Even while all these memories flashed through my mind, and tickled me, outwardly I remained attentive and kept scanning the ghats for any of our hosts who might be there to receive us. In the distance, a few ghats away, I could already see a couple of bajras moored to the river bank, at a place where the waters had receded, leaving behind a buffer zone of sand between the waters of the river, and the place where the stone steps of the ghats ended.
‘These must be our boats,’ I said to everyone at once.
‘Yes, yes,’ a general murmur of approval was heard.
As we neared the boats, we saw one of our hosts, Krishnajee Pandey, KG for short, standing near the boats, waiting for us. His face lit up as he recognised several faces from the bunch of people walking towards him.
‘Hey,’ he called out, waving his right hand above his head energetically to catch our attention.
It really was unnecessary as the others had already seen him, and had started making their own welcoming noises. The boys rushed forward to hug him, the girls of his batch also crowded around him, shaking his hand, or patting his back, saying their hellos. KG stood there at the ghat, beaming at us all. He must have been happy that their plans, and their hard work, had finally borne fruit, and that his batchmates were finally here for the reunion. Their batch-meet had almost been cancelled on account of the COVID pandemic, and it had taken some serious persuasion, and real hard work to persuade people, and arrange for this meet.
During the course of his preparations, he would often communicate with Vaishali for suggestions, since Vaishali had the experience of attending one reunion – mine! Same place, different people, a little more than a year ago….hence the title of this blog – Varanasi Again!!! Vaishali always obliged, sharing important nuggets of information gleaned from her experience of our reunion with KG, helping him tie loose ends, delegate responsibility, make arrangements.
As I approached KG, he opened his arms, his eyes wide with happiness, and we hugged. Disengaging myself from his bear hug, I looked at him closely. The same handlebar moustache, the same jovial personality, voice loud as ever, warm, forthcoming. But that is where the similarity stopped. He had gained a little weight, I could see, and then lost it, my trained eyes did not miss much. His face was creased in places, from too much work, or too much worry (sometimes too much drink can do that to you too), and there were furrows around his eyes. Curious, worrying little furrows. I looked into his eyes. They glistened with happiness, and energy, and youth, but behind these, there was…….was it melancholy? A sense of holding himself back, not letting go fully, happy but not completely, enjoying, but not to the hilt, warm but restrained. Maybe I was reading too much into things. But I could not help it. This was the way I was wired. Since childhood. Speak less, think more, analyse…..my credo ever since I could say boo……but that is another story for another time.
‘Aao Boss, come’ KG said,’ It’s good to see you after such a long time.’
‘Haan yaar,’ I concurred. It was indeed good to see KG after a long time. KG was my junior in medical school, and then, later, during my surgical residency. And I had always found him warm, loud, happily guffawing, down to earth fellow. Good to see him again indeed.
To be continued……
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