MY STORY: In Varanasi, 3 Oar-Boys Surprised Me with Their Work for a Clean Ganga

R Srinivasan was in Varanasi for some work. A regular visitor of the ghats, he was surprised to see one of the ghats kept very clean, which stood out in comparison to the others. What's more, it was kept this way by 3 young oar-boys and their father! This is what he found out on further investigation.

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I landed in Varanasi last evening to conduct a workshop for all the call-getters from Indian Institutes of Management. These successful aspirants were arriving from eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Varanasi is the cradle of one of the most ancient civilizations in the world, with habitation of this city recorded as far back as 6,000 years ago. It is a fascinating city on the banks of river Ganges and is one of the most sacred destinations for the Hindus, and also for many from the world who throng to see the magical place. It is in the itinerary of many tourists visiting India and some continue to stay here for years.

I have always enjoyed walking by the ghats and galis of Varanasi. Every visit has been a journey of discovery – of the city and of oneself. As usual, I reached the Dashashwamedh Ghat in the darkness of early morning, after walking for about three kilometres. It was drizzling a little.

The ghats were buzzing with activity but less than expected, because of the muggy weather and the winter chill.

The early morning Aarti for Mother Ganges - a river considered to be very pious
The early morning Aarti for Mother Ganges – a river considered to be very pious

I got busy clicking away the magical morning at the ghat – the dips, the aarti, the boats, the colours of dawn. There are 80 ghats and Dashashwamedh is somewhere in between. I proceeded towards the ASSI ghat. Each of the ghats has been built by one kingdom or other from across the country, over the centuries, to shelter the citizens of their provinces when they come to this pious city.

Since the city got settled centuries ago, modern amenities are difficult to come by. The upkeep of Varanasi is far from satisfactory and to the utter shock of most visitors, garbage is found littered in every corner of the street. I keep wondering why. At many locations on the ghats, men relieve themselves, which not only stinks, but also pollutes the already polluted Ganges.

This morning, when I reached the Rana Pratap/Mahal Ghat, I was surprised to see three pisspots neatly lined against the wall in a corner with a note, “kindly do not pollute mother Ganges, use the toilet to relieve yourselves.”

Around the toilet, along the ghat, many flowering plants were blossoming. They were all neatly lined up.

Deepak and Amit proudly posing at their outpost, Rana Pratap Ghat, Varanasi. You can see the toilet corner!
Deepak and Amit proudly posing at their outpost, Rana Pratap Ghat, Varanasi. You can see the toilet corner!

This effort is indeed admirable, especially because it has been envisioned and created by three young Oar-boys who ferry the visitors on the Ganges in their small wooden row-boats. Deepak (13) and Amit (11) along with their elder brother Ravi (19) helped their father in making this happen. Deepak and Amit who solicit customers for the boat rides were filled with pride when they shared about their endeavour. I took their photographs, promising that I will write a story about their conscious effort to keep the ghats clean and tidy. The ghat is stink-free and is a pleasure to walk by.

If only we are conscious of our surroundings, and do our little bit, I am sure we can make a huge difference! Let us strive to make things happen!

– R Srinivasan

This post was originally published here.

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