Sigra, Rathyatra, Kamaccha, Bhelupur, Lanka……the names rattled off in my brain as I drew a mental map of the route we were going to take to our destination. It was strange that I should still be able to remember these names. I always thought, even when I had joined BHU as a fresher, that the names of different areas of Varanasi were a little funny. Sample this – Godowlia, Nadesar, Taksaal, Sundarpur. I had never got used to these names and yet, these names were the ones which would evoke a sense of melancholy long after I had passed out from BHU, and had left Varanasi.
‘Look’, I called out to Vaishali again,’this here is the shopping plaza where that shop was…..what was its name….where we bought my Timex watch, and my silk clothes for some function.’
‘Yes, yes’, Vaishali said, excited now. ‘Kuber complex it was called.’
I nodded, remembering the name of the shopping arcade.
‘And soon after it, on the same side, was the bungalow of Bindiya’s aunt, right?’, I asked Vaishali, although I already knew the answer.
‘Yes’, she repeated after me.
And thus we excitedly kept pointing out buildings, places, shops, theatres, familiar streets to each other, revelling in the sweet memories that these places evoked.
Presently we were driving through Bhelupur, where stood the Diamond Hotel, a three star establishment frequented by us students for the rare dinner party, or coffee treat that we could afford back in the days. Right in front of the hotel, I pointed out to Vaishali, stood the house of my senior from the days of my surgical residency. We were quite close at that time, and had remained in touch for quite some time even after I left Varanasi. We still exchanged messages occasionally.
And then the bus moved on, towards Lanka, the area where the largest residential University of Asia had been built in the year 1916. But our destination was not the university. Instead we would head towards the Assi Ghat, the ghat nearest to the university, and one which was most frequented by the student folk.
The bus would drop us off at Assi ghat, and we would walk up to Tulsi ghat along the river, from where we would board our motorboat, or Bajra, as it is called in local lingo.
As the mini-bus drove through the narrow streets surrounding the ghat, navigating through the crowd with difficulty, the driver spoke up. ‘I will be dropping you off there Sir’, he said pointing to an intersection. ‘From there you can walk down to the ghat on the right side where you will find the boat.’
‘Yes, yes, I know the way from here’, I said, thanking the driver.
To be continued…..
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