Religion is a very funny thing. It brings people together, tears them apart, elevates some and buries some. Religion has always made me uncomfortable and if you ask me my religion, I’m probably just gonna say…Food. My birth certificate might say Hindu but I’m happiest on Christmas or maybe on my Iftaar walks during Ramzan. Stuff like Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi have gained importance post marriage and that also honestly is because of the yumm food more than anything else.
So the mother and I went on a short trip to Agra (don’t ask why…Taj Mahal Duh!!!) And we thought that since Mathura and Vrindavan are close by, we might as well do a day trip to these two holy places. Me being me, started looking at places to eat in Mathura and actually did not bother with Places to see in Mathura. Uff Glutton me! As a result we completely missed the point that all places to see, i.e. Temples and more temples are shut from 12 to 4:30. Our Gods must be Odia’s, you see we can’t do without our afternoon siesta. We took a UP road transport bus from Agra and reached Mathura bypass at around 12:30 pm. An auto guy agreed to take us through Mathura, Vrindavan and Gokul for 500 bucks which we thought was reasonable. I know my Mahabharat very well thanks to Shri. B.R Chopra, and the trip to Gokul felt like I was on the sets of Mahabharata. Like any temple town, the moment we got off from the auto, we were hounded by the pandits who wanted to be paid for a tour of the city. They can be quite persistent and that gets my goat. One man then accused us of not respecting Brahmins. That was such a frustrating moment and I have no idea how I controlled my temper. While walking through this quaint town another Brahmin said it did not make sense to walk around without a guide and asked for 51/- Rupees as dakshina, which seemed fine. The he starts talking about the town where Shri Krishna spent his childhood with Yashoda. So this town has a population of 6000 people, all Hindus, not a single Muslim, no one eats onion garlic here and even a single egg has not entered this village. That was my cue to zone out! People seem to survive on milk and milk products the whole time..Bah too boring. The mothership was quite excited to see the land where Krishna played and there was some jhoola (swing ) you can pull to fulfills your wishes.
After a short tour of Gokul we walked back to our auto and man has disappeared. he comes after a while and then we get into a fight because now he realized that all temples in Mathura and Vrindavan are shut till 4:30 and he obviously cannot wait that long. We had a big fight with him and asked him to drop us at Vrindavan. He chose a random temple somewhere and said get off here and pay my money. The mother rose to the occasion and said no, drop us at the Prem Temple. He dropped us and mother paid him 250, since he had fulfilled half of his deal. The man said “Aap yahaan paap karne aaye hain kya?” (Have you come here to commit a crime? Thankfully he drove away without creating a ruckus. I am going to be very honest and state I did not enjoy Mathura and Vrindavan. Some places of worship make you feel good irrespective of your faith. Vrindavan made me feel claustrophobic. Almost as if the people there were holding this chain called religion to strangle your neck.
We roamed around a bit more, Krishna Janmabhoomi and et al. and then I wanted t go to Vishram Ghat, the place where Krishna rested after killing his uncle Kansa or something like that. I have not been to Varanasi but have always been in awe of the ghats there and was hoping Vishram Ghat will be similar. Infact they do a Yamuna Aarti there which I missed. But what happened at this Ghat, changed my life. The ghat is beautiful, it really is. We reached there at sundown and surprisingly the place where we got off was a little desolate. We started walking towards the river and got followed by a man offering guide services. He persisted for the longest time and kept on yapping. Thankfully he buzzed off before I shouted at him.
We took a flight of stairs and got on to the ghat and the sight was breathtaking. There was nobody there, the sun had set and the moon was rising. I was mesmerized and just had to click a picture, damn this #instagram obsessed generation! My mother dissuaded me and said don’t take out your phone. Well I am Miss Know-it-all, so asked her not to worry, it will be fine. My mother sat down on the parapet. I clicked this picture and then turned around to click photos of the Yamuna.
I was focusing on the lovely river and the colourful boats wobbling on it when I felt a pair of hands hit me hard on my back. I shouted and kept my phone in my bag bracing for the fight ahead. If you are wondering who hit me, don’t worry it was not my mother, it was my ancestor- a monkey who decided I was intruding his/her space and wanted to teach me a lesson. My mother’s reflexes turned out to be faster than mine and she walked out the moment she heard me shriek. Soon after when I decided to calmly walk to the exit, an entire battalion of 8 to 10 monkeys came out of nowhere and gheraoed me. Since corruption is in our blood, I thought the only way to appease these babus is by bribing them. Sadly all I had was a bottle of mineral water in my bag, which I placed down as means of truce. The monkeys were not impressed. I’m sure they must have said “Itney se Hamara kya hoga!” One of them caught hold of my leg. By this time I was shitting bricks and had already seen Yama arrive on his buffalo to take me with him. The Yamuna was a few steps away, so I was thinking that I will get a water grave, or no grave actually since the moneys would anyway tear me down completely. The only thing I could do was shout ‘Bachao Bachao’ at the top of my voice. Good old Bollywood always comes to my rescue, though I had never imagined I would get to use this line. Mind you the place was absolutely empty and this damsel in distress had no hopes of being rescued. One priest emerged from the little door of the temple and another man walked in. My mother claims these men appeared because she was praying for help. On seeing this man, the monkeys let go of me and just like the Red sea parted for Moses to cross, these Monkeys stood in two parallel lines like we had to stand in school for assembly. The man said, “Jao beti yeh kuch nahin karengey” and that was my cue to start walking. Ram Ram Ram Ram Mara Mara Mara Mara and out of the clutches of those primates. I did not even thank my saviour and ran as fast as I could once I reached safe ground. Took the first rickshaw we spotted and got the hell out of there straight to the bus stand. While I was standing there envisaging my end, my mother stood transfixed at a distance witnessing her future if the monkeys had managed to devour me. She had decided to stay back here in Mathura, shave her head, tatoo Radhey Radhey on her cheeks and roam around the streets like a mendicant. One thing is clear, even in the time of adversity our visions are very clear. Our thoughts are absolutely lucid. I guess it runs in the genes. I officially christened my mother Rannchhod, not because it was Aamir’s character name in 3 Idiots, but because she left the battle ground and ran away. Her prayers did work else I would not be writing this piece. Coincidentally Lord Krishna was given the title Rannchhod by Jarasandha when he with his entire clan escaped to Dwarka from Mathura to prevent a war. I also escaped from Mathura and hoped I never have to come back to this place. My heartbeat still shoots up when I think of Monkeygate. My mother and I are eternally grateful to the gentleman who saved me. And dear Monkeys, it is ok, I forgive you. I am now mortified by your sight but no hard feelings mate…it’s all good.