We took a different route this time, to return to our hotel situated near the cantonment area of Varanasi. This was the route we have already talked about in our previous blog – ‘And the other places we may go’. When one is entering the gate, the Lion gate, of the university, one may choose to go either left or right, if one doesn’t want to enter the university. The road to the left takes one through a crowded thoroughfare and onwards towards the pontoon bridge (maybe the bridge has been dismantled now?) and thus to the Ramnagar fort. If, however, one turns right, one goes along a road which skirts the university wall, and leads to Nariya or Sundarpur and DLW, and thence to the two railway stations in Varanasi.
It had been a long time since I saw that part of the city, and hence we chose to take the road which doesn’t go to Ramnagar. The road led us, as I have already mentioned, along the wall of the university, and through the congested market selling medical wares. Along the way we could see the new Superspecialty block which had come up after we left the university (which was a long time ago!!). The road led, after some time, to a trisection. If we had kept on going straight, we would have, again, travelled along the university wall, and driven past the faculty residences, and finally exited on to the Prayagraj Bypass road (maybe?). But we did not take this route. Instead we turned right from the trisection on to the road which lead us through Sundarpur (the place of our Community medicine posting – another story for another time!!), DLW and thence through the (former) Maduadiha railway station which had recently been rechristened as Kashi railway station, and then to the main Varanasi railway station, on to and then under the Andhra bridge and then towards our hotel near the Varuna bridge, which forms the ‘classical’ border of the city of Varanasi.
On our way, we crossed Taksaal, Hindi for ‘mint’ as in coinage, which was not actually a mint and did not mint coins. It was, instead, a movie theatre. Since long, Taksaal has always been associated with, in my memory, the movie ‘Dil to Pagal Hai’, a Shah Rukh Khan starrer musical dance drama. This was the movie which we went to see, in a motley group of girls and boys (another first!!) on the first day of its screening and, to top it all, extracted Vaishali from her pharmacology lab for the same. That was some adventure!! But that is another story, for another time.
Although it was still evening when we entered the hotel, the sun had gone, and the sky had darkened. There was a happy nip in the air, and the cacophony of the traffic had changed to a different decibel, a different pitch. I got down from the car, stretched my back, and looked around. The scene around me seemed like a half remembered dream, some places, buildings, streets evoking a memory, others drawing a blank.
‘You go ahead, I will join you soon,’ I said to Vaishali and the kids.
‘Ok,’ Vaishali said, nodding knowingly.
She knew what I was doing. I wanted a smoke, in peace, with the solitude of my thoughts even in the midst of the din of the traffic. Some time to hear myself talk, to lay my past to rest, or dig it up and examine it again, to counsel myself, to live ‘the days’ again, to ruminate, meditate, to have my ‘me time’……..feel the tobacco smoke move through my airways, and then hit the veins in my head, feel the familiar sting in my nostrils, the noxious smoke irritating the eyes and nose as always, feel the familiar giddiness, the mild cramp in the bowels, the relaxing of all muscles……..
‘Don’t take too long,’ she said turning back once more; they had almost reached the glass doors of the hotel lobby. I waved to her, signalling my assent and quickly descended into my reverie again, even while I walked to the nearest shack selling my favourite poison, in a dark corner of that road in Varanasi.
To be continued…………………………..
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