Backpack to One of the Oldest and Charming Cities of India

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Kolkata-based Soma tells us about a backpacking trip to Varanasi and Saranath, exclusively in Different Truths.

Well, it’s an easy guess – Varanasi!

That evening I checked my watch umpteen times as if it would help me time travel and catch the train for which I was running late. My manager had taken a virtual oath to get all the work done in that evening.

I was tensed. I had cancelled my Varanasi trip before, three months back and I didn’t want to do it again. Patiently my mom and my Schumacher driver waited for me to alight from office, ready to race. Patiently, at the station, my cousin waited for me to arrive.

We gave each other loud hi-five on being able to board the train four minutes before its departure.

To make it a perfect backpack trip, I didn’t book any hotel but an amazing hostel chain for backpackers, Zostel. The beautiful graffiti on the walls will definitely make you gaze those and imbibe a strong positive vibe. Don’t forget to make new friends at Zostel. You are bound to find like-minded travel enthusiasts along the way.

We were already hungry for breakfast and the caretaker suggested us a street shop for kachauri and sabzi. Being a Kolkatan, we jumped at the idea of street food. It was hardly a five-minute walk and the kachauri-sabzi was simply mouthwatering. We decided to eat our breakfast there on Sunday as well. [On a Sunday morning, there is invariably a long queue].

Munshi GhatWe wandered in the narrow lanes and felt the warmth and charm of the old city. It’s an art to walk on those lanes without bumping into another person or crushing the tail of a stray cow. People were busy in their daily lives and I was beguiled. Oldness has its own pristine charm. My cousin gestured using his head, tilting little right, raising both the eyebrows if I would accompany him in eating garam jalebi. “Of course, yes!!”

We went to Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and saw the hugeness of the campus around. Post lunch, we took a boat ride on the Ganges. It showed us most of the ghats.

Being a Bong, it was an extemporaneous decision to identify and locate the ghat from the movie, Joi Baba Felunath. We quickly recalled the name and there it was Munshi Ghat. Oh! What a delight it was to see that ghat. It was a sheer joy. We felt as if we were the characters from that movie. We quizzed each other on the story and characters of the movie. My cousin won! By sundown, we were closer toDasashwamedh Ghat for the Ganga Aarti, an elaborate experience. Everyone around us chanted mantras. I felt my heart and mind elevated to a higher level of purity, something which we all miss in our city life.

Blue Lassi shop

Blue Lassi shop

After an entire day’s wandering and exhaustion, we started to wander again! This time it was almost 8 pm now. Our caretaker from Zostel had again recommended us to try flavored lassi from Blue Lassi shop. Never-ending walk through the twisted-curvy narrow lanes, we landed in a 15ft by 8 ft shop. Just name a flavour and you’d get it. They do not prepare it using any mixer grinder, only hands! And if you love the lassi, don’t forget to paste your pic with a message on the wall.

The next day, my cousin went to Kashi Vishwanath temple early in the morning, while I sat along the shore of the Ganges. Looking at the Ganga, my heart searched for some answers. After some turmoil, it threw the answer at me. It was simple.

The cool breeze relaxed my mind. Almost five months down the line, I can comfortably say that the thoughts once bothered me and made me feel weak are gone!

Early morning at the ghat

Two hours had already passed and finally, my cousin arrived. We walked along the ghats and located the staircase where Machlibaba sat in the film, Joi Baba Felunath. My cousin almost started screaming excitedly! He was in no mood to listen to my words when I challenged him. I accepted that it was the Machlibaba staircase.

After relishing his happiness with his achievement, he declared that we could now move on to our next destination. We immediately left for Sarnath in an auto. Sarnath was one of the major centers for early Buddhist Schools. Buddhism had flourished in Sarnath and there are sculptures that showed Buddha delivering his early sermons here. We saw an 80 ft. tall Buddha statue and Dhamekh Stupa.

The auto dropped us back to the railway station at Varanasi.

I realised, at times we unnecessarily confuse and burden ourselves and stop living our lives. We just need to stay positive. Life is a beautiful journey and every up and down must make us a better and a stronger person.

©Soma Das

Photos by the author

#Travelogue #IndiaTravel #Varanasi #BanarasHinduUniversity #Saranath #Ganga #BuddhaStatues #DifferentTruths

Soma Das is a Chartered Accountant by profession. She is treading a path that she is not aware of. She is sure that her heart knows it and it has confined the purpose of her life to itself. Simply put, she’s confused – her dream and life are on anti-path. She is passionate about travelling and feels it unleashes the power in her.