‘A Dance Recital’: Sunrise in Varanasi

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After an early shower this morning,

I sped out to the streets of Banaras:

it was past six-thirty in late February,

and I’d miss the most charming part.

 

It was a hurried walk from my hotel

to the famed Dashashwamedh Ghat;

past the Vishwanath temple’s campus –

already at the task of setting up stalls.

 

Florists had barely set up the displays –

and tea stalls their kettles just warmed:

A chain of beggars had already flanked

this stretch – both hands outstretched.

 

The ghat by now was set up for act one,

a glow of dawn raising its azure curtain:

Naga sadhus on stage ready to perform

for Ganges past the line of saffron flags.

 

Throngs of people waded into the river,

bathing in obeisance to rising Sun God:

Sandal anointed pundits, after holy dips –

waited under canopies to initiate rituals.

 

Barbers performing on stage this long,

first to start the nimble-fingered dance –

of eyes, hand movements as in Kathak:

the patrons rivetted to facial expression.

 

Soul aloof – I stand in the amphitheatre

viewing the dance-drama in curious awe:

as swathed in vilambit(slow) laya and taal

I’m led inward to my core – a dancefloor.

 

 

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