City of Joy

It seems there really are only three ways out of Varanasi – Kathmandu, Delhi or Death. But after many failed attempts to purchase train tickets I went back to the searching of plane and train routes and I found one more – Kolkata.

The City of Joy.

Trips are a lot like relationships. You have expectations, there are specific things you have in mind, there are sometimes things you need to do along the way and it all gets very complicated very quickly. Especially if it is a place you have never been to before. I have travel plenty and that provides you with a certain set of skills which can come in handy in many places. But it doesn’t mean you are going to be an expert the first time you travel to a new place.

Yes, this trip is a lot like a relationship. I have to please other people, I have to be true to my own desires, I have to work within limits, I have to reach out and learn new things and I have to depend on others. When I couldn’t finalize my tickets to Jaipur and was faced with changing my trip around I had contemplated changing every thing and starting over fresh. A whole new trip, in essence. I was second guessing everything, including going to Varanasi, even though I already had a ticket from Delhi.

What I decided to do was rely on my initial feelings although, at the time, it seemed like an impossible task. I fell in love with the idea of Varanasi, much like JJ was smitten with the idea of me. Along the way, as people questioned why I would want to go there (as people questioned me about him), as I ran into logistical issue (as we did), as I gained more knowledge about the reality of the place I had chosen (as we had), I got a little scared (as he and I both did).

I went through all the logic about why I shouldn’t go, about what could happen (or not), about the logistics, the cost, the trouble and I decided that what really mattered the most was that I remain true to my initial feelings even though they had faded at this point. Whether it is a complete disaster and I get bedbugs, skin diseases, lost, mugged or if it just smells really bad, it doesn’t matter. It might be frightening to contemplate all those things, but I trust in my ability to deal. I will never know what joy or wonder or challenges I missed unless I commit to the trip. In the end, I trust my original intuition about both Varanasi and JJ.

More importantly, what being persistent and remaining true to my original feelings did was open another door. A door to Kolkata. This is the home of Rabindrath Tagore and Mother Theresa; hub of the East India Company; the end of the Ganges Plain; the mythic dwelling place of Kali and a myriad of other things I have yet to discover. Things I had not even considered when I first started planning.

“K,” my friend said to me as we finished booking our tickets,”The Beatles went to India and came back changed men. You’d better come back from India a changed woman.”

“Why? Don’t you like me the way I am?” I asked, with a wink.

“Oh, sure. Sure. But if it doesn’t change you, then what’s the point?”


Then we celebrated with a very spicy zucchini subzi – here is a recipe from


500 Grams Zucchini
2 Teaspoons Garlic Paste
2 Teaspoons Ginger Paste
1 Teaspoon Green Chilli Paste
1 Medium Finely Chopped Onion
1 Medium Diced Fresh Tomato or
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
0.5 Cup Cooking Oil

Dry Spices

1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds/ Zeera
2 Teaspoons Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder (Haldi)
2 Teaspoons Coriander Powder
Salt to taste


2 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Coriander leaves

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