16:30 hours, 30th of November, 2015 – The trip finally gets a go ahead! It is not that easy when you are getting 12 people together to finalize something, discussions for which started couple of hours back.
By 6, all had had their tickets booked, and the wait for the night had begun!
We had to ask for permission, wait, we had to sincerely request for permission from an authority we have no clue of! With the formalities in place, we were officially ready to wait for the night!
The night, the autos and the train!
We were 12 people and 4 autos. Permissions had by then become redundant. It was colder than usual but the excitement was warming! An hour after we had left, the railway station welcomed us.
The groups reassembled at the station, boarded our bogies and destination Varanasi started blinking on our GPSs. In between we got a taste of railway corruption! (Remind me to try and write to Suresh Prabhu to complain about this!)
Morning at the Varanasi railway station was eventful, I had my left foot in a filthy sewer drain, making me change into Avin’s sandals, to a lengthy discussion between where we were headed to!
Photography had begun and Sarnath was chosen as the destination Numero Uno!
Varanasi railway station to Sarnath
We took 3 autos at INR 350/- for all combined and navigated through the sinusoidal roads of Varanasi. It took us an hour to reach the place! We got down at the ticket counter of the Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, got the INR 10 tickets for all, and had a small snack stopover and the entry!
Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath
For a history buff like I am, this place is close to orgasmic. For Buddhists, it holds immense value because of the religious relevance of the place! And for those in this country hold pride in attacks of Ghazni and Ghauri, this place is another example of the plunder of their demigods, and how they reduced something beautiful to pure ruins!
The place is beautiful, very well maintained and gives you so much to watch, wonder and take in. There are temples, meditation spots, the grandeur of Mauryas, their craftsman skills and then Dhamek Stupa. You feel like staying back and enjoying the place! Unfortunately, we had to move ahead.
The Museum and The Lion’s capital
My reason to visit Sarnath was simple – To see the Indian National Emblem – King Ashoka’s Lion Capital structure in real! And I was not disappointed. It is a huge structure! Housed safely inside the museum in Sarnath. No form of photography tool is allowed inside, so there are no photos to share! But the museum does house some amazing pieces of craft! Even if you don’t have any similar desires as I have, you can still be lost in the awe of the skill that has gone into making these structures dating back to some year in B.C.
Sarnath to Varanasi, Bus stand and Kerala Cafe
We then went to see the tall Buddha statue, did some shopping and took one huge auto back to Varanasi! In Varanasi, we got down at the bus stand, booked our Volvo tickets and took another couple of Autos (Yeah, 6 people in 1) to have our first proper meal of the day at Kerala Cafe
Kerala Cafe, Sankat Mochan, Lassi, Rabdi and Banarsi Pan!
The feast at Kerala Cafe was grand! I don’t remember eating such wonderful mix of North and South Indian found in a single sitting! And the cold coffee was the real deal! If in Varanasi, I say it is a must go.
Afterwards, we went onto the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple. Lovely experience it was! Nimisha particularly had a good face off with one of the monkeys. They don’t find her as cute as many of the guys in the campus do, I suppose.
Post that, it was time to taste two wonderful treats – The Pehelwaan Lassi corner (Thank you Vaishali for the reminder) and the famous Banarasi Pan! Lassi had all of us weighing down and the pan was the flavour of freshness! Watching the pan being made was a visual treat for many.
Kashi Vishwanath, Ganga Aarti and Kashi Chat bandar
The last leg of the journey had started getting some of us tired. I, for once, was in that list. We took the decision of going boating, blessed by Lord Shiva’s divine plant and witness the evening Aarti at the Ghat in Varanasi. Not sure how everyone really felt about it, but it was a different kind of experience. (Difference doesn’t always mean good). We went to the Kashi Vishwanath afterwards, paid our homage and were on our way to the Kashi Chat Bandar.
Kashi Chat Bandar is a joy for any chat lover! Amazing assortment of chats awaited us and we took all we could. Another one of the must visits in Varanasi. I leave the list for you to figure out.
We then went to a place on Assi ghat called Pizzeria Cafe! (Again thanks Vaishali) It seemed as an exotic and porsche place, with foreigners flocking the place. Some cafe it was, famous for some a slice of something which we were lucky to get, given that we were much late. Not that I would rate it highly. We were down and out by then and hence, more than willing to go to the bus stand and retreat!
And then, started the last leg of the journey. From Assi Ghat, autos took us to the bus stand, from where the multi-axle bus took us to Lucknow bus stand, from where autos got us to our campus!
It was an eventful one day in the life of a MBA graduate at IIM Lucknow. For the 12 who undertook the voyage, it was a good bonding experience.
Shivi, Nirali, Surbhi – You guys were surely missed. Prasoon, you would have loved Sarnath too!