Art transcends Life and death. The sculptor breathes life into his figures through his own flesh and bone and leaves with it a part of his undying soul that brings them to life
Varanasi is one of those places where sheer chaos takes the form of a grand orchestrated concert. Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world and the rituals performed here go back almost 3500 years. One of the most important rituals in modern day Varanasi is the ceremony for world peace that is carried along the banks of the Ganges.
Every night, seven Brahmins dressed in white array in a line along the steps of the Main Ghats that descend towards the Ganga. To accompany them, the deafening sound of mantras shouted from loudspeakers that crash and mesh with the clapping of uncoordinated crowds; bells out of tune overwhelm the melodies and melt them into a sole, noisy whisper to the gods. They stand before the sacred river, the Great Mother, and in Her honour they swirl jugs of incense, wrapped by white fumes that devour the intensity of the light at dusk. Challenging the peacefulness of the evening, they raise in its sky towers of candles and alive flames oozing out from the mouths of brass cobras. They shower the Ghats with the colours of flowers, to greet the river that for one more day has given life and welcome death. The river responds with the dance of countless candles in terracotta cups, abandoned to its currents with a wish in the heart. Mother Ganga silently welcomes them and, without any promise, makes them twirl in the night.
The thousands of kids that work in the filth of the food huts at the side of the roads dismissed their childhood with the same dignity. On their faces, a serious and responsible look drive them throughout the night. Only a candy offered with a genuine caress can scratch it and take out a tender smile to honour their age. I like to think that Raj and all the other kids wait for Sundays to play. I do not really think they have any day off, but I still want to imagine them joining the street children that I saw playing in the Ganga for a full day. For miles and miles down the river chasing the ferry boat to make it their acrobatic trampoline once and thousands of times, because the breath strains but never breaks, not when you are a kid, not on a Sunday.
Their lives mingle with all the others in the crowd of Kolkata, which spare the road only at night, when the bookshops close and the charming yellow taxis stop milling around the traffic lights. Then, only the homeless bodies stay behind, laying on the world like the leftover of the tide on the beach, cuddled by a reassuring breeze and wrapped in the smoke of burning plastic to protect against the mosquitos. Their dirty feet stick out from the pathways, newspapers and truck’s roofs. When the heat of the sun will be back, they then will start to flow again.