Aimless in Banaras: Wanderings in India’s Holiest City – Bishwanath Ghosh


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While cremating his mother at the famed Manikarnika Ghat, Bishwanath Ghosh pretended he was a writer collecting material for a future book rather than a grieving son-his way of dealing with the last rites. A few years later, he returns to Banaras to write that book. Plunging into its timeless aura, he roams its ghats and galis, sails in the cool breeze of the Ganga, walks through the heat of funeral pyres.

One moment he is observing a sadhu show off his penile strength, in the next he is on a boat with a young woman who has been prophesied to marry seven times; one moment he is in conversation with the celebrated writer Kashinath Singh, who is an atheist, and in the next he is having tea with a globetrotting priest and a god-fearing doctor.

Ghosh finds a story in every bend as he engages with quintessential Banarasis – their paan-stuffed moths spouting expletives and wisdom with equal flair-and discovers why they are among the happiest people on earth. Then, one evening at Manikarnika, as he emerges from a temple, wearing ash from the cremation ground on hos forehead, he finds a bit of Banaras in himself.

Aimless in Banaras is not only a sensuous portriat of India’s holiest city but also a meditation on life – and death.


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