Home and heaven are both invested with characteristics that aren’t in any objective way theirs. It is the working of the subject’s own imagination that constructs home, their home, for them. My home, I suspect by a rational application of analogy, must then be only in my own mind: a set of finally and finely imprinted image clusters that have no equivalent. In a way, it’s really only mine, with no one else to claim over or covet for. But then, as history teaches, lest all my ratiocination may turn out to be glorious nonsense in the end, let me assay it. See the image below. It’s a part of my home that’s home to countless others too, physically. When I look at the image, I see what is obviously physically visible alright. I see more than just that.
I see the railing on which I used to sit, legs dangling or one of them clinging to the railing for balance. I see the river, my river, that had always been there, as an old and predictable friend, a permanent presence. Boats I didn’t/don’t have much use of, as I avoid/ed them like plague. I can’t swim, so I am afraid of water! I see my (almost) drawing-room cum rumination area. Although hundreds shared the space with me, I used to create my own bubble whenever I needed to be alone, and nobody bothered me. I miss the place that gave me so many long uninterrupted hours of thinking and being myself. It’s been nine years I’ve left Varanasi and I have not found any place or time even remotely similar to the ghats in its effect. The place constructed me as much as I painted it in my mind. I am because I was there and then. Very humanly do I feel the need of telling the story of my thoughts and places to those who wish to hear it. If it’s all about me, I don’t think they’ll listen for long. So, let it be about the conglomerate called my temporal existence that acted as a point of intersection for various socio-psychological lines of force.
Any time of the day, the water of Gangaji had a soothing effect on (my) human mind, if the mind did not actively and consciously resist its effects. I had read somewhere (probably we’ll discard it as pseudoscience) that the high negative ion concentration near flowing water does have some such kind of positive effect. Although the spot in the image was not the only one I used to be, its unplanned appearance on the page also invites its description. Beyond the far right end of the image, there lies the exact place where corpses are cremated at Harishchandra Ghat. There’s nearly always a body burning there. Although the flourishing foreign tourism circuit has it as one of its star spots, and loads of foreigners come there every day to observe the way the Hindus cremate their dead people who live somewhere in the city and have nothing to do specifically with that ghat generally avoid going to, passing from or even mentioning it. Harishchandra Ghat is the place where those who come with the dead body sit and (most of them) chat, while the body burns. In my more than a decade’s presence there, I never witnessed more than a really handful of people actually mourning for the departed. It’s some kind of performance for nearly all present and alive, and they play their various parts. Some of them had been coming and going there for a long time. It’s normal for them. They are there because the dead one was an acquaintance or neighbour, or, often times, a relation. I’d been there a couple of times in this same role: twice with my grand parents’ bodies and a couple of times with those of my neighbours.
The very first time I went there was with my grand mother’s dead body. It was my very first time of inhaling the smoke coming from burning human flesh. I’ll not describe it. It actually physically pinches somewhere near my left eyebrow while I type this.