ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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​The Boatman of Varanasi Does Not Miss Ganga in Doha


The Boatman Of Varanasi He dives fifteen feet deep into the Ganga to hunt a boat-shaped fish. Inside the water, he tells, you can see nothing: one hunts through their hands, not eyes. The fish subterfuge inside fortresses of reeds but he finds them anyway: he knows the river as well as they do, perhaps, even better. He surfaces, exhaling a millennium of dust and crushed souls and battered bones. When he dives again, he surfaces this time holding a fish: almost dead but still, some life in it yet. By the time it reaches land, it will be fit only for a charcoal pyre. Dead fish usually do not have funerals but this one will. In his desert room, he misses neither the river nor the fish: he has the sea now, boundless, unshackled, listening to no one but the moon. On sweltering Friday mornings, he walks along the naked beach, odour of invisible rotting fish embroidering the air. He has not eaten fish once since arriving here: he finds home in rice atlases instead. If the hot sand burns his feet, he does not feel it. He has walked across continents of coals to reach this salt clinic. He knows he will be fine here.

Note: My husband and I visited Varanasi for the first time earlier this year, having been wanting to go there for long. On our first night, after witnessing the Ganga Aarti from the boat, the boatman then took us for a ride along the ghats, telling the story of Kashi, Ganga, and then, finally about himself. It was then he said he would be going to Doha to work there in a few months, adding that it would be his sixth work trip to the Gulf. I asked him, didnt he miss the Ganga there? He paused and then shook his head, saying that he preferred it there. I wonder if he was able to go to Doha, after all.

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Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

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