“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Being an Indian

It is not about nationality or religion. There are certain icons   embedded  in one's subconscience; however one may try to raise oneself out of the confines of the country and belief system that one was born into, however universal one is, the spiritual umbilical cord with your nativity cannot be cut. Icons such as  Ganga, Himalayas, Kasi, Bharatapuzha, etc, are so ingrained in me; I find great solace in them. I consider myself an Indian just because I have been fortunate to be born in this land. If I consider myself a Hindu ( which I don't, in the religious sense) it is only because of the historical and spiritual baggage that I carry as  an Indian; anytime better than an American or British baggage!

Below is an unpublished poem I wrote long ago. I was in Varanasi, with my mother's ashes. I was not there due to religious reasons; I had never before visited this place and my mother's death was an excuse. During my 4 or 5 days stay in Varanasi, I wandered around the city, watched bodies being cremated, visited BHU and the Palace across the Ganges.

Despite its filth and crowds and ugliness, Benaras/Kasi/Varanasi left an indelible impression in my mind. I wouldn't mind visiting it again; I would love to sit on the banks of Ganges on a full moon night, alone.

To Kasi, With Thanks

Kasi/ Benaras/Varanasi. The ancient, holy city in India. Since ages, Kasi has been the final resting place en route heaven – or hell.

Amidst the filth, fury of the heat,
Amidst the chaos of men and machines
Amidst the riot of raggedly people
Amidst the stench of putrefying land.

What do I take from thee, Kasi?
For my wife, a couple of sarees
For my son, a couple of Kurtas
For my friend, an antique in bronze
For me? Just you in my heart.

Who are you, Kasi, are you the one
Languishing by the river? Or
Benaras, of the dilapidated palace?
Or Varanasi, the leprous one?

Kasi, why did you let it slide
Into this vortex of Hell?
You could’ve let it be
Your ancient soul and shadows.

For, if it were you, Kasi
I’d have strolled in your narrow galies,
Savouring the shade and smell of dung
Touching the cool stones with my heart.

If it were you, Kasi
I’d have swum in the Ganges
Touched the drop that long ago
I let flow at Vasudhara1 Falls.

If it were you, Kasi
I’d have met all those who left
Who walked away from my home afar
To you, to never return.

If only it were you, Kasi!
I’d have walked with all those
Who still run in my blood.
For you, Kasi, is what I am, what I were
What my son would be.
Varanasi 27/10/2004

  1. A waterfall near Badrinath, high in the Himalayas.

            Courtesy mbjesq


  1. Though I have not been there, writings and word of mouth from people such as you have given a tantalising glimpse of the place.

    Perhaps there must be only one reason for Kasi to be as she is. To magnify the fickleness of life and conceit of man.
    And I guess that may be a possible answer to your ask.

  2. As human beings we are a sum total of the realisations we accumulate as we go through life, realisations that our ties with the land bring us face to face with.

    India is a geography of the mind in as much as it is a geography of a terrain.

    Varanasi is magical. It forces one to face up with oneself in ways many other places do not.

  3. Kind of heating up thoughts here.
    Of all those feelings you unwrapped there,remarkable is the one where your longing to be the ONE you really are and WANT TO BE the original at least there with Kasi.It seems Balachandran,however we enjoy the life in earth and experience the survival thereof, the unseen slavery is what we want to get rid of.

    After all the thrill of a belief or such a place is what we can take it from..The way you extract it for you !

  4. I have not been there but I have heard a lot. Maybe the place stays to remind us of our temporary being. To reflect the reality of life.

    Which happened to me behind the Pashupathinath temple; by the Bhagmati river; where they were people nearing death were left to die there; where bodies burned on pyres...


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