02 August 2009
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Varanasi or Bust
Posted By bharath
If anyone has ever been to Varanasi especially the old city that is built around the Ghats, the first observation that one will make will always make is about how narrow the roads are. I, on the other hand had never been to Varanasi. Having spent the day driving through to Bodh Gaya I decided on the spur on the moment turn my trusty Qualis in the direction of Varanasi. Having heard wonderful things about the city and the earlier mentioned tranquil atmosphere and inner peace, I decided that was just what was required after having spent a few eventful days driving through Bihar. Little did I realize that tranquil and inner peaces are relative terms. Please consider the following words of wisdom as a warning, from a traveler that has been foolish enough to believe their friends (I wouldn’t want to mention names but let me just say her name starts with a R and ends with an a-d-h-i-k-a), into how wonderful, beautiful, blah, blah, blah the place is.
Having driven through the GQ (Golden Quadrilateral for the ill informed) I made rather good time and had entered the city limits by early afternoon. I was rather thrilled because this meant more time to sit at some cafe by the river and watch the world go by (translation: be lazy). Being lulled into a false sense of security by the broad roads of the new city, I was still smiling from ear to ear as I started entering parts of the old city. I have been known to exaggerate a bit to emphasis a point or two, but I believe the following words are more or less a representation of the facts, a true representation of the events would involve words that cannot possibly ever be printed. The once broad and wonderful roads disappeared quickly and turned into rather narrow ‘roads’, well to be more accurate gullies, and these gullies seemed to be a safe haven for all the cyclist and motorcyclists in Varanasi. All these cyclists and motorcyclists for some reason, which I could not comprehend at the time, were honking away incessantly (I later concluded that they assumed, honking was the path to nirvana). I could go only as fast as the person in front of me but everyone behind me seem to think that I was the bottle neck and if I moved out of the way they would be able to reach their respective destinations in a matter of seconds. The Qualis is well insulated from all sounds emanating from the outside especially when I have One Republic or Nickelback paying, but that day I could hear every cyclist and every Honda Activa and every Bajaj behind me, it was as if I was being treated to an Orchestra but instead of sitting in the audience I was in the middle of the instrumental ensemble. It always amazed me how I managed to squeeze through from one gully to the other because I could have sworn that even a cycle couldn’t have gone through. To make matters worse I had no clue where I needed to go, so when I manage to ask for directions the conversation followed a very disturbing pattern…..
‘Bhaiya, ghat ko kaisa jate hai’
‘Ghat wyo kya ho ta hai?’
At this point I’m thinking, how can anyone within a hundred mile radius of Varanasi not have heard of a Ghat? Am I the first person to make contact with an Alien being? After further explanation about what a Ghat is i.e. poojas, river, water etc.(in my broken Hindi), the man’s face lights up and he looks at me and says..
‘Ghhat ! ap pehale qu nai bhataya?’
I shall refrain from commenting on the thoughts that were running through my head at this point but needless to say, I needed the dip in the Ganges.
Having meandered from one side to the other for nearly three hours, through every road in the old city I managed to find one of the very elusive Ghats by night fall.
Needless to say I saw the whole of Varanasi taking a dip in the river trying to absolve themselves from having cursed me the previous day. If you really want an experience that will be unique and tests your driving skills and your sanity at the same time, drive in Varanasi!
So the big question on everyone’s minds, did I find peace and tranquility? Well, not completely, but on the plus side I’m convinced I’ll be reincarnated as a cow (quite an improvement from a frog), thanks to my visit to Varanasi.
Did I also mention that if we get short listed we will be driving to Varanasi again
If the Cedia can survive that, and come out of the experience not reincarnated as a bullock cart it will be well worth holding on to.
P.s: I have to apologize for the lack of photographs but if I had stopped the ‘free’ flow of traffic to take pictures I’m certain I would have been a victim of vigilante justice
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Being best friends with Bharath has been my biggest challenge to date. Constantly arguing about most topics under the sun and having diametrically opposite perspectives to life makes us such good friends.
Having met at photography school, our shared passion for travel, culture, music, books and art made us drive off to different places on photography ‘assignments’. 5 years down post-grad school we still make spontaneous trips to feed our wanderlust.