As you walk towards the Dashashwamedh Ghat from Assi, the steps rise further steeply towards the Panchayati Akhada Shri Niranjani Ghat, abruptly throwing open a large expanse before you that wear an almost deserted look, with little or no crowds at all in sight.
And its here, that I see this quaint little middle aged man perched on one of the steps beside the pathway, paying no heed to the odd passer by, and scribbling away on a thick note pad placed on his lap. Lying beside him are several small sketches of the Ghats that he has made on paper, and cautiously slipped further into plastic sheaths.
I kneel down beside him and ask if I could take a closer look at one of his works and he readily agrees with a warm smile. I am taken aback at the intricacy and elaborateness that characterizes each one of his drawings and asks him how long he has been doing this. He replies that its been quite a while and that the Ghats and his art have become almost perpetually entwined. He adds that most of his works are ink pen sketches, and that there are a few water color paintings as well.
Lying beside him is a pastel with colors running across and an old cloth bag and a loosened shawl. Apart from the numerous drawings of the Ghats are also sketches on several other themes, and yet I pick out five of his Ghat sketches and buy them from him, asking if I could have his picture as well. “Meri photo?” he seems a bit surprised, and then readily puts on a smile as I take a picture.
I also tell him how much I admire his sketches and he grins in acknowledgement, mumbling a coy ‘Thank you’. Perhaps he has heard this a hundred times before already, and I tell him that I will be back in Varanasi to get a few more sketches from his next year. He seems pleased and points at a mural that is not far away, and excitedly adds that the Gods and Goddesses had in fact emerged from those frail finger tips of his.
As I am about to leave, he suddenly remembers that he has not signed over some of the sketches and hurriedly adds his signature over them. Seeing the sun go down over the Ganges, I help him pile up the rest of his sketches into his bag, and we bid adieu, promising to meet again. I watch him hastily walk up the steps on to the Gallis, and disappear amidst a crowd of Holi players.
Back home, I lay out the five sketches on the table and wonder if a glass frame would suit them best or if they would look better sans a frame. I finally give it a go and hang them all up framed, and every now and then as I pass by the living room, I think of Pyarelal and his polite smile and those fingers scribbling away on the note pad like there were no tomorrow and those marvellous Ghats that rose to life yet again, every time his ink pen touched a piece of white paper!