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Letter to Varanasi

Dear Varanasi,

I will forever cherish the month I spent with you. I miss starting my day with a tikka being painted on my forehead; watching the sun rise from the haze; the tempting smell of the delicious street food beckoning me; getting held up by a herd of water buffalo in the street; the never-ending honking; and stumbling upon tiny temples where I least expected them. Though at first I was overwhelmed by you, I fell in love with your vibrant cacophony of sounds, tastes, smells, and sights.

Thank you for my home stay family who welcomed me into their home and family like I was one of their own. I miss my brothers—Puchu flying his kite on the roof while the sun sets, Dugu watching non-stop cartoons (espcially “Motu Patlu”), and Babu calling me “Madam ji”. I miss goofing around with my cousin-sisters—Priti trying to teach me Bollywood dance moves, Manu sinking into the mud down along the Ganges and having to use a stick to pull her out, and Iki watching Bigg Boss with me.  I am thankful to Soni ji for teaching me how to make a good cup of chai, practicing her intricate and beautiful mehndi on me, and making me delicious sabji and roti every night (also for patiently allowing me to make a roti every night even though mine were never perfect circles like hers). I am thankful to Ransu ji for teaching me how to wear a saree, sharing chai and biscuits with me every morning, and giving me well-meaning (but usually unsolicited) beauty advice. I am thankful to Rajesh ji and Rajeev ji for helping me practice my Hindi and being my self-proclaimed “LGs” (local guardians). I also miss my Dada ji and Dadi ji who would greet me with smiles in their general store every night, ask me questions about my day (which I struggled to answer in Hindi), and then pat me on my head as I left.

Thank you for my silk-weaving ISP mentor Salim ji. Though we didn’t talk much, my quiet afternoons toiling in his workshop are one of my favourite memories in Varanasi. On my walk to Salim ji’s workshop I would pass countless other little silk-weaving workshops that I would peek into searching for inspiration for new designs to try. We greeted each other with the same “Namaste”, “ap kaise hai”, and “thik hoo” every day and then would get started right away. Salim ji always sat at the door of the workshop watching the alley. When something went wrong I would call out “problem” and Salim ji would hunch over the loom and fix the threads so nimbly I couldn’t see what he had done. Though Salim ji and I only really managed to verbally communicate a few things, I will miss my quiet thoughtful afternoons with him.

Thank you Varanasi. You will always be my home away from home and I will never forget my time with you.