Maybe it was the upcoming journey to Varanasi, to Kashi, the city of light, and the city where I had spent a good part of my youth, that was the genesis of this dream. Most of the time people live in cities, but sometimes cities live in people as well. It was the same with Varanasi and me. I had spent almost a decade there, studying for a career in medicine. I had spent good days filled with love and friendliness, and bad days filled with despondency and loneliness in Varanasi. I had made a career, found friends for life, found my soul mate, been heartbroken, learnt to pick myself up and move on, found religion, found God in Varanasi. And thus, even though I had left the city several years ago, the city had never left me. And now, the mention of returning to it once more had brought on memories, melancholy, and nostalgia with it.
Though this would not be the first time I would be going back to the city since I lived there. I had visited once, briefly, for a medical conference, and then again for the Silver Jubilee Reunion of our batch of 1994. The Reunion had been a rebirth for me in many ways. I had not only relived my days in Varanasi with the people who were a part of my journey when I lived there last, I had also faced my fears, exorcised my ghosts, and made my peace with God. Finally, after two decades, I had been able to let go of the past, when I visited that small shrine, the temple dedicated to Hanuman inside the campus of the Banaras Hindu University, and the hospital associated with it, Sir Sunderlal Hospital.
I had gone there, to see the deity, with two of my closest friends, and had cried my heart out. I had cried for what was lost, what could have been, the pain I had endured, the man I had become, and the man I could not become. I had cried, letting the tears flow, letting the pent up emotions break the dam of reason, of patience, of fortitude, and rush out, washing away my pain. Abhishek and Sutanu, my friends of more than two decades, had held me, fast, bewildered, not knowing what was happening, yet standing with me, sympathetic, supportive. That episode had been my therapy, my closure, and the ghosts of my past had left me, then and there.
My tryst with Varanasi was over, I had thought then. And thus it came as a surprise, when the mention of going there again led to this – the dream from which I woke up drenched in sweat, in the peak of winters.
I really had some thinking, and soul-searching to do…..
To be continued…….
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