It was the tea-selling woman!
If people call Varanasi a “Holy city” or “Lord Shiva’s city” she is no indifferent to me.
Returning back from the ceremony of cremation from Manikarnika Ghat, an everyday ritual taken place famously known as “Burning ghat” of Varanasi. I saw along the edges of the river people are having a fun evening , Sadhus smoking weeds, crowds were watching multiple religious ceremonies, and street vendors selling food and crafts who were almost dispersed when on my return back the lodge. A frightful feeling and cold sweat in the numbing month of December, realised it was just foolish of me to stayed that long in Ghats all alone.
After crossing three to four ghats I was confused about the right staircase towards my room. I heard one female voice coming from one deep dark staircase, thought to take steps up. A great sigh of relief! I knew, I could locate the lane where my Lodge was. The voice got louder and rough when I reached upto middle of the staircase. I saw shadow of three men and one woman, as if they were trying to force her for something and some filthy words to made my blod freeze. Sound of slaping and whaking her took sudden silence, when I was passing by them close..I could hear her suppressed weeping. I was reasoning that is it really possible in Holy city of “Lord Shiva” ?
Waking up next morning as usual I walked down to the Ghats to have my morning tea. It’s heavy fog to see any clear picture whether the lady had opened her tea stall yet or not and disappointed seeing her closed store. “May be it’s too cold and and foggy to start her stall”, I thought. I walked down toward Manikarnika Ghat to looking for another tea stall. I know the famous silent “Chai-Baba” (tea-monk) stall was there. Yes, he was precisely the same as described by many tourist in their travel memoir.
Three days went on, and her store was still closed. I have only two days to leave Varanasi and may be I will never going to see her again. That day my friend accompanied me for the whole day as his research on Vedic astrology was hold out for the day. I told him about my curiosity to meet the lady before I leave. I asked him, “have you ever noticed her”? She always greets people who come to her store. Doesn’t she look mysterious? I don’t understand despite she makes fine tea with ginger why very less people show up. She spotted me very first time when I went to her for tea. She had no ungracefulness when I told her about my solo visit in Varanasi. Instead she said that she wished to be as liberated as me and belong to this class of society. I smiled at her and said, “It’s not about class of our society, It’s my spirit and zeal”
It was my last day in Varanasi so my friend from Canada(the research guy) and another Yogi form Germany decided to have lunch together. One of a local guy who works in the restaurant where we usually go for the lunch and dinner and been very sincere to my Canadian friend for many years, sat next to us. He always comes up with some local news to tell about. I was thinking, “What’s today!” and he stared at me first as if I have done something bad to him. He straight away told me, “If you visit Varanasi next time, never walk alone in the dark passages, specially the staircase which you came up few days ago. There is a disputes their every evening after she closes her tea stall”. And I took a sip of water before which I was about take a bite of my Chapati. “She was once a prostitute after her father died” he said looking at my friend. “Her father was a poor priest but managed to look after his family by serving ritual prayers for the tourist. At the age of thirteen only she was forced to be a prostitute by her mother. Many times she has been bitten up, abused and faced ferocity. But, she became a learned and skillful prostitute by the age of seventeen. After sometime she got married and started selling tea near one of the ghats. Everyone thought that her past life was buried behind after marriage, but nothing happened like that. Her husband became her flesh dealer very soon. Every evening there are some deals in that dark staircase and she was forced to overwork by her husband”. I soon realised It was the tea selling lady that evening.
I asked him, “Do you know where she is? I haven’t seen her for last five days.”
He told looking at three of us, “She has been sent to one of a brothel of infamous district in Shivdaspur.”
Her face is still vivid in my mind. She will always be the tea selling lady on the bank of river Ganges. If people call Varanasi a”Holy city” or “Lord Shiva’s city” she is no indifferent to me. I will always keep wondering…. what will happened to her!