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The Syncretic Saris of Banaras

I came to Banaras in the winter of 2010 seeking answer to one question: was the sari—the nine-yard piece of cloth worn by Indian women—Hindu or Muslim? This might sound like an odd question, but in the context of India it isn’t, where even allegedly eating beef can get a person beaten to death, or while killing a cow in the state of Gujarat earns life imprisonment.

“The Underground Bird Sanctuary,” by Kuzhali Manickavel

Kumar’s bones were pushing up under his skin like silent hills. His ribs rippled up in hardened waves while his shoulders and wrists stood out in knotted clumps. In the afternoons, I would count Kumar’s bones while he tried to sleep.

“You’re counting the same one twice,” he would mumble without opening his eyes.

“Well it’s poking up in two places. A lot of them are.”