As the 10 of us are comfortably cramped at a table made to seat 5, we realize occupying this table for almost four hours in a cafe with limited seating, might not be best. And even though we were leaving an ideal Uno playing table, and quick access to the best iced mochas, we knew Varanasi was waiting to show us more.
And so, with that, Riley began to direct us to our next destination; Brown Bread Bakery. We walked down the Ghats, past the first Burning Ghats, past the Kedar temple, and climbed countless stairs until finally we were all sweating our body weight. The thick and polluted humid hair hung in a grey smog over the Ganga, making the air stick to our sweaty skin like tissue paper to a wet surface. We were eager for a cool place to sit.
Though, not soon enough, we finally spot the large red case of stairs signifying we had finally made it. There the cafe sat, atop the red steps. But alas, the bakery rooftop cafe was inevitably full and we were forced to go back out into the humid air and find a new place to drape our sweaty bodies. Luckily, directly across the alley lay a small, quaint, less crowded, more staired rooftop cafe. It was fate. And so, we trekked up the countless stairs until we saw the small sweat lodge planted in the center of the roof that took the title of a cafe. The shack was covered in bamboo casting a sunlit leaked shadow atmosphere inside with small purple mattress’ lining the walls and center tables, and most importantly the fake plants melting in the hot sun.
We all begin to take our shoes off understanding the unspoken agreement that the sweat lodge was better than more stairs. As we step in, and our eyes adjust to the new, darker lighting, we immediately see a group of six sitting in the corner, looking drained and exhausted. We figured we couldn’t look much different than they.
We all collapsed onto the mattresses, our bodies sticking to any hard cool surface. We immediately begin to fan ourselves with the menus in sync. Soon the owner and waiters come in and immediately notice our deflated overheating bodies and run out. A moment later 3 young men come in carrying what look to be large AC units. The group waits to see what happens next. As we watch with curiosity and contempts the three boys simultaneously lug the cords into the outlets, and before we can even swallow the dry lump that was formed in our throats, the sweat on our faces and necks begin to evaporate under the cool breeze thats now being blown onto us. The 10 of us burst into a unified cheer, grateful for the waiters and their unspoken understanding of our discomfort.
As our evening continues we order pizza, cake, pasta, lassi’s, ice tea and more. Our cooled bodies sit in a circle sharing laugh and stories. The evening has carried us through the humid and hot Varanasi, but our stomachs are full and our hearts are happy. Ye sundar hai.