Saturday, June 06, 2015

India travelogue 3 - Fear and boredom

I came to Godowlia Chowk - kind of like a junction area where two important roads intersected. The crowd of pedestrians was heavy here. I was happy to see a police beat station with a couple of cops around. Even amidst such heavy crowds, vehicles still found their way! I kind of got lost for a while trying to locate Sonapura road. My destination was on a side branch that ran parallel to the main road and strangely that road was quiet! You can expect to see plenty of cows and bulls and buffaloes walking along with you - you see it in Chennai also but I felt it was more over here. Dung is there in unexpected places. My destination was a place run by a trust; when I spoke on phone they said I wouldn’t be able to stay there but they were happy now to let me stay in one of their rooms (they have 60 rooms); no AC but the room they gave me was a spacious one with a couple of single beds, attached bathroom, basin, 4 windows and 2 fans. I could have survived in a place one-third that size. I chatted with the treasurer for the place.

I got chided politely by him for not knowing what was my sub caste, sub sub caste and what not; had to call up mom to get those details! "You should learn these things," he said in a friendly manner. You could at this point get into a debate over whether all of that even matters; in the end does any form of classification matter? But surely this wasn't the time for philosophical debate with someone who had just given me accommodation. The manager I guessed was in his late 50s; he had a couple of sons - one doing business and one working in Wipro. He told how 6 years back his son took the parents to Switzerland for a month when he was on an onsite deputation over there. He told about seeing the banks where Indian money was claimed to be, the Alps, the chill weather, not being able to step out even in the daytime for a week, wearing jerkins instead of sweaters, his trip to Italy with north-indian Wipro guys, having to throw his knife that he had for cutting apples before entering the Vatican etc. You could see the joy in his eyes as he narrated his travelogue; happy that his son took him abroad, happy that he had stepped out of India at least once. A few years back he was bored at home after having retired. That’s when he visited Varanasi and liked the place. He joined this trust and has been working here for 3 years. He finds it peaceful; food inside this place was also more South Indian style food and he was content.

We hate work; but we still need it!

In old age, boredom is one issue and fear is another - it is strange that as we grow older we seem to have more and more fear even though you would think that logically it is absurd. As you live out more of your life, you are nearing the inevitable; you have seen a lot of things in life; so why worry now? Shouldn't we be more worried when we are a kid since we don't know if we will live to experience life or whether life will end soon; strange it is but that's just my observation of people around. The treasurer didn't talk about fears but he did seem happy that he had work; he made me wonder why we work - it is so hard to stay idle though we always keep thinking while working 'if only i could just relax at home without working then I would be content.' Unfortunately once we stop working, we feel bored! What a vicious circle! The job he did had a bit of social side to it; he interacted with many people; helped poor people by giving them accommodation in the building etc. He said how people would come all through the day and night at odd hours and someone had to be available to handle that. Social work always helps - you think of others and that helps you forget yourself. 

I had to perform a function tomorrow and was told in Chennai that I should do it after 11am; but the manager for the trust said, "In Varanasi, time doesn't matter. There is nothing like good time and bad time over here. You don't need to bother about time."
But he assured me that he’ll try to fix an appointment for as late in the morning as possible.

At about 5:30pm I started for a walk; I thought of checking out the river Ganga and also catch the aarti (aarti is a puja/ceremony done with lamps). The Dashashwamedh Ghat was only about 10 minutes away; the Ganga is a lengthy river and there are about 80 places in Varanasi where there are steps that take you to the banks of the river - each of these points are a Ghat and they have names for them. The Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main one. I was surprised with the crowd I saw on the road heading to that Ghat; it was literally packed on both sides and you could see hoards of people as far as you could see. This was like Ranganathan street but more longer than that (that street is a famous one in Chennai). 

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