The temple stood to our left side, mute, beckoning, nursing dark secrets from our past lives inside its bosom, not revealing, not sharing, just waiting……waiting for me….
But that was last year. I had already honoured my tryst with the temple, and the bright orange deity with the large, dark eyes who resided inside the temple, inside the sole room which comprised the temple. Last time I visited Varanasi, with friends and family, had been for my college reunion. I was there, in the campus, after a long time, with everyone who mattered, everyone who was there when darkness descended into our collective destinies, everyone who had helped, supported, stood with me, stood with us…..everyone was there last time when I had come to this place.
And the place had called…….and I could not refuse its call. I had wanted to go there, to see the deity once more. To look into his dark, impassive, immobile eyes once more, to see the threshold of the temple once more, the threshold where I had lain my head innumerable times, lain my head and rubbed it against the stone, against the cold concrete, and banged it softly, crying, calling out, questioning, remonstrating, complaining, waiting for an answer and receiving none, except the stone cold stare of the deity. Yes, I had gone back once more last year, to honour my long due rendezvous with the deity, with my past……to face the ghosts of my past once more. And it had been done…..the meeting with the deity, the facing of my past again, the exorcising of the ghosts……and I had washed them all away, and cleansed my soul with my tears, and made my peace with my God, and I had come back lighter; the past no more weighed on me…….
And thus, now as we walked past that same temple again, the past called me no more, no ghosts beckoned me, no strings pulled me to that place, no voices called out. The umbilical cord had been severed.
We walked back briskly, out of the tottering gate at the end of the road which skirted around the hospital, and, after crossing the trisection, entered the college campus again. This time we did not go to where our car was parked but turned right instead, following the path which lead us right in front of the institute’s entrance. The stone steps of the entrance lead, between two pillars, to a solid wooden gate through which we passed to enter the atrium of the building.
‘How many times have I passed through these gates? How many times have I loitered around in this verandah, this atrium? How many times have I crossed it, going to the lecture theatre, going to the library, returning from it, going to the Director’s office, and, in good times, going to the institute quadrangle where the we did the bon fires,’ my thoughts trailed off at the mention of the ‘bon fire’.
The ‘bon fires’ were the night parties, or dance parties, or booze parties, or socialising events, whatever one may call them, organised by whichever batch, of students or residents, had occasion to celebrate. They were held in, for want of a better space, the quadrangular spaces left in between the wings of the institute building. The institute building, you see, was in the shape of a giant spider, if I may use the term without offending anyone. It had a main corridor, or body, from which extended four eastern and four western limbs housing various departments. Each limb ended in a bulbous projection which had more rooms, halls and other departmental space. Between each successive limb, on the eastern as well as the western side, were spaces open to sky, or green corridors, or quadrangles, as we called them. The quadrangles in between the eastern wings were often used for these get togethers, or ‘bon fires’.
To be continued……
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Thank God…peace now.
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