Banaras vs Boredom

Regular writing is dependent both on habit and need: the habit of writing every day, or the need to earn a living through it. So, it’s difficult for me to go regular. I take the occasional walk on the path of writing. That brings us to the present subject. A strong urge to write, or a strong subject to terminate into that urge, is all I need to begin. The present subject is my painful consciousness of the comparative boredom, colourlessness, soundlessness, sightlessness and odourlessness of my constitutional walk. Day after day, day after day, I walk one of the few fixed circuits for around twenty minutes, i.e. two kilometres. More than once have I felt an intense surge of helplessness, accentuating the contrast between the ghats and lanes of Banaras and boredom. From my place in my city Banaras to Dashashwamedh Ghat is around two kilometres, and I never used to go for any kind of constitutionals in my city. Yet, I regularly walked my ghats and lanes nearly every day, more lanes during the flooded months and more ghats normally. The same ghats and lanes, the same circuit, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, and never boring – not even once. It’s unbelievable: the contrast is, or unreal. The rush of pilgrims and the regulars in the mornings and at evenings would be the same too. The addas too never changed (not even today have they changed, and I thank Mahadev for that). Yes, there’d be the same shops and road-side stalls from where fruits, vegetables or other such FMCG would be purchased. And yes, there would be the same people to exchange a hearty Mahadev or a Ram Ram with. A short digression about “Mahadev”: As Lord Shiva, or Mahadev, i.e. the great god, is the Lord of Kashi, so his name becomes the shorthand for Hail the Great God or Har har Mahadev. Although for the readers of the Naga trilogy, Amish had derived it differently, but the people who have been using the same customarily for as long as they can remember, it is exactly as mentioned in the previous sentence.

Fundamentally speaking, if boredom has any kind of relationship with unchanging environs, Banaras should be just as boring as any regularly walked circuit. The facts in hand, although, point towards some weakness inherent in the causal link. When in Banaras, I actually look forward to a repetition of features and occurrences on my daily circuit. It has now taken a ritualistic turn, and just like the rituals associated with places and occasions, the novelty of repetition and the variety of sameness, can only be accepted with one place, and there’s no such place outside Banaras for me. The Romantics have been criticized for their escapism, so has been Yeats in his Innisfree poem:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

Alienation in industrialized urban setting, with its normative migration, drives people away from their place of origin. Many respond well, and gel well with the socio-cultural environment of their place of transplantation. It has something to do with the age of uprooting too. The younger the sapling, the lesser is the shock, and the better the chances of acclimatization and naturalization in the new environment. The degree of attachment to one’s roots and the origin and the mode and the motive of uprooting are amongst various factors that determine the intensity and persistence of the shock. The daily rhythm of life and the availability and use patterns of leisure time are also very important determining factors. I miss the past rhythm and leisure time utilization of my life, and prefer it over my present state’s rhythm and pattern. I also miss the complete and unchallenged ownership of the time available – my time – that has now been heavily compromised.

Past time and place, in a very indistinguishable manner, have become one, courtesy the way our mind looks back and recollects. [The Prelude: looking back, recollection in tranquility, Nature, joy, sense of loss etc.] Brain thinks, and the heart only pumps blood. Both the clauses in the previous sentence are wrong, partially, and partially correct too. If and when a body part or organ functions without taking commands from the brain, especially when the time for or the need of analytical response is limited or instant, it does what actually is brain’s job. Then, it may be said to be performing brain’s function. Therefore, the relevant question must be to ask: why is the same brisk walk different in Banaras? Twice or thrice have I launched myself on the daily routine kind of walk, with diligence and consistency too, always getting mightily bored in the process. Driven from within, I do stick to the boring routine, like I am doing nowadays, but I don’t tell myself the lie that I am enjoying it. The moment Banaras flashes in my mind, and that happens very regularly and definitely, my walk turns sour and mechanical. Mine is no Wordsworthian loss of joy, for the moment I enter my city, the joy returns. Mine is a simple case of single mindedness. I have probably committed somewhere in my mind to consign happiness to Banaras, or have made them interchangeable in my personal vocabulary. Yet, I also am aware of the fact that walking along the Ganges is a treat: visual, aural, even olfactory.

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