Couple of hours later, the sun was up and shining through the windows of the bus and the ambient temperature had climbed within the range of comfort. The cabin of the bus was cozy now, and filled with happiness and laughter, helped, no doubt, to some extent by the beer which we had opened up a few minutes ago. And the talk flowed. From the mundane, the topics diverted to the more interesting. After shopping sprees and discount purchases had been discussed, we talked about our time together in BHU, and we talked about friends and heartthrobs and missed classes and nearly missed professionals. The food in the mess and the different groups that we joined and left, as a part of our growing up. The bonfires and the dance parties, Medifest and Whats The Good Word, and who was caught in front of the Molecular Biology gate at night and the trips to the KG hostel – everything found a fleeting mention in our discussions.
The children were busy with their games and had migrated to the farthest seats inside the cabin of the bus, much to our satisfaction, for we surely did not want them to hear what we were discussing. As I sipped my beer, my thoughts would often wander off and I would start to see that vision which had tormented me for so many years. All the time that I had been away from BHU, there was only one image which cropped up in my mind’s eye whenever I was reminded of my time there. Today, again, I saw that vision. Sitting on the bus with Appu and Vaishali and Swati, my mind wandered off to that arched entrance of the Institute of Medical Sciences which had greeted us upon our arrival that first day in BHU. Right in front of the entrance was another gate, made of wrought iron, rusting and always open. Never in my nine years in BHU had I seen that iron gate close. The gate led from the main road to the SS Hospital premises. The road inside wound around the private wards, Ayurveda OPD, Orthopedic plaster room, Hospital Lecture theatre and thence to the OPD complex. A little way inside the gate, on the right side of the road, opposite the entrance of the Hospital lecture theatre was a small temple circled by iron fencing. The temple, a modest brick structure canopied by a huge banyan tree, housed a ‘murti’, a stone sculpture of Hanuman or Maruti, the ‘Monkey God’ as he had been innocuously dubbed in modern India. Hanuman Ji, as he was referred to by us, was a ‘Sankatmochan’, or troubleshooter. You have a problem, you go and pray to Maruti, and chances are that Maruti will find a way to help you. I do not know why this image of that mini-temple and that diminutive stone image of the ‘Monkey God’ had stayed with me all these years and was, in fact, the only image which would crop up in my mind at the mention of BHU.
‘What happened?’ Appu shook me out of my reverie, ‘All OK?’ Vaishali and Swati were looking closely at me. ‘Was it the beer?’ They seemed to think.
‘No, no, it’s not what you think,’ I said smiling, reading their minds. ‘I was just thinking of that Hanuman Ji temple inside the hospital premises and how many times we used to go there before our exams etc.’
‘Hmmmmm. Yes, you are right,’ Appu said. ‘The whole campus of BHU and even IMS is full of temples. Remember the temple inside the Institute building?’
Vaishali shook her head and looked smiling at me. Yes, here was another story. But no, first this one must continue.
And thus, we kept chatting and snacking and sipping our beers till it was time to break for lunch. We stopped at a dhaba on the way to have a quick lunch and stretch our limbs. The children ran around a bit, we gorged on some chola-samosas and within a half hour we were again inside the bus and on our way to Banaras.
‘We have to stop at Teju’s place on the way,’ Appu said after some time. ‘He has insisted that we do not pass Jaunpur without stopping at his home.’
As if on a cue, my phone rang. It was Tej Singh aka Teju for us. ‘Abe DNU you have to stop at my place at Jaunpur bhai,’ he said, his voice as sweet, gentle and yet firm and I remembered it.
‘Yes brother, why not? We are in no rush,’ I heard myself say.
And thus, it was decided; we will meet Teju and his family before we move to our accommodation in Banaras. The excitement was killing!
To be continued………………………………….
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