I find Raj fast asleep and snoring, call out and wait for him to stir. The ghats smell of mould and cow dung, the sticky air grabbing at my drenched shirt and throat. There's the sound of chatter as laundry women slap wet clothes on the steps and water.
I've been told Raj is the man. He will know who I am looking for. He smiles and wobbles his head from one side to the other, his lone tooth a beacon in a thin-lipped mouth. "Ah", he says, raising his rakish frame onto his elbows, then squinting and peering into a washed blue sky, the blazing sun circled with haze.
"But of course Sir, we have many artists and writers too. This is India of course Sir." His eyes gleam. "And Sir... I am most happy to be helping as one pilgrim to another of course. Mmm, are you having any change Sir?" There's a sly sideways glance as I fumble in my pants for some notes.
In one deft movement Raj is suddenly very alive, squatting and peering into the distance. He pockets the notes, adjusts a turban of lopsided rag, then points a bony finger.
"See there Sir, there is the artist you seek." I see the ubiquitous clatter of ghat-side India. "No, you must be seriously looking Sir. Are you not seeing the white many-storeyed building? The building on the ghats, just above the smaller building with the blue plastic?" I see it now and nod. "Ah yes Sir... she is a very famous artist of course. But Sir, the building, she has many gates. You must be using the backside entrance."
Photo: Varanasi Sleeping - Varanasi, India _Vyacheslav Argenberg