Monday, October 4, 2010

My first (Little) Guide to Varanasi

27th June in the year 1997, I was in Varanasi with my children unwillingly. WHY?  Because my husband was transferred to Varanasi from Hardwar. Me and my children were very well settled in Hardwar and I didn't want any change at that stage. In this city my first priority was to get admission for both of my sons in a good school. I asked my neighbours about a good school where I could put my sons. Some mothers of children recommended St. Johns school. I decided to visit St. Johns. On the evening of 1st. July one of my neighbour Mrs. Mukherjee told me "Minu! I will go with you." Dr. Mukherjee was professor in Physics department in science college BHU (now retired). He was a good friend of my father in law.

2nd July - I took all the necessary papers, passport size
photos, pen, money etc. and came to Mukherjee's home. Mrs. Mukherjee was down with fever and Dr. Mukherjee had gone to doctor's place for lady's medical help. I was disappointed because I didn't know anything about Varanasi - neither geography nor the people of the town. I told her "Please give me some direction at least." She was also feeling low because she felt that she could not keep her words. I said "Don't worry! I will manage." She said " May be Rohit can help you." Rohit was her nephew. I hadn't met Rohit earlier. I was thinking that Rohit was a big man but she pointed towards Rohit, I was a bit amused. He was a little 8 years old boy below my waist line. His mother was also hesitating because she also didn't know me. While we three ladies were discussing about other options, Rohit had put on his socks and tied shoe lace. He combed his hairs and told me "OK Minu aunty I will go with you .I will show you my school." I was not very confident about him.
I was on the road with three children, Paku - 14 years, Piku
- 7 years and Rohit - 8 years. Mrs. Mukherjee had advised me to go to BHU gate and from there take an auto-rickshaw for DLW (Diesel Locomotive Workshop). So I took a rickshaw for BHU. I and Paku sat on the seat of rickshaw. Piku was on Paku's lap and Rohit was on my lap. Rohit was talking like a well trained guide "This is Durga temple. That is our grocers shop. This is the way to Sankat Mochan Temple. This area is called Lanka." I looked at my wrist watch; it was 8:45 already. Rohit looked at my face and got down from my lap on the rickshaw's foot rest then he patted the rickshaw puller's back by his little palm and said "Tanik jaldi chalawa bhaiya"(move little fast brother). I grabbed him in my arms and settled him on my lap. He started again "This is a good medicine shop and all other nearby shops are thieves. This is La-Bella restaurant, very good Chinese food is served here. Minu aunty! Do you like Chinese food?" Piku immediately replied "I do." Rohit asked Piku "Do you have power in your spectacles?" Piku got irritated and said "What do you think.....why should I be taking load on my nose and ears? Just like that eh?" Rohit didn't like this answer and he started talking with me.

At BHU gate we left the rickshaw. Rohit said "Aunty that auto rickshaw will go to DLW." I asked "How are you so sure?" He said "Because that is facing towards DLW."  Simple common sense. We took the same autorickshaw and reached DLW. The school was inside the DLW colony. We were walking towards the school. Piku said "Maa, I am thirsty." I pulled out a water bottle from my bag. He took 2-3 sips then he told Paku "Dada, whenever I want cold drink mom always has a water bottle. I don't know why?" Paku was absolutely in serious mood. He said "Because she knows you better."

A notice was there on the notice board of the school for
admission to class XI mentioning the entrance exam would be held on 6th and 7th July. I went to office. From a window I purchased a form. In the reception I sat down and filled the form then attached Paku's class 10th mark-sheet. Now I have to paste two photographs on the form. I was searching the gum tube in my bag. Piku said "Mom the gum tube was on the dinning table at home." I felt hopeless. Rohit said "Wait aunty." He rushed into clerk office. I was watching him from the window. He approached a clerk and spread his two little fingers in front of him and said "Sir! Please give me two drops of gum so we can paste dada's photo on the form. "The gentleman smiled and gave him the whole bottle. I finished my work and submitted the form and asked the clerk about 4th standard admission. He said very blankly that there was no vacancy for 4th class and suggested that I might talk to Principal Sir. I went to the Principal's office. There was a receptionist. He gave me an appointment at 11:30. Now it was 10 O'clock. I have to wait. Three children went to explore the school. My sons were nostalgic about their old school - DPS Hardwar.

At 11:45 receptionist allowed me to meet the Principal. I
went inside the Principal's office. The gentleman offered me a seat. After formal greetings, I asked him that I wanted a 4th class admission for my younger son. Paku and Rohit were standing behind me but Piku was hiding behind Paku. He said that I must leave an application with my address and phone no. If there was any vacancy available due to transfer etc., then the school will inform me. The message was loud and clear - NO.  I came out and wrote an application and gave it to receptionist and asked him hopelessly "Is there any hope?" He looked at the application and said "Yes yes! Why not? We just need donation." DONATION for class 4th student?? I suppressed my anger and asked him very softly. "How much." He said "2 lakhs." I said "That's all?" He looked at me blankly.

We came out from school and asked Rohit "Now we need
cold drink. Any good shop nearby?" He took us his favorite shop near the school. First time Piku smiled since morning. We came back to BHU gate. Now I wanted to go to BHU Central School. Not a single rickshaw wanted to go inside the campus. We were compelled to walk. It was 12:30 in the afternoon. The sun was scorching over our head. We walked a quarter of a kilometer and reached Central School. Children's faces were glowing red. They sat down on school's veranda. The school was empty. I was thinking now what should I do?  Suddenly I saw a man with a bicycle was coming towards us. I asked him that when I can find some one responsible in school. He said that school would reopen on 5th July for children and Principal Sir was not in school. "From where can I get any information for admission procedure?" I asked. He showed me a corridor and said that end of the corridor was the staff room. There I could find some teacher. I walked into the corridor. It was empty. At the end of it was a room, in which five men were sitting and two of them had put their feet on the table. I knocked on the door. They looked at me but did not put their feet down. I asked few questions but their way of talking, their attitude and their beetle leaf chewing faces made me extremely repulsive. I came back to my kids. The bicycle man was talking to the children. When he saw me he directly asked me "What happened Madamji?" I ignored him. I told my kids "Let's go." That man said "I will arrange admission for all three of them. Just money will be required. "I suppressed my disgust feeling inside me and started walking holding Piku and Rohit's hand. Paku was few steps ahead. The man was following me and saying the same thing " is negotiable." I almost burst out in anger. I turned around and looked straight into his eyes then said very strongly "Don't follow me...otherwise I'll do something that you wouldn't have imagined... don't follow me..." and I stayed there until the man vanished.

The sun was painful enough for the children and now my bad mood had made them silent. After walking for a few meters, Piku said "Mom, I can't walk." I picked him up in my arms and felt pity for Rohit. Now Rohit was holding Paku's hand and walking quietly. We came out from BHU campus. Paku said "Maa I am hungry." First time he talked to me since morning. Piku and Rohit said in chorus "Me too." I asked Rohit "You told me about a Chinese restaurant. Where is it?" Suddenly three faces began to glow up again. Piku got down from my lap. Rohit said joyfully "I will show you aunty."

In the restaurant, the children felt happy and relaxed. They enjoyed their food. Even Piku had consumed the whole soup for the first time in my life. When we returned home it was 2:45. Rohit's mother was standing at gate. Anxiety was clearly visible on her face. When she saw Rohit was well and good, she smiled. I also felt relaxed. That day I experienced lot of good and bad things in my life, but Rohit was a constant positive energy with me.

So Rohit where ever you are in this world keep your spirit alive. May God bless you.