Saturday, July 18, 2015

India travelogue 7 - The precious pass

I had heard that people stand in queue for hours to enter the temple. As I walked for more than 5 minutes along the long stretch, I still didn't sight any queue and I didn't spot the actual entrance to the temple either! With the pressure from shopkeepers increasing I turned back; the tactic they use is to get you to leave your stuff with them for free (that's what they say) but they will force you to buy something from them (maybe a darshan plate or a garland of flowers as offering in the temple etc.)

I was back in my lodging place at 8:15pm and the manager asked me, "Do you want to go for the darshan?"
"Yes. But I got late in the Ganga aarti."
"Here is the pass. Eat quickly and go; 4 others will follow you; all of you can use the pass."
The pass had our community name on it and on the backside mentioned 4 + 1; the pass was valid for 5 people; 1 was me and 4 others from another room.
I had no clue what access the pass would give me; but there was no time for questions as I dumped all my stuff in my room, emptied my pockets except for my wallet (that was a mistake - should have dumped the wallet as well), ate idli and upma quickly in the mess and then ran with the other 3 folks. The 4th member didn't come since he was very old. The other 3 were in different age groups; 1 in his late 20s or early 30s; one in in his 40s and the other in 50s. The youngest one was my companion; he said he knew the way to the temple. He suddenly started running and told us all to run. "They've gone out already. We have to catch them. No need of slippers.”
I had no clue who we had to catch; I thought it was only the 4 of us. Did he mean it was late for the darshan and we'd miss it?

Barefoot walking is soothing on the feet; and since there were no glass pieces on the ground I felt fine running barefoot. You had to dodge the dung and watery mess on the ground but otherwise there was no problem. Maybe that was one reason why I didn't see anyone barefoot; if you did have even the slightest of cuts on your foot, you could easily get the wound infected. Maybe… but I was to discover more about this later.

"Come here. This is shortcut," he said and took a side street. Varanasi is famous for the network of narrow side streets; you keep thinking it will be a dead end but lo behold you will hit a main road somewhere! This shortcut probably saved us 2 minutes.
"There they are," he shouted.
"Oh there. Where?" I asked because all I could see were numerous heads and nothing distinct. I simply followed him. We ran like we were possessed - the last such run I did was in New York where I was the one possessed and another friend was following me; my role had reversed here.
"They're almost in the entrance. Run."

Finally I discovered that he was trying to merge with another group that came from our trust a few minutes earlier; they consisted of a group of people going one behind another carrying some items on their shoulders - items for decoration in the temple, somethings for the Gods and some Aluminium box; we stayed behind the Aluminium box. We could finally just walk; we went down the same narrow congested alley I had gone by 30 minutes earlier. But this time no one stopped me - I didn't have slippers and no watch. And as the entourage passed by, people shopping stood to the side and let us pass like VIPs! Even shopkeepers kept looking at us though they would have seen this sight daily. The elderly men in our group of 4 caught up with us.
"Do you have the pass?"
I checked again. "Yes." What an anti-climax it would have been if I had lost it in the running!

We reached a point where I could see people waiting in a queue - this was the queue to enter the temple; at the entrance were two security guards checking people. We bypassed this group and went further ahead to another entrance. The Aluminium box bearer was let through but we were stopped by a rough North Indian policeman.
"What?" he asked with an angry questioning look on his face.
"Pass. Pass. We have pass," my new friend announced.
"What pass?" he asked again with the same grumpy look.
I gave the pass in his hand. He took a close look at it trying to identify if this were a forgery. We turned it around and showed the handwritten number of 4 + 1.
"5 people. Pass for 5."

My friend just kept walking ahead saying those words. I had one had on the pass and followed him. The policeman let go of the pass and soon there was a crowd converging behind us that the policeman had to handle.

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Unknown said...

Nice.. So finally did you manage to get Darshan?

Unknown said...

Will be revealed in the next edition :-)