‘Voyage to Varanasi’
I left everything behind. The unbearable noise of some angry young men, the screams of an unknown crowd as well the very loud train station fans and their monotonous melody, all were behind me! I was running at such speed that if my friend didn’t hold on to my bag tightly while pulling it, I might have fallen on the floor along with the porter who was magically carrying six-seven bags! However we safely arrived at the train departure platform. Once again I promised myself never to photograph just before a journey as every time I forget the schedule and have to rush like I did that day.
Between hundreds of trains I was searching my Vibhuti Express. The destination is Varanasi. I pushed my head forward and suddenly some small fingers held my hand. We were both scared! The small child mistakenly holds my hand. We laughed together! We all were searching the desired Vibhuti Express. I felt a great thirst to take picture in this super busy station with its very very interesting compositions that were calling me. But then reaching the Vibhuti Express was more important than any composition. It is a known truth that when you are anticipating something with all your heart it will never come easy! The train is three hours late!
My friend closed his eyes and was resting a bit. I was resting my eyes by watching people. To see people up close and from a distance is my old habit/hobby. I was praying that the train might arrive earlier so that I could explore Varanasi in the early morning. I was afraid that I was going to lose the morning light. In front of me everyone was rushing recklessly. They were scared to miss….scared to lose…scared not to reach. But finally when they were seated in the train, they were all looking behind again and again. All of us love to go ahead, but we also feel happy to see behind us. To know how far we have come! The nagging old man sitting beside me laughed for the first time; yes, the much desired ‘Vibhuti Express’ finally arrived!
We departed the station at 8 P.M and were supposed to reach Varanasi by next morning 8:00 A.M. But the excessively slow train took 22 hours and we reached our destination at 6:00 P.M in the next evening. I knew I had lost the light but still there was some hope to catch a bit of it. I jumped out as soon as the train stopped. But there is something called luck and it had decided that I am going to have a slow day. The puller of the rickshaw that we took was driving round and round, and just as slow as our train had been. It took 45 minutes to reach a distance that normally takes 15 minutes. I was so sad when I opened my hotel room’s door. I went directly to the window and after opening it I slowly whispered, ‘I can wait my entire lifetime to take images of such colour, such an old place, with such mystery that no words can properly describe it!’
Next to my window four eyes were curiously looking at me. A monkey couple was wondering about me so as I was of them. They were hand in hand. I smiled and try to offer friendship but they were confused and then they were holding hands even tighter. The night was falling and I was writing beside the window. Suddenly I saw the couple looking at me through the window glass, so close that I could touch them. Our friendship was established. Before I went to bed it started raining. While closing the window I saw, under magical light that the monkey couple were sleeping while embracing each other! I stood for some moments. The world’s most fortunate people are those who get their loved one by their side. And the most unfortunate are those who never get the chance to feel the warmth of love!
I wake up at 3 A.M and I was in the Galis and the Ghats of Varanasi by 4 A.M. There I was – in Varanasi, the place that magnetically attracts me all the time. I started taking images enthusiastically. Varanasi – the land where experience and discovery reach the ultimate bliss. This is the most blindingly colourful, unrelentingly chaotic and magnificently compelling places on earth.
I felt brilliantly alive there. Its sights, sounds, and colors brought me immediately into a different place; absorbing me into its endlessly fascinating spectacle of ritual activity. It is situated along the west bank of the holy Ganga River in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. It is considered as the holiest place amongst the Hindus. It always seems a magical place to me. The spiritual Ghats (steps down into the river) and the alluring Galis (a maze of narrow alleyways) are my main enticements.
Because of the rainy season the stairs of Ghats were under water. Ghat’s are the series of steps leading down to a holy river. In Varanasi, you will find around 100 Ghats. Each of the Ghats has different name, history and importance. It is quite interesting to walk along the Ghats especially in winter. But during this visit I spend time discovering Galis. Extremely narrow; the play of lights and shadows inside a Gali is very interesting. But I was very alert while I was entering inside unknown Galis and I suggest not going alone.
Since Varanasi is one of the holiest destinations for Hindus, it is very common to find various rituals going on throughout the year in this place. But my fascination was the people and their portraits. Streets of Varanasi are full of many enticing stories. I shot the whole day. Still I did not find enough time to click at as many subjects as I wanted to.
On the last day of my visit it was raining in the morning. I went out in the rain by just covering my camera with plastic and my head with a handkerchief. I was going to leave this city which is considered to be over 3,000 years old. The majestic light was shining behind the clouds. I saw astonishingly how gracefully the morning light removes all the dirt from the sky. While watching this I wished all the sorrows and suffering of the world would end like this with the light of humanity! To be able to discover such light I could come back here a thousand times and I would not mind another 22 hour voyage to return to magnetic Varanasi!