University of Wisconsin–Madison

Good Morning, Varanasi

Depending on who you ask, a Banarasi morning starts anywhere between 4 and 9 am. I sometimes catch waves of these variations when a mosquito buzzes in my ear at 4 in the morning. At that time some religious devotees are already awake, and an echo of their devotional music takes advantage of the uncharacteristic early-morning silence.

The neighborhood housedwellers begin to stir around 6, awakening with the warm-up chirps of the birds preparing vocal chords for their daily concert. The occasional prolonged bell-ringing denotes prayer, filling a wide radius with dedication for Shiva, Ganesha, Durga, or whoever it may be. The minutes go by as do the amount of people on the street, and raspy honks covering every note of a piano keyboard echo into the neighborhood. The lazy shuffles of morning feet creep up through my window, as do the sounds of semi-distinguishable Hindi words passed between sleepy family members. Women’s footsteps are identifiable by the soft jingling of the bells on their payal (ankle bracelets). Running water and the clatter of stainless steel dishes indicate the chai steaming of the stove, ready to energize drowsy Banarasis. Mothers instruct children to get ready for school while the hungry kitten outside my room whines for her mother to feed her breakfast.

The subtle awakening abruptly lunges forward at 7 upon the startling jig of my black-and-white Nokia phone alarm.IMG_0393