Train to Varanasi

– By Priyarupa Sinha ( L&T-MHPS Boilers)

She concealed her emotions and walked away.

Standing forlorn in the quagmire of mud and slush, Nick watched Radha until she finally disappeared.

“I will miss you “, Nick muttered sadly to himself.

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It all started a week ago on the train from Delhi to Varanasi.

“Is that seat number 62?”, Nick enquired. Radha lifted up her head and nodded yes. She adjusted her dupatta and folded her feet to make way for the 6 feet tall, broad shouldered and a fairly handsome foreigner

“Hi, I am Nick” he introduced himself; Radha shot him a bewildered glance first and then smiled back in acknowledgement.

After about an hour, Nick unzipped his bag to take out an itinerary. Radha gazed intently into the itinerary and struggled hard to read its contents. For the first time in the 20 years of her existence, Radha regretted not completing her studies.

Nick was dissatisfied with the details mentioned in the itinerary and started staring aimlessly around him. Radha could sense Nick’s unrest. After an initial hesitation, Radha garnered the courage to ask Nick if any needed help.  Radha’s broken words in English came as a surprise to him, but more than that,

Nick was amazed by how a complete stranger could read his mind so well. For a while, he was transfixed by the glitter of faith in Radha’s eyes.

Nick tried to explain Radha his displeasure. Radha was a native of Varanasi and tried her best to help Nick  in preparing a more comprehensive itinerary.

Radha was happy to share her childhood experiences with Nick. She described her stay in Varanasi, one of the holiest cities in India, as the best phase of her life. Six years ago when her parents died in an accident, Radha had to relocate to Delhi to earn a living. Nick learnt about Radha’s hardships after shifting to Delhi and admired her courage.

Towards the end of the train journey, Nick requested Radha to be his tourist guide for the following week. Radha was thrilled by the idea and happily agreed to assist him. ;  she was blissfully unaware of the big turn that her life was about to take.

On reaching Varanasi, Radha and Nick commenced their trip with the visit to the Dashashwamadh ghat. Nick keenly observed the rituals performed by the priests.

He was mesmerized by the sound of bells, drums and holy chants; his soul felt liberated.

For the next few days, their mornings started with the boat ride in the river Ganges. They visited many places including: prominent Ghats, famous temples, Indian art museum & Sarnath to name a few. By the end of the trip, Nick became very fond of the place. He was immensely satisfied with the way his visits were charted; he couldn’t thank Radha enough for making his stay in Varanasi so memorable.

Finally it was time to say good bye to the city of Varanasi. Although Nick was excited to set off for the next destination, he was disturbed by the thought of not meeting Radha again.

Radha had an aura of optimism around her and it was hard not get captivated by her youthful charm.

Night before his departure to Konark, a town in the state of Odisha, Nick felt a sudden surge of anxiety and had a sleepless night. He kept on thinking about Radha.  In the next morning, it was raining heavily in Varanasi. Nick decided to confess his feelings to Radha before leaving.

Radha was utterly confused about Nick’s confession. Although she’d taken an instant liking to Nick from the day they first met, she was unsure about what to reply.

She thought they were from very different family cultures and were way too unalike to be together. They could never make a perfect match.

She concealed her emotions and walked away.

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In the evening, just when Nick was about to board his train, he heard a familiar voice from behind. He turned around to look and couldn’t believe his eyes; he saw Radha smiling broadly at him. She came close to him and whispered into his ears,

“Can I be your guide for lifetime? “

“Of course yes” , Nick shouted in joy and hugged her tight.

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Thirty years have passed since that episode and ten years since Nick passed away in London while fighting cancer .

Radha sits alone  in the balcony , which is big enough to accommodate  two wooden chairs and  overlooks the Ghats of Varanasi , and sips her coffee.

A tall , dark and handsome man enters the balcony , hugs her and sits by her side .

“Maa , you never mentioned when and how did you meet dad ? ”

Radha smiles at him and then looks towards the  Ghats and replies ,

“So, It all began on the train to Varanasi……”

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