Monday, October 16, 2006

छोड़ आये हम वो गलियां...

Bhopal was so hot in September. A lot of heartache was prevented because it was impossible to step out as all of us were in the grip of flu. I had a reason to not do what I wanted to. I did not meet anyone I wanted to. There is peace in this state. To imagine them to be warm and eager, to dream that memories of me would be as fresh in their mind’s eye and as precious (Blog entry:Beeti hui batiyan koi dohraye, bhoole hue naamon se koi to bulaye…)

2, Shyamala Hills, our home for as long back as I can remember and which we left in the summer of ‘84 lies derelict. The moment we approached the rickety gate, I noticed a long snake stretched from one end to the other. At a tap, it swiftly flew into the waist-length grass. The sound of beings that dwell in the thick and humid undergrowth in jungles was all that could be heard. The house looked unoccupied (unlived?).

The garden of course is only undergrowth now. Difficult to imagine the garden we took so much pride in. The manicured lawns daintily edged with multi-colored dahlias, gerberas in winter and with the fragrant mogra in summer. Winter afternoons spent sunning in the lawn munching on guavas from the several trees around and sugarcane that bordered the south edge of the garden. Summer evenings sipping squash in the cane chairs that dug into the just-watered lawns.

The ber-ka-ped (berry tree). An entire childhood spent on the tree.

At a comfortable fork about 6 feet from the ground was my perch. I read Champak to Jane Eyre there. The fact that this seat was also in line with the dinning room window allowed me to get my food and water without having to come down and kept me in touch with the goings on inside the house, so important when you have three elder sisters!

Neither the moss covered walls nor the unkempt garden saddened me as much as the closed windows. Home was where when I returned after an altercation with a friend or a difficult exam, the sight of mummy’s pink lace curtains billowing out of the downstairs windows conveyed instant comfort. Ours was literally an ‘open house’. People walked in and out unannounced all day. Staff and students from college, our friends and neighbors - anyone. No body was not important enough to have a little chat with - the postman Allaudin, the fruit seller whom we called kelewala (banana seller) in winter and amroodwala (guava seller) in summer, the sweeper Balla ki biwi (Balla’s wife) and the bread and eggs seller, Munne mian.

The house was damp and musty inside. When I opened the door to the terrace a big, dark lizard fell on the mossy, cracking floor. From the lattice at the staircase landing, I could see the mango and the fig trees (first blog entry – Bargad Tree) crowding over the backyard. It felt too dangerous to go there.

Now the questions. Would I have been happier to see it in its lost glory? To see some children up the trees, to smell the aroma of dahi-wada and mutter paneer coming from the kitchen, to see some man typing away furiously at the window upstairs? I would have hated it. I would have grudged them these pleasures. I would have wanted it all back from them. They were mine, ours. But now, they were nobody’s. I think I got a sadistic pleasure from it just being fit for pictures to show around.