I sat on the steps of a ghat at Varanasi looking around, seeping in the essence of ongoing activities on the banks of holy Ganges. I always enjoy watching people guessing about their lives, thoughts etc. The experience is like weaving stories where outline has been provided or say filling colors in a sketch. Ghats of Varanasi are perfectly ideal place for this.Varied people, varied activities.... each one busy in one's own world. My roaming glances suddenly fell upon this old gentleman. He sat all alone on a bench, clad in fairly neat clean clothes. But what caught my attention was that he was trying to beg from the people passing near the bench. The way he was hesitantly extending his palm and mumbled clearly showed that he was not accustomed of begging. Moreover he sat on bench like any other pilgrim and his attire too was in pretty good condition. But above all the expression of his deep sad eyes. Every time he extended his palm as if something died inside him. I watched him for quite some time. In the mean time few people had dropped one or two coins on his palm. I went to him and talked.
He told me that his name was Subramaniam. He belonged to Hyderabad. He had a grocery shop there.Three months ago his sons brought him to Varanasi and left him there. He was not well at that time.
I asked him whether he was collecting money to return to his home as he appeared to be fairly capable of traveling now.
The sadness in his eyes deepened a bit but a quiet detachment lingered on his face. '' return ! to whom ? They left me here. Soil of this place is miraculous. It revived me. Now I owe my existence to it. This is my Karma.'' Somehow there was neither anger nor grudge but a calm acceptance.
In the night he sleeps in a medicine shop and days he mostly spends on ghats.
I would have loved to know more about him, the thoughts churning in his mind, the emotions swirling in his heart but connecting bridges are not built in a day, so I bid adieu leaving him to search his own answers.
Pictures courtesy --- Sunder Iyer.