The idea of the young old buildings came to my mind when I read a post by one of the travellers to Varanasi: http://katelynthacker.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/water/. I must quote from that post before I launch into my own stream of thought: “Buildings crumble even though they are only a few hundred years old — relatively young, considering Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest, consistently-inhabited cities”.
I have done posts on crumbling and demolished buildings and ruins in the past but it never occurred to me that the old buildings and times for which I have mourned in my urballaghology posts are actually young! There are over one hundred buildings along the Grand Canal in Venice, and they are two to seven hundred years old, tells wikipedia. London, Paris, Beijing, all have ancient buildings that are well maintained. I don’t think Varanasi has any building whose age compares to that of the buildings in many other cities of the world.
Why? Is it simple apathy or plain blissful ignorance?
The character of the city as a unique entity depends, as I have mentioned at other places, on its architectural and sociocultural markers. Kasi is, whatever it is, because it has what it has: its people and places. Take the ghats and buildings away and Kasi will definitely not be Kasi. Take the festivals and fairs away, and Varanasi will not remain itself. Take the Banarsis away, and it will not be Banaras anymore. Or, it will still be Kasi, but an entirely different one. I, for one, am not going back there if they alter it beyond recognition. Whom shall I return to when my city is gone? And why?
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