I got inspired to write about the life on the rooftops of Kasi after reading the blog [http://thevibrantvagabond.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/a-view-from-the-rooftop/].
Before we start, it must be made clear that no statement can hold universally for life in Kasi. Therefore, this post (in fact, all the posts in this category) can provide information only about a small area and a small set of people in Kasi, that too, from the time period more than a decade ago. I left Kasi nearly a decade ago and have not been there even for seven days at a stretch since then.
So (once upon a time in Kasi) rooftops used to be multipurpose spaces with the pattern of their utilization changing with the changing seasons. Summer evenings saw people sprinkling water on their rooftops in order to ascertain that it was a cooled surface after evaporation that people slept on. Nights used to bring most of the people around my paternal house to their rooftop temporary beds. They used to chat, even between rooftops and across the gali. There used to be stories and gossip. And finally, in phases depending on age groups and inclinations and habits, people used to go to sleep. They used to wake up naturally with sun rays touching their face. Some people used to carry a tumbler or lota of water with them, so that when they felt thirsty, water was readily available and there was no need of going down and ruining the semi-sleep state of theirs.
In the images above, it can be seen that the houses are constructed in such a manner that their rooftops are at the same level. What is not clear from a view from down below is that these rooftops are conveniently interconnected. People go from theirs to the neighbouring rooftops very easily. The raised, mostly chest high wall that separates the two rooftops is constructed wide sometimes to facilitate the people of the houses sitting on them. Such a far sighted kind of construction is actually a gift on evenings and nights of planned or unplanned, but regular and dependable, hours of no electric supply. With no electricity and no television etc. people (used to) come to the rooftops and spend some good and quality time together.
Deepavali is a festival that can’t be imagined sans rooftops in Kasi. The main and final attraction of the festival: the burning of the firecrackers, takes place both in galis and roooftops, but the best place to enjoy the view of the celebration is the rooftop. Houses decorated with electric lights and with traditional deeyas and candles, rockets etc. flying and bursting after making many designs and leaving colours in the sky, and many other kinds of fireworks can be enjoyed only when one is at the right position: on their rooftops.
Makar Sankranti (Khichri) is another festival that can’t be imagined without rooftops. Many people reach their rooftops to fly their kites, and many other, reach their rooftops with arrangements for “catching” the kites once their string is cut by the manjha of another kite. From morning to evening, people keep flying and catching kites and yelling bhakkate.
Rooftops are essential parts of the life in Kasi.