It was coming back from an uneventful day trip to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sarnath that a beautiful thing happened. I cram into a shared Vikrams to get back to Varanasi and get unceremoniously dumped somewhere in the suburbs. Hopelessly lost I grab a cycle rickshaw hoping it will take me the rest of the way back to my guest house at Manikarnika Ghats. The rickshaw stops me at the choked up Godaulia Junction and goes no further, the puller points at a police blockade and says he can not pass.
Grumbling I look around and decide that in order for me not to get hopelessly lost I had better make it to the river bank and follow it north to my ghat.
I make it to Dasawamedh Ghat as it gets dark, and get a pleasant surprise! I was blessed with being led very unexpectedly to the nightly Ganga Aarti ceremony at the ghat. It was a beautiful Aarti, the crowds hemmed in on the priests on all sides. The river itself was choked up with so many boatfuls of tourists one could not tell where the ghat ended and the river started.
Yes I am warming up to Varanasi now. The streets do not look as hostile or filthy as before, and I take less wrong turns to get to my destinations now in the old part of town (XD).
This morning I awoke early enough to bring my puja set to Schindia Ghat. A puja to my beloved Master at such a holy location would surely honor him. There were many stares, of course, and a large portion came from Brahmins, whom I knew would listen in on my Sanskrit chanting with hyper-critical ears. But my devotion to Master won over my shyness this day.
"Master sometimes I feel that there is only you and I, and that nobody else exists," a devotee once said to my Master. "That is Truth," Paramahamsa Nithyananda replied, "But keep seeking for the even greater truth that ONLY you exist."
I kept that in my mind as I began my puja. When the all familiar stirrings of my Ananda Gandha began, the people around me receded. When I finished the puja, a boatman that was sitting near me actually offered me his boat to do puja in for free, the next time I feel like doing one!
Yes I am definitely warming up to this holy city.