Varanasi is a city where Hindus hope to die. It is believed that a person cremated at the city’s river ghats will achieve moksha – release from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth – and the widows and Brahmins that make their way through the streets can seem spectral, like otherworldly shades, which you will pass by only once. The old city’s doors are different: solid, purposeful, unmoving, stained by the traffic of passing generations. They are landmarks in a labyrinthine world, decorated with painted fish and pictures of palms, protected by idols in a niche; they are the narrow membrane between personal and public worlds, in a country where a separation between the two can be a privilege hard-won.
From Varanasi’s Doorways, by Iain