Friday 9 October 2015

Varanasi in the eyes of a Westerner

Varanasi in the eyes of a foreigner

There have been so many books by westerners on Varanasi and the new addition to the list is Piers Moore Ede's Kaleidoscope City: A year in Varanasi. The writer explored the city during his one year stay and has given several interesting incidents that happened. He has successfully shown the other face, the darker one, the one which often gets missed by tourists, of the city. 

Whoever visits the city tries to grasp and go deep inside the veins to understand the pulse of the place and its people. Don't know if anyone has been successful in doing so, but everyone, including Ede, has understood that Death reigns here! 

Earlier writers have seen Varanasi in their eyes and seems to give their own perspective and it is where Ede differs from others. He never gives an impression that he knows everything about the city and its people despite living there for one year. He is eager to learn things happening in the city like a little child who is anxious to explore the world around. He patiently listens to people and keeps his curiosity to unravel the city till the end. 

Harishchandra ghat, the Ganga river, Varanasi, all become characters and breathe life in the book. Though he has tried to go deeper and personal into the lives of locals one wonders if he has been successful in it, as obviously there are two chances: one, people may open their personal secrets to him fearing no threat to their private life; second, people may exaggerate things to get sympathies or say things superficially as he's a foreigner. Whatever it is, the writer hasn't hurt the sentiments of the locals and one should laud his respect for the city and the local culture. Accepting the very fact that still there's lot to learn about the city, culture and its people brings the book closer to readers and wins their hearts. 

Note: The original review was published in Sakhi magazine here:

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