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Pages from a Pilgrim's Diary - Part 4

by Vimala Ramu
(Bangalore, India)

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12-6-84 Faizabad

The previous day, after a wait of 10 hours, our bogie was attached to some train and we were told we would be in Allahabad in the morning. Everyone slept well in sheer relief. When the morning broke out, we found that we had never left Faizabad. An altogether 36 hours of stay in a place which was not even in the itinerary! Paucity of engines and erratic movement of trains due to floods were said to be the reason. It was downright comical. But I was the only one holding my sides with laughter while others were cursing, particularly those whose air passages had been booked the next day for Nepal.

13-6-84 Allahabad.

Reached Allahabad in the evening. As we approached the platform, we saw soldiers on either side of the track at regular intervals with their guns trained on the train. We came to know of ‘Operation Blue Star’ from the newspapers later.

What a narrow escape for us at Amritsar!

A 2-day postponement had been negotiated with Indian Airlines for the Nepal trip. That meant two more days delay in our program.

But, no point in leaving the group then and taking the direct train to Bangalore as only two more places were left in our itinerary.

Miserable night in the train, humid, with no electricity was more than compensated by the cool dip in the Sangam. The knee deep water was just ideal to float under water (fully clad in sari) to the great consternation of my companion.

Visited Nehru’s Anand Bhavan.

14-6-84 Varanasi (1st day)

Getting the bogie attached to different trains depending on their schedule was really frustrating. We felt like unwanted relatives in the huge railway family. A big group had left for Nepal.

Bath in the murky waters of Ganges, such a contrast to Ganga at Rishikesh. Went for a boat trip. Saw two bloated dead bodies floating in the river.

Visited all the main temples and shopped in the lanes.

While hearing the sankalp from the priest for another party for atonement of sins, I came to know many more sins which I hadn’t known about and not committing which I had been poorer in worldly pleasures!

15-6-84 (2nd day) Varanasi

Visit to Sarnath and Benares Hindu University by deluxe bus. The ruins at Sarnath had the lower half of the original Ashoka pillar. The upper half had been kept in the museum which was closed for the weekly holiday.

16-6-84 (3rd day) Varanasi

I seemed to have contracted dysentery. I tried to combat it with diet and medication. With half the yatris away at Nepal, life in the bogie was much better. Even the buttermilk seemed to be thicker!

Had toast and butter from outside instead of the Agency’s oily dosas. My companion went for a second visit to Viswanath temple with some yatris. I relaxed in the bogie with Sidney Sheldon’s ‘Blood line’.

17-6-84(4th day) Varanasi

The flight from Nepal held up. Doomed to spend one more day in this humid, dirty, smelly station.

18-6-84(5th day) Varanasi

We were furious when one more day’s delay was announced. Seriously enquired in the Station Master’s office for a direct train to Bangalore. Not feasible, it being a bi-weekly train. Sick of the company and talk.

19-6-84 Gaya

Nepal group joined us last night at 10.30 in the night. Reached Gaya in the morning. Had bananas for breakfast (I would puke if I had one more agency breakfast),had a look at Pundliki river which dries up in summer, visited Vishnupada. Did not visit Bodh gaya thinking we would be late. A group observing the ‘shraddh’ had to be left behind. The half day gained in the schedule was forfeited.

20-6-84 Asansol

A perfectly miserable day and night too. The left behind ‘shraddh ‘ group joined us at 4 in the morning. The fans would stop working when the coach was not moving. It was raining heavily. So all the shutters had been closed. The dust and rains at Varanasi seems to have taken quite a toll of the lungs and stomachs of the yatris. The throat clearings not only would bring the roof down but take everyone’s stomach contents also up. With all the shutters closed, the bad air was distributed uniformly inside the bogie without an outlet.

After 14hours in the Asansol station, we left for Calcutta.

20-6-84 Howrah

No shopping as there was a ‘Bundh’ on (Oh,Calcutta!).


The usual temple visiting. The fresh blood in Kali’s temple floor left us feeling rather queasy in our strictly vegetarian stomachs.

Ah, the peaceful atmosphere at Dakshineshwar!

Went shopping. If my companion had not taken charge, bullied and herded them the yatris would have certainly delayed us by one more day. Moreover, on the return trip on Howrah bridge our friends had not given leeway for the traffic jam. After a tense hour, we just made it to the station to be only told that the train had been running half an hour late.

Left for Puri.

22-6-84 Puri

It was hard to say no to my favorite sea bath and visits to Konark and Bhubaneshwar. My dysentery seemed to have induced a comatose state which made me just want to sleep on and on.

Visited the beautiful temple of Jagannath. But Gods had been rested.

Loved the clean, uncrowded beach with ferocious waves and the clean city and the modern station.

23-6-84 Left Puri for Madras.

What a memorable experience it was with the train chugging along the coast line.

Had a good look at Chilika lake with the birds though it was past migration season.

23-6-84 Madras (Present Chennai)

Spent the day at my companion’s relatives’ place. Dysentery very bad.

24-6-84 Bangalore

Reached Bangalore by Night mail.


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Comments for Pages from a Pilgrim's Diary - Part 4

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Jun 01, 2011
by: vimala ramu

Dear Pankaja, even I was surprised at the reception recd by my informal travelogue that I feel tempted to try more, in different genres.

May 31, 2011
by: nuggehallipankaja

Vimala, I enjoyed your travelogue so much that it is with a twinge of disappointment that i write the final comment. May more flow from your facile pen soon!

May 30, 2011
by: vimala ramu

Thank YOU, Lakshmi for publishing my irreverent, informal travel log.

May 29, 2011
Thanks a lot!!
by: Lakshmi

Thanks a lot Vimala, for a free ride to the shrines of Himalayas with you through your hilarious and informative words. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey with you, like many others.

Thanks again for sharing this wonderful travelogue with iww community.

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