For some strange reason, I dreamed of being in Banaras a few times. When I told Dad about it; he said it’s been on his mind too. My great grandparents are from the beautiful city of Varanasi. My grandma was married into this family who lived in Varanasi, when we shared with her, she said she would do anything to go back to Banaras even if for a day.
And so it began, in a few months, we were off to Banaras. I was hoping for a place that would inspire me to write something better, a view so beautiful that it would make me wake up at the crack of dawn just to gaze at it, some firangs, and the scenic Ganga arti. Also, maybe an answer to why all of us had the sudden urge to be here. All these predictable things happened, along with a major dose of magic.
Daadi, who had come back to Banaras after over 40yrs, seemed to remember landmarks, streets, even store names. When she dragged me into a store and started speaking to the owner about my ancestors, I made faces and felt like a huge disappointment is on our way. But it was anything but that. Turns out, just the name of my great grandfather was enough for these shopkeepers to realise who Daadi was. We were called in for tea and snacks and treated with so much respect that we as city dwellers would not even give to people we actually know.
Then came a series of spots, shops, vendors, mithai, paan, activities those which were making Daadi feel like she’s a new Dulhan in her early 20s all over again. The intense knee pain cause of all those steps and long walks was nothing in comparison to the sheer joy on her gleaming face. She wanted to eat the tikkis and the kheer kadams, she taught me how to enjoy some really good chai while Dad taught me how to relish a real Banarasi Paan.
It was not easy you know, to give in to Daadi’s demands, her sweet cravings with the sugar problem, her wishes those were silly and rigid all at once. It was not easy to watch Dad go all the way to meet all her desires, even take her to the house she lived in, while it being owned by someone else right now. Reminded me of a story my parents once told me.
Reminded me of a story my parents once told me.
Ravi and his aged parents were on their way to Haridwar in a train. Ravi at the age of 40 had taken an off to spend some time with the parents and to put an end to their unending requests of taking them to Haridwar. Enroute, Ravi’s father wanted to know when will they arrive Haridwar after every 20mts. He wanted to stop at every station and alight. Buy a special sweet or eatable from each major station. He asked dozens of questions on where they are staying, what all they would do, will all the things in his wishlist be covered. Reluctantly, Ravi tried answering every question also while repeatedly telling them how soon they would arrive. By the time they reached their hotel and left for Ganga aarti, Ravi had lost his temper. All he wanted to do was leave them off and go alone for a walk or something to cool down. Ganga aarti has a special kind of effect on its viewers, with all its chaos it brings peace. Deep, much needed kind of peace. Instead of leaving them there, Ravi was made to attend the aarti with the parents. Although he couldn’t wait for it to start and get it over with, when it did begin, he seemed to have forgotten all about going away. They sat in silence on the banks of the river for an extended hour till Ravi’s father spoke. He told Ravi how when he was all of five, they had taken the same train and come here when Ravi created absolute nuisance in the train. He fondly remembered little Ravi wanting to get down at every station and eat a special item from there. He lovingly patted Ravi’s back for making him live Ravi’s childhood and living his dream of being here. Ravi’s head hung down in shame and he couldn’t help but break down in front of his parents for being so impatient, intolerant, and selfish.
Dad made Daadi do all the things on her list, as much as he could, we went every place, ate everything and woke up at odd hours too. Not to mention the unlimited charity we did. The end result you may ask? So much happiness. Pure bliss. Such feels when Daadi hugged me tightly when she made a zillion jokes about how we are, our generation, our priorities and then quickly also asked to click selfies with us. Mind you she is very touchy about her images, she checks and rechecks every image on our phones and would keep the pose till she gets the desired picture. My family traced our story back to my great grandparents in my first visit to Varanasi. It gave me so many stories, so much good food, and the desire to go back and do it all over again.