They say this city is as old as the legends, culture, birth of India and life itself. I am talking about no other place but Varanasi. No sooner had I heard that my friend got admission in the prestigious Benaras Hindu University that I started bugging her “Take me with you” or “I will save some money and come over. Let me know when you are free. ” But life planned my Masters outside the country itself. For a year and a half I was sitting and planning out my finances to visit this city. In fact, three months before I left Manchester, I still poked her “What would be the appropriate time to come to Varanasi. I am coming home after 3 months. This time I have to make it.” Within a month of my arrival back to Kolkata, train tickets were booked, Zostel (my home in Varanasi) was booked and needless to say my excitement was limitless.
I started counting days to my visit to Varanasi and finally that morning came when I was about to board The Poorva Express. I woke up excitedly at 5 am and left for Howrah station by 6:30 am. I saw the sunrise- one of the very few I have seen in my entire life and the very first since coming home. My friend waited for me near the ticket counter. This was to be my first long journey via train and that too out of state. I had promised Ma to call her in intervals. The train surprisingly left on schedule -dot 8:20 am. The scene started changing outside the window- from heavy industrial buildings to blankets of greenery was what greeted my eyes. After a while we ate and continued to chat. The only question I asked throughout was ‘How long to reach Varanasi? ‘ . I deliberately did not ask a lot about the place for I wanted to experience it on my own. Around 7:15 pm finally my friend tugged me to get our luggage’s out , we were arriving at the Kashi junction (where the train does not stop) . I remember requesting a middle aged couple to shift a little so that I can see Varanasi from the windows while the train was passing through the bridge – the beautiful twinkling lights on the ghats and its reflection on the Ganges. This is exactly how I thought of my Varanasi to be. The train finally stopped at the Varanasi Junction or the Cantt. and I stepped foot on my dreamland.
We hired an auto to drop us off at Zostel . While covering the distance between the station and our hostel, I noticed uneven roads lined by shops and hand pulled stores on each side. There were no traffic signals and vehicles and animals traveled on the same road. The traffic was high but it gave me more time to gauge at my surroundings. When we took the offshoot roads- they were exactly as narrow as they were supposed to be and as I had seen on Youtube videos. Finally after travelling for a good twenty minutes through the roads we reached Zostel. The first thing that struck me about the place was the beautiful wall paintings, doodles, graffiti’s in the building. Our host was extremely warm and welcoming and explained everything to us. He even gave us a map to keep in handy. (I still have it)
After freshening up, we decided to go for a walk. My friend briefed me that the closest would be the Dashashwamedh Ghat but we would have to walk for a good fifteen minutes through Godhulia. I was very happy to go for a walk during which we encountered two marriage parties and of course their famous song ‘Tu lagavey jab lipistick’; cows, buffaloes and calves walking beside us on the main road, the markets being opened at 9:30 pm, an ocean of people still out on the roads ; beautiful wall paintings outside people’s homes and the aroma of sweets, rabri, malaiyo, and other fried foods coming from everywhere and flaring up my nostrils. The Dashashwamedha Ghat looked ecstatic. After clicking a few selfies, seeing the Jantar Mantar from the ghat and noticing the dwindling strength of people out on the roads, we decided to head back, eat dinner and finally call it a day.
I was in Varanasi for only two whole days and had to fit in everything the city had to offer within those 48 hours –even if it meant sleepless nights!