Kaleidoscope City: A Year in Varanasi by Piers Moore Ede
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Varanasi is one of the cities in the world that has been inhabited for around four thousand years. Situated on the Ganges, it is the focal point for a number of religions; the two patriots of Jains were born there, it is where the Buddha preached his first sermon and for Hindus there is no place more revered. Those four millennia have seen a lot of history too, invasions, colonial rule and independence have all influenced the city.
This is a huge city too, home to 2.5 million people, over the course of a year it will welcome 5 million more. Thousands bathe each day in the sacred, polluted Ganges. It is the destination at the end of people’s lives too; they come here to die, or to be cremated on the pyres alongside the river. On top of all that the city is the centre of a large silk and textile industry. There is a darker side too, not only is corruption endemic, but there is a thriving drug trade and prostitution is rife.
It is this city though, that draws Ede back there to stay for a year. He spends some time with people to bring the city alive to us reading it. The book is intense as I imagine the city must be and Ede’s writing manages to transport you to this madly alive and vivid city. You prickle from the heat, the smells and noise assault your senses, you know that this place is where religion, culture, life and death all come together in one swirling mass of humanity. It is a book that is well worth reading, he has managed to bring a human perspective to a city that is one of the largest on earth. Will definitely be reading his other books.
First book from the #WorldFromMyArmchair too.
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