Much that I love Varanasi, it can be annoying at times ; when the roofs of the houses are so close that you can almost hear someone singing ‘Tip Tip Barsa Pani’ while taking a casual walk on a certain roof, when you are taking a bath. Nevertheless, after a quick refreshing bath, I found my friend engaged in giving directions to our friend who was almost going to join us five hours later than the allocated time. She hurried downstairs to help him finish with the check -in procedures, while I stayed back to soak in a view of my temporary neighbourhood. I saw a boy desperately taking a walk in anticipation and trying to free his kite that was stuck in a tree and was the prime reason of a fight between four baby monkeys. He smiled at me, understanding that I was a tourist and we started speaking about monkeys, kites, the city and its beauty. After bidding him goodbye, I figured out that I did not even know his name!
I turned around to the sound of my friend coming in. After settling down he told the unique story of a certain Mr. P (read Pee) Man, who went on stopping the whole bus at least twice enroute from Delhi and got lost. The bus had to wait or travel miles in the opposite direction to find that passenger and get him aboard each time. Needless to say, all passengers were equally irked with Mr. P Man. After resting for a while we embarked on our mission of finding food in the narrow lanes and by-lanes of Godhulia. Our search finally brought us to a South India fast food centre where we gorged on yummy Dosas.
We went to see the royal observatory –Jantar Mantar- whose twins sit in Delhi and Jaipur . The intricate wall designs and architecture transported me back to an era gone by. The glass stained windows overlooking the Ganges in white- washed walls was a scene to behold in its true sense. But alas my trance was short lived as I tripped over a manja (kite flying thread). A few minutes later, my friend tripped over it too. And like good, responsible citizens we thought of putting an end to this tripping business and started collecting the never-ending manja thread. Finally, we managed to gather a huge spool of thread and deposited it with the least interested people at the reception before heading upstairs to look at the observatory.
After taking a few photographs we saw some curious pairs of eyes looking at us. Some started running towards us with great pace. All three of us were surrounded by Monkeys – of all sizes. I could hear ‘Bhaag Bhaag’ behind me through clenched teeth. We started walking fast and I could feel a monkey catching onto my coat. Then we started running full- fledged and heaved a sigh of relief when we managed to come downstairs alive and unharmed. Following the Great Monkey Chase, we took a walk along the ghats and opted for a boat ride on our way back. It was by then time for the Ganga Arati, which we watched before finally heading back to our hostel for the day.
For a while I closely started making a mental note of the names of all the Ghats; but after sometime I got so lost that I thought it was best to enjoy the scenes unfolding in front of me than memorizing history. What struck me was the beautiful wall art and graffiti’s. They were of all shapes and sizes. Some had only letters while some depicted designs or even scenes of Indian mythology in various hues. Tourists were learning how to fly kites from the locals and it seemed they enjoyed it a lot. A little further ahead, boatmen were cleaning their boats, cows and washing their clothes simultaneously. Looking at a very colorful structure I climbed up some stairs, only to be chided by the locals for not opening my shoes. It was a temple and one which looked very beautiful and unique with a bright red roof nestled between endless stretches of beige color ghats. At some point scenes of cows, buffaloes and dogs hit my eyes; but the very next moment it shifted to beautiful paintings put up for sale right in the middle of a certain ghat. Then came the burning ghat where someone’s soul was being put to rest. Finally after a long but interesting walk, we reached Assi Ghat and boarded a boat. I was even interested to try my hands at the oars but my friends probably did not want to die by drowning in the Ganges.
We were well on time for the Ganga arati to find seats for ourselves. What followed next would be etched in our memories forever. At least, I would not let my friends erase it from theirs for a long time.