The oldest and most renowned coconut shop in the gali is that of Bhagwandas Chacha. His eldest son Bhuwaneshwar Bhaiya, popularly known as Pappu bhaiya, occupies the gaddi in the image above. He posed for the lens very graciously and gracefully on my request. Our families have been next-door- neighbours for nearly seven decades. There is a seat of gunny sack on the left hand corner of the image with a hand fan on it. I have occupied that seat many a time, chatting with Rajesh or Suresh, Pappu Bhaiya’s younger brothers. That seat used to be reserved for Laddu Chacha who used to appear at around six in the evening and kept leaving and returning at intervals. He used to stay in a gali near Chowki Ghat.
The reason behind the viability of all the shops selling coconut and various things used in pujas, as far as I can see, is the presence of Kedar Temple. One can see similar thriving businesses dependent on the central temple around the famous Kashi Vishwanath, Sankatmochan and Durga Temples too.
There’s Du Bhai’s General Store after the coconut shop. Kedar Ghat and adjoining area has a concentrated population of Bengalis, just as Hanuman Ghat area is known for its Tamil base. In fact, a large area known as Bengali Tola, lies nearby and there’s a school in the locality (my school) that’s called Bengali Tola Inter College. The name Du Bhai means “two brothers”. It must surely have originated with two brothers’ starting it. It is now run by more than two brothers. They live in a narrow lane nearby.
Right at the entrance of Chowki Ghat there’s a very old and popular sweet shop, not in the league of the famed Ksheer Sagar or Bengal Sweets, still good enough for the generations of patrons it has served faithfully and deliciously. Just after the sweet shop there’s a kachori-jalebi, pakoras and samosa shop. They sell tea too. Then comes one of the ubiquitous Paan Shops. Banarasi Paan is very famous all over the world (if it’s an unsubstantiated hyperbole then India can be put in place of the world) and it’s definitely a part of the life of the Banarsis. There are many very famous Paan shops in the galis and in the corners where two or more galis meet and there’s an open space. One of the most famous Paan shops of the neighbourhood is at Sonarpura near Puja Sweets. A crowd gathers there every morning and evening (at least, it used to, a decade ago), but we shall not go into the galis yet. Let’s stick to the ghats and parallel network of galis.
This image shows the main Kedar ghat lane. The gentleman at the front centre of the image is walking away from the Temple. The plastic cans at the right front corner are for the pilgrims to carry Gangajal in. Gangajal washes away all the sins and pollutions, sing the Puranas, and the popular faith accepts it verbatim. The huge floating population of the City of Light definitely carries back Gangajal which is essential in any puja or ceremony.
There’s an unusually long gap between the opening to Kedar Ghat and that to Chowki Ghat, and between opening to Chowki Ghat and that to Ksemeshwar Ghat. There’s an old yogurt shop and an equally old lai-chana-sattu shop when one moves toward Kshemeshwar Ghat. By the Kedar Ghat Post Office, just as the narrow lane leading to the ghat begins, a new Idlee shop serves to full Andhra Ashrams clientele in the mornings and evenings.