Multilingualism in Kasi

The famous Kasiphile and Kasilolgist Richard Lannoy remarked that the people of Kasi, especially those who deal with others professionally, know more than five languages. I want to look deeper in light of my own experience as a Banarsi. On the ghat in the image below, I had heard little boatmen (boys, rather) speaking a variety of English that they had invented, but that did make sense to me and to the foreigners they were communicating with.

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The rikshaw pullers and tea stall owners around the ghats all know how to communicate in something that can be called English. I suspect that around the ghat-restaurants from Chausatti to Munshi Ghats they must have started speaking Japanese, French and Spanish by now.

As far as the shop owners in the area of Kedar Ghat are concerned, they do know several languages. I have heard Imarti Bhaiya, and his family members who sit at various fruit shops in the Kedar Ghat Market,  communicating with Bengalis and South Indians (probably from the Andhra Ashrams in the area) at his shop. I’m quite sure that Pappu Bhaiya can do something similar. His brothers Rajesh and Suresh do speak Hindi, Bangla and some English. They sit on their gaddi or seat the whole day, while the floating and fixed populations of Kasi passes by. There are many Bengali shop owners in the same area who speak good Hindi, English, and a South Indian language for sure. They needed to acquire all these languages for their business that depends on the pilgrims, travellers and others passing the area.

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