TRAVELLING ALONE

We cannot compare the benefits of travelling solo and in group, especially with friends. They have their own inclinations to get along with you, and at times, you love both. Generally, as we know, it has be interplay of both, external as well as internal factors.

But, ultimately, if we go by our inner call, then any such decision is a mix of factors acting in coordination that finally decide with which way we will go.

The first factor is the weaving of your thought process.

If you are a person who enjoys your own company, you would love to go for a solo trip where you can croon, dance, sit and talk, all coming from and going inside you.

The best thing about having such intense one-on-one with you that you easily follow your own path even if you are in a group of friends. Yes, the nature of your interaction with self changes accordingly.

Trips that are exploratory in nature have their best chances when they find someone like this on the journey. They find their ways, be among people or walking alone. They are the truth-seekers. They are the knowledge-seekers. They are the wisdom-seekers. And journeys seek them.

The second factor is your mood.

Irrespective of the proclivity of your conscious (and subconscious mind), it is your mood that first decides whether you would go a for trip at all and if it says yes, then what contours it will take – whether your mood is pushing for you to take a solitary break away from the world around you to look for some moments in your own company – or it is seeking to share what is inside you with your friends and a group trip along the highway or in the valleys or on the hills or anywhere you like is the perfect occasion for it.

The third factor is obviously the occasion.

It is again interplay of different factors. If you are a party goer, you will seek to turn every group occasion into a good party time. You, will, in fact, go to every extent possible to have those evenings or nights or days again and again.

If you are a normal guy or girl next door, you will go where the party goes. And even if you are a reluctant, self-contained soul, you will not hesitate to become part of the show because you know it is going to be just those hours.

Mind you folks, these are about normal existences. We are not taking about exceptions and exclusivities here. We are talking about life journeys here.

©SantoshChaubey

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REVISITING THESE TEMPLES..

Visiting temples and other religious places have different connotations and purposes based on the phase of life we are in. Sometimes, it is also about the state of mind that inspires you to make it a routine to follow – based on the social values you inherit.

Based on my reasons (and reasoning), I too, had this thing in my routine – visiting some temples that fell well on my city itinerary during my school/college days in Varanasi – Sankat Mochan, Durga Kund, Vankati Hanumanji and Lord Ganesh temple ‘Durg Vinayak’ that is mid-way en route the Durga Kund-Vankatiji street.

That was once upon a time.

Then, during the course of my life events, I shifted my base to Delhi. But as happens and as Varanasi is my home town and as I feel a sense of belongingness here, the city keeps on calling me again and again – and I respond to such calls with a ‘nostalgic excitement’ always.

After many years, this time around, when I am in Varanasi, I thought to revisit the experience of those days – visiting these temples again – trying to follow the way it used to be in my itinerary then – and I could do so – though with a different set of thoughts in my mind – based on who I am and where I am in my life.

Sankat Mochan 1

Sankat Mochan 3

Vankati Hanuman ji

Durg Vinayak ji

Durgakund 1

Durgakund 2

REVISITING THESE TEMPLES..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IN GOD’S OWN CITY (I)

Well, that is Varanasi for me.

But during this trip back home, the first expression that came to my mind, while mapping its roads, is that the city should ban four-wheelers and other medium sized vehicles from most of its roads – especially in the second half of the day.

It took me an hour to reach the Ganga’s Rajendra Prasad Ghat from Nai Sadak, a stretch that is some one kilometer long. Places lying in between, Nai Sadak, Dalmandi, Godowlia, all are marketplaces now. And these marketplaces, connected by an ‘insufficiently wide road’, are inundated with shops and street vendors.

And that ‘insufficiently wide road’ is flooded with encroachments – by regular shops – by roadside vendors – by auto-rickshaw drivers – by rickshaw-pullers (and the new addition is Delhi’s ubiquitous battery driven e-rickshaws). People park their vehicles as per their own convenience even if it means hurt-burn for others. In fact, the stretch from main Godowlia crossing to Rajendra Parasd Ghat (or Dashashwamedh Ghat) has a thick divider made of illegally parked two-wheelers (as four-wheelers are not allowed) in the middle of the road.

And Varanasi’s every road busy road has a similar grievance to tell – a grievance that is never heard.

So, while feelings the pangs of moving continuously clutch, brake and accelerator my two-wheeler, the thought came to my mind spontaneously. Yes, it means a lot of noise from many of its ‘responsible’ residents, but they need to pay this price to maintain the city’s heritage with needs of changing times.

The problem of Varanasi roads is exacerbated by their poor upkeep.

Varanasi or Banaras is also notorious as a dirty city with loads of dust and garbage afflicting every part of it. Their prevalence is a telling sign of the administrative apathy the city has been subjected to for decades.

I decided to map some of its main road stretches – from Cantt Railway Station to Banaras Hindu University through Sigra and Bhelupur – from Lahartara to Banaras Hindu University through Manduadih and Sundarpur – from Rathyatra crossing to Dashashwamedh Ghat – from Lahurabir to Dashashwamedh Ghat through Nai Sadak – from Lahurabir to Dashashwamedh Ghat through Maidagin and Chowk – and from Banaras Hindu University to Godowlia through Assi and Sonarpura.

And except on the stretch from Lahartara to Banaras Hindu University through Manduadih and Sundarpur, the experience on every other road was like living a nightmare of being trapped in a traffic hell – coupled with potholed roads and air laden with dust particles.

What I experienced on these roads in last four days, its residents feel it daily. And since they are also responsible for it, we can safely say that many of them, the city residents, have this cycle of exploitation (exploiting someone or being exploited by someone) as part of their daily life now. A ride through these stretches (or in fact through most of the roads of the city) gives a feeling that the whole system governing them has collapsed here.

If Varanasi is still God’s Own City, it is because of its ancient spiritual legacy weaved around Shiva, the Ganga and death. Its spiritual and religious mysticisms draw people from all over the world. If Varanasi is still God’s Own City, it is because of its ageless culture weaved around its simple people. (Yes, exceptions are always there, but then, they are exceptions. Isn’t it?)

Varanasi is also famous for its streets and alleys and is loved for people always thronging them. Varanasi’s crowd, in its lanes, on its roads, is a big draw for many.

But we need to differentiate ‘this’ crowd from the crowds on its various roads that make even walking a difficult proposition. People would, naturally, hate this crowd and it is earning a bad name for the city.

The city is in dire need of good roads and their professional maintenance. And the city is in dire need of decongesting its roads – expecially the ones mentioned above – and any road that crisscrosses its older parts. Banning four-wheelers, say from 4 PM, would be the step in that direction that the administration needs to take, sooner or later.

The Day..Collage-3

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RAINBOW CLICKED AT 32000 FEET – IN A RANDOM CLICK

I usually don’t take snapshots while in a flight but the view today compelled me to react with my cellphone camera spontaneously. Yes, it was not the first time that I had witnesses a rainbow while in a flight. But somehow, I had not done it before today.

The flight was at 32,000 feet, en route to Delhi from Varanasi. It was hot and humid in Varanasi but raining in Delhi since this morning – so as usual – the Monsoon vagaries continue.

Mid-way to the journey, Monsoon’s playfulness suddenly pulled my attention when the aircraft’s pilot was announcing specifications on how the flight was doing. My eyes, staring out of the window, saw this amazing arch, overarching the whole panorama in its range.

And I don’t know how, but my right hand, on its own, slipped to my trouser’s pocket to pick cellphone to click the view. Yes, I could not do it when it was fully young in the range of my eyesight as unlocking the handset and capturing the frame took some time. But, even if I could not capture the full rainbow arch, the shots that I captured were enough to give me thoughts to write on an image created by it.

Flight Rainbow Arch 1 - W

Flight Rainbow Arch 2 - W

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THERE IS SOMETHING IN VARANASI

The city pulls me.

Yes, it is not one of those ordinary or routine or normal reasons that call me to never forget this city, to keep this city among the places in my life where I need to come back again and again.

It is complex.

Whenever I come to this city, I routinely find myself disgusted at its potholed roads with clouds of dust, be it in any part of the city. I find myself at staring the ubiquitous garage heaps in every lane, on every road of the city and feel increasingly frustrated about it. I see badly manned and managed traffic stuffed with people and vehicles in every part of the city and feel so helplessly trapped.

And during recent two trips, after we chose Narendra Modi to represent the Varanasi parliamentary constituency with hopes to change its fate, I even felt having a sense of loss on losing some hard earned chance to recovery.

The city’s dirt quotient is still the same as it was in May 2014. There are some efforts but the city needs massive reconstruction and modernization to become a world class heritage city, something that Varanasi deserves. We can’t say when the day will come though we pray for it daily and we can say the efforts so far don’t meet the requirement. Banaras Hindu University, inseparable element of Varanasi’s identity, continues to earn bad name with caste ridden factions enjoying their dominance. Quality of education is consistently going down in this temple of education that is known globally.

But whenever I come to this city, I feel an internal harmony that is refreshing. I feel so charged up – in the lap of Mother Ganga – that things start looking a shade more positive. I feel so complete, so deep inside me, that living spontaneously gets lyrical. Varanasi is uniquely famous for its crowds and I adore feeling a nameless soul in the multitude of people.

How I live this paradox is a question of satisfying internal inquiry for me.

Varanasi gives me what other places couldn’t give me – something I cannot define – but something that I don’t feel restless about.

Yes, the city calls me – again and again – and I come back to it – again and again – feeling at loss at myriad of problems it faces – and celebrating the peace at the same time that it offers.

Probably, that is one of many aspects important in making a true Banarasi.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SIMILARITY OF A DIFFERENT KIND..

PHOTOGRAPHY

Similarity of a Different Kind -W

SIMILARITY OF A DIFFERENT KIND..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

VARANASI RAILWAY STATION AFTER FIVE YEARS: CHANGES THAT DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING

COLORES INFINITUM

Railway station, in most of the societies, is an important metaphor of a person’s social extensions beyond his/her neighbourhood.

It is a regular place to visit, either leaving the city to keep the social obligations tied to one’s own social existence or to maintain and build on the sociology’s tenet that says ‘a human being is, essentially, a social animal’.

And it holds true to the core, even in the most modern societies.

Anyway, I come from a city that is ‘twice older that history, tradition and legend all combined’, in the words of Mark Twain.

Varanasi’s that ‘oldness’ is still a benchmark, hallmark – but is a sore point as well.

Any Banarasi is proud of its history, tradition, culture and existentialist ethos. And I am a proud Baranasi.

But a realist one. The city is a living mess now, pushed to a civilizational oblivion by policymakers. Its fame as being the spiritual-religious capital of India and one of the oldest living citadels of the Indian civilization has failed to catch up with the needs of the changing times.

And when we talk of ‘the needs of the changing times’, its not about its society or its spiritual-religious of cultural heritage or its academic legacy, its about its crumbling infrastructure. The unorganized growth has not yet met its balancing ‘organized growth’ counterpart.

And, often, the shabby state of affairs create interesting anomalies to pause, to look at, to stare at, to think, to muse, to feel bad, to feel satirical, to get irritated, to feel pushed to express, or to laugh it off with a frustrated smile.

Its railway station is one such place. Though catering to a much larger and historically important city attracting a huge influx of domestic and international visitors, the neighbouring Mughalsarai, with a sketchy road connectivity with Varanasi spread over 15 Kilometers, has all the important trains connecting to the other parts of the country.

Though Varanasi has many trains connecting it directly to the other parts of the country, it doesn’t have any of the so-called high-speed end-to-end ‘ivy league’ trains that don’t run late (usually), save time and offer a better travel experience. The city doesn’t have any end-to-end Rajdhani, Shatabdi or Duronto train.

With improved air connectivity and increased flight operations, the air-traffic from and to the city has seen an impressive jump. Also, people who can manage tickets and if it suits their schedule, they go for Mughalsarai railway station trains to save time.

My last Varanasi visit was after a long time, some 20 months. I was tied up here and there and missed the city I grew up in. But it was some four-five odd years to my last visit to the Varanasi Cantt railway station, the main railway station of the city. Obviously, the natural reasons were the better air connectivity and opting for some East or North-East India bound Rajdhani train having Mughalsarai on its route.

During my March trip there, I had a visit to the railway station there to see off someone. While I didn’t go beyond the platform number one, I noticed some changes in its front hall.

And the interesting aspect was their ‘half baked’ appeal, like the overall railways infrastructure serving to the city.

There happened to be a stairway going up through other floors that housed retiring room facilities, other office and one State Bank of India branch.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-1

Varanasi RSMarch2015-2

Now there is an escalator outside the grilled gate of the stairway, somehow crammed into the small area of the front hall. But true to the overall ‘half-baked’ nature of the ‘commitment to service’, it was not working. It was good to see the good old State Bank of India ATM right at its place.

Adjacent to the tourism department’s office was the station manager’s office when I had visited the railway station last. From inside, it opened into another hall that was anything but not the ‘Welcome Lounge’ that it is now. The front door of the manager’s office has been removed with plastered wall.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-3

These stainless steel gates are another ‘value addition’. I don’t remember if gates were there earlier or if there, how they looked like. The good thing about these steel gates is that they pull your attention (if you are a Banarasi who knows the city), otherwise the gates that always remain open lose their visibility.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-4

But overall, the front hall was as chaotic as it used to be some four-five years ago, thronged by people not only from the city but from the neighbouring rural areas as well. Anyway, even the New Delhi railway station is the same chaotic story, amply magnified. Indian Railways doesn’t find it apt to install chairs in spite of plenty of room available. And it only knows why.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-5

Varanasi RSMarch2015-7

The other elements like the ‘information-inquiry’ centre, the advertisements on all walls, ticket windows in the right corner were at the same place, with the same old glory.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-6

Outside the station has changed as well, but with the same imposing facade. The Hanuman Temple outside is there but rebuilt/renovated with its surroundings replaced by a car-parking. The two-wheeler parking on the left of façade (when facing it) has gone, relocated to the extreme right wing of the campus, where the old one happened to be. ATM kiosks have popped up. There is a luxury public loo as well.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-9

Varanasi RSMarch 2015-12

Varanasi RSMarch2015-8

But the railway reservation centre is still there on the left exit point from the railway station premises. Also, I found the India Post centre at its place, adjacent to the front hall, on its left.

Varanasi RSMarch2015-10

Varanasi RSMarch2015-11

And on the immediate road outside of the campus of the railway station is as sorry a story as it has ever been. If passing through this road is not necessary or if the railway station is not your destination, no one would ever take this stretch of the road. Traffic is perennially clogged here, even if the cuts in front of the station periphery are blocked to prevent vehicles from making turns.

The half-baked, poorly thought changes that don’t bring any change in the overall situation. Though I didn’t go beyond the platform number one, I can say, with my experience of growing up in the city, that it would be the make for the similar expressions. If the front that has to carry the responsibility of being the face is so, we can rightly guess about the rest.

Good days not are yet here.

But the Banarasi spirit says – the day will come – till then, we will manage with it – with the ‘travel’ alternatives available.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BEAUTIFULLY STACKED PESTLE & MORTAR PIECES IN SHIRDI

These beautifully staked pestle and mortar (khal batta – associated with a ritual of Puja offerings to Sai Baba) peices at shoprs at Shirdi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra pull attention easily.

And the captivating flow of the pattern their stacking makes elongates the attention span.

There are idols of Gods as well in the frame but the eyes make effort to go there.

A worthwhile click while on the go.

Shirdi Pestle & Mortar-1

Shirdi Pestle & Mortal-2

BEAUTIFULLY STACKED PESTLE & MORTAR PIECES IN SHIRDI

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LIFE BEGINS THE DAY WITH THE GANGA: THE DAYSPRING LEADS TO THE GANGA (4)

A MORNING WITH THE GANGA GETS YOUNGER (13)

PHOTOGRAPHY

A series of sequential photographs of a Morning with the Ganga, travelling from the last phase of a night at the daybreak to the spring of the morning as it gets younger..

A Morning with the Ganga Gets Younger-17

A Morning with the Ganga Gets Younger-18

LIFE BEGINS THE DAY WITH THE GANGA: THE DAYSPRING LEADS TO THE GANGA

Varanasi is because the Ganga is.

The Ganga ghats in Varanasi are the lively ecosystems of human living where life is always in motion, full of vibrant shades defining the every moment of day in its inhabitant’s lives.

A morning with the Ganga is the quality time worth living every day and a memory worth revisiting every day.

Sharing the moments of a morning with the Mother River when a day steps from the slowing rhythm of the night to the energized urge of the daybreak to evolve into a fully blossomed morning – soft, caring and motivating – is an experience of the lifetime.

It is a story that can be told and retold every day. It is a story that remains forever young, with Mother Ganga, with the Ganga ghats, with its mysticism, with its spirituality, with its flow of being Banarasi, with people from every walk of life and with people who are an inseparable part of this ecosystem.

And it is equally riveting to capture the moments.

Come, and be enchanted.

Get interactive with Banaras Calling’s Facebook extension at:
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Email at: interact@banarascalling.com

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LIFE BEGINS THE DAY WITH THE GANGA: THE DAYSPRING LEADS TO THE GANGA (3)

A MORNING WITH THE GANGA GETS YOUNGER (12)

PHOTOGRAPHY

A series of sequential photographs of a Morning with the Ganga, travelling from the last phase of a night at the daybreak to the spring of the morning as it gets younger..

A Morning with the Ganga Gets Younger-20

A Morning with the Ganga Gets Younger-24

LIFE BEGINS THE DAY WITH THE GANGA: THE DAYSPRING LEADS TO THE GANGA

Varanasi is because the Ganga is.

The Ganga ghats in Varanasi are the lively ecosystems of human living where life is always in motion, full of vibrant shades defining the every moment of day in its inhabitant’s lives.

A morning with the Ganga is the quality time worth living every day and a memory worth revisiting every day.

Sharing the moments of a morning with the Mother River when a day steps from the slowing rhythm of the night to the energized urge of the daybreak to evolve into a fully blossomed morning – soft, caring and motivating – is an experience of the lifetime.

It is a story that can be told and retold every day. It is a story that remains forever young, with Mother Ganga, with the Ganga ghats, with its mysticism, with its spirituality, with its flow of being Banarasi, with people from every walk of life and with people who are an inseparable part of this ecosystem.

And it is equally riveting to capture the moments.

Come, and be enchanted.

Get interactive with Banaras Calling’s Facebook extension at:
http://www.facebook.com/BanarasCalling
Email at: interact@banarascalling.com

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/