This photo of Manikarnika Ghat is courtesy of TripAdvisor
It's ok", my host Alok told me when after the darshan at Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav Temples I asked him if we could visit the Manikarnika Ghat. It was his first time too, so had to ask directions. Early in the morning, mentioning a cremation ghat to a localite who is enjoying his tea at a tea vendor's, sounded inappropriate but there was no other way. Manikarnika, the oldest one in Banaras. Well stacked logs of wood and rising smoke reminded me of all the dear ones who have left us forever.
The self appointed guide/boatman reminded me of Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes.(The world revolved around something that only took eleven minutes) After telling the story of Parvati's lost Kangan (bangle) in a kund right there, he continued that it takes around two n a half hrs to cremate a body. Sometimes a little longer. After that other rituals are performed. The total cost includes Rs 3k. Though I had doubt about the numbers he had stated, still I wondered that is the end part of a person's life-story so simple to pass? Rs Three thousand and two and a half hours? Actually it is simpler for the person who has departed. It is difficult only for those who are left behind.
Between the smoke and fine dust in the air, I could imagine the great king Harishchandra, the epitome of honesty, as an employee at the ghat, haggling with his wife for the charges he had to collect for the pyre of their son. I had goosebumps when I read it in school in a book called "Hamaare Poorvaj", I still felt a few. Is that why these ancient cities charm us?