Up ahead, as we were just entering the city limits, we saw an intersection with a large poster welcoming ‘The Batch of 1995 IMS, BHU’ to the city. Vaishali smiled, as did I. This was a nice touch, and some good thinking by the organizers of the event. This was Vaishali’s reunion, and most of the organizers – boys from her batch – were my juniors, and well known to me; it would be a reunion of sorts for me too, once more!!!
The whole event was a one and a half day affair. The first day, all of us were to visit the temple, the Kashi Vishwanath temple, and, later in the evening, enjoy a boat ride, culminating with dinner at the Goleria Kothi, a heritage property on the ghats of the Ganges. The second day was supposed to be the official alumni function inside the BHU campus, followed by visits to the respective hostels, group photos etc.
When we reached the hotel, a mini-bus was already waiting for us there which would take us to the ghat where a boat would pick us up and take us to the temple. We checked in hurriedly, deposited our luggage in the room, and rushed back out to see if others were ready too.
The hotel lobby was empty when we reached there. As the children slumped on the sofas, I and Vaishali started to pace the hall impatiently, waiting for others of her batch to show up. Slowly, one by one, they arrived; Amit Malhotra, Raju, Seema, Jyoti….familiar names, and faces, friends and acquaintances from a shared, a common past….one by one, they all came. Shouts of surprise, laughter, and some back thumping and hugging followed.
How are you? Long time, no? How are the kids? Where is the family? Why are you alone? Wow, the kids look so grown up? Everyone was talking to everyone all at once. Mouths chattering, tongues blabbering, eyes staring, lips laughing, hands clapping…..it was a merry scene.
Let’s go guys, I said, playing the spoilsport, the poor bus driver is waiting for us. A moment later all of us shuffled towards the waiting vehicle, a motley group of 15-20 people, children and all.
One by one we filed inside the small bus, listening to the complaints of the poor driver who, it seems, had been waiting there since the morning.
They did not tell me the right time, Sir, he complained. I have been waiting for hours. At least they could have told me to come in the afternoon, he whined.
‘Yes, yes’, everyone made suitably placatory noises, and then urged him to hurry on please. The boat must be waiting for us too, we said, trying to impress upon him the urgency of the situation.
As a reluctant engine coughed into life, I opened the window, and looked outside, smelling the air, letting the winter sun warm my face, taking in the scene.
‘Varanasi again’, I thought, and closed my eyes for a moment, as waves and waves of memories, some good, some bad, flooded my inner being with a strange feeling of deja vu.
To be continued…..
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