get a peek at the famed Kashi Viswanath or the legendary Gyan Vapi where lay submerged the greatest symbol of enlightenment etched in the mythical lores of our ancient nation.

It is probable that the cheap hotel you booked via an online app places you in a comfortable enough room, but as it turns out, at the very heart of the city that is so near, yet far enough from the promise of the legendary Assi Ghat and the mythical Dasashwamedh ghat, a reminder of the royal religious ritual that involved attacking other kingdoms and sacrificing horses.

The heart is the most boring place of them all, until the hotel room is shed to reveal the soul as it traverses the nameless alleys and quickly finds itself at the periphery once more. It is evening, as she gazes up at the full moon and the blessed white rays breaking the waves into silver as they swim all the way past the illuminated ghats of Varanasi towards the ocean. []

Photography: Author

Photography: Author

Photography: Author

Jay Chakravarti

JAGANNATH (JAY) CHAKRAVARTI is the Founder/Editor of CultureCult. He is an independent filmmaker based out of Kolkata, India. He enjoys dabbling in several forms of artistic expression including poetry, painting, film criticism and acting. His debut book of poetry, Cornucopia, was published in 2018.

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