A clunky metallic sound echoed in the abandoned shed…
My stay at home has been transient ever since I left for my intermediate studies, then for college and now work. I have been to tons of different places all over the country since then, so much so that I forgot what the comfort of my home felt like. Obviously, counting my stupid stupid decision of not visiting home for one and half years would be the top factor. Have I written about that before?
Oh man! It was tough, to say the least. After my winter break in the junior year when I was about to leave my home, I said to my mother that the next time I come back, I would have achieved something significant. I was filled with a sense of purpose – my junior year internship was coming up (which I had yet to find) and then the placement seasons would begin. There was also this startup idea I had been keeping aside for years – all the real deal.
Melancholy started to dawn on me during the summers when the hostel was once again filled with silence and I was one of the few who had stayed back. Once again, I was bitten by the only thing I have been running away all my life. Things did improve afterward and that period proved to be transformative in a big way.
Anyway, the time was never succinct to relive those old memories. Home became more of a halt for the onward journey. I was rushing, for one there were always those projects to complete and secondly, now that I had seen a different world, enjoyed the change of scenery and
tasted different food (home food is the best), how could I be tied down to this old place? Amazing, how quickly you come to your senses in your 20s.
For 6 years, it has rested at this place.
I removed the sheet half-covering it and took a quick glance of its overall health.
It is covered in dust, tied in cobwebs, eroding in rust. The tires have gone flat – probably because the air leaked over time. Brakes are working fine but the chain has come off, so I put it on. After washing and greasing, the ride of my choice is ready for a round around my hometown.
It’s Sunday afternoon – my favorite time for a stroll. The sun overhead is signaling somewhere around midday. The dogs are catching their breath, perspiring through their tongue on this autumnal weather. People sitting on the chairs, soaking, basking in this comforting noon, reading newspapers. There aren’t any dumper trucks on the road, so I’m not worried about the dust. It’s not a little thing I’m making a fuss about – my hometown is surrounded by coal mines, so dust is a serious problem here.
At home, maa is finishing her daily chores and papa is in the garden – his favorite pass time activity on Sundays. He has asked me to pick up some flowering plants from the market. Things are moving slowly here as if coming to a halt. There is no commotion, no traffic noise, no shouting people and no loudspeaker blasting gibberish in the air. In fact, this part of the world has never been in a rush anyway.
I take my bicycle out of the door and do a quick trial runs – you know, just going some distance, then taking a turn, coming back to where you started and then taking the turn again to go the same spot where you had turned. It’s circle but elongated. Umm…I would say more like a rounded rectangle if you really want to visualize it. One final turn and then I am off.
Disclaimer – Minor bumps are ubiquitous here especially on the streets so I would omit that throughout. Although, you should know that they are there nonetheless.
The whirling wheels, rubber tires rubbing against the concrete road and, chains hitting those gear teeth on the push of the paddles…
The houses on both sides don’t go beyond two floors. They rarely have a terrace. Some are more like huts but these old cottages feel so refreshing today. Ah! how I got accustomed to the buildings & skyscrapers so fast. There are a lot of turns, one lane merging into another until you come out of the main road. On the way, I pass through the home of my once ‘best friend‘ whom I haven’t seen in years. I have moved on from a lot of people I had held dearly in some phase of my life and people have done the same to me as well. It took me some time but I have made peace with this fact now.
All the shops are on the other side of the road. From what I remember, not much has changed. Yeah, one general store in front has converted into a xerox shop, although I still prefer the old one, few meters away on the left. Beside that, is the old saloon. The barber identified me at once when I went there last Sunday. In this tiny town, identity is not something you keep to your own. Everyone knows everyone else.
You can never miss the fleet of snacks vendors on the pushcarts – samosa, jalebi, pakode, panipuri, chaat, cutlets – all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies being made and sold on the street. There has been a significant increase in their numbers lately and that means more options & better quality for us. It’s still afternoon so they are preparing their materials in advance for the evening when the whole place would be swept off with people for Sunday market.
I move further towards the old temple – one of many like everywhere in this country. It has always been the same and occasional renovations haven’t brought much change. The same old priest, after the morning offerings, is now sitting on the doorstep reading his scriptures. The air here is more fragrant because of all the incense sticks and flowers. Housewives usually visit the temple after they have finished their domestic chores.
I see the florist casually sprinkling water on the plants to keep them fresh. He keeps a display of all kinds of seeds, saplings, some plants with flowers blossoming. I picked marigold and jasmine for my garden and he delicately put it in a wrapper. There is more to this stretch but it would be a mere repetition of the elements I have already told you about. Instead, let me take you further down the main road which I had crossed earlier.
It’s the one which brings me to home from the city’s railway station. That side of the road has been traversed countless times but the other side has equally been trodden in the past. If you keep driving on this road for 4km and not take a turn anywhere, you would ultimately reach my school. This part has seen my morning rush and the afternoon panting and I have seen it changing from calm to chaos. Over a thousand trips of those uneven terrains which somehow always felt like having more ups than downs. Gravity played with us within and outside classrooms.
Somehow, I was always late for school. Even in exams. Then I went to college and there I was late for my classes too – early morning, afternoon, evening or even night classes. I joined work and I started going late there as well and I will tell you why. I was never late on the first day or even the second or even a few days after, for that matter. It takes some time to gauge how much I could push the official mark for a troublefree inclusion. I have always felt guilty to slip into this habit and reprimanded myself, after all, punctuality is a good trait to have. But in all rationality, you are late for things not because you are always at fault but also because that thing doesn’t truly draw you towards it. You are not excited enough to actually want it ahead of time.
If there are vehicles on the road, it has to have service shops, right? For me, it was that tiny bicycle shop – basically a hut where a weary mechanic would sit in his dirty grey shirt mending bicycles the entire day. No companion, no distraction and no regard to the traffic on the road, it was only him playing with his tools. I sometimes used to halt there to fill in my bicycle tires. It was harsh and really not an enjoyable addition to my already short breath.
The bank is a little further down on the other side of the road while the post-office is on the lane beside the bicycle shop – two of my frequently visited destinations apart from school. I actually went to the post-office on Friday as well. It was in the same desolate state – same letterbox, same counter and the same people on the other side. Bank was a bit critical in a sense there isn’t any designated place to park my bicycle. It is literally on the side of the road, always filled with people, so I had to be in the line and also be on the lookout for my bicycle.
There is a shortcut to my home from the bank. Remember, I went the market way earlier and then took the road and visited the bicycle shop? Well, the journey goes full circle from here. This time, it runs through the park on one side and a big playground on the other (the only one we have got here). The park is just for the namesake because it’s tiny, one half of it is filled with trees and no one really visit there. There is a pool in the middle which doesn’t have water and is now filled with stones. Its circumference is grazed by plum trees whose branches overhang on the boulevard.
I used to play cricket here – a sport which I don’t follow at all now but is basically considered a religion in India. Every Sunday after 11AM, sneaking past angry glances of my father, I was there inebriated on the spirit of this awesome sport, intoxicated on the mere taught of winning the bet of a meager sum. It was enough for us. Playing with a different set of people every week whom I hardly knew – childhood didn’t know how to act like strangers. I had to be back by 12:30 so as to not arouse suspicion.
On the other side, the big ground is where the adults played. We couldn’t have played there if they were playing, so we played in the park. Corporate tournaments happen here sometimes. The only Annual Sports Meet I remember about my primary school happened here as well. Today, no one is playing there. It’s all empty. Well, things had started changing when I was in middle school. People started moving out for education and jobs like I did while new kids were hardly keen on physical sports. Maybe some are but they are not to be seen today. Anyway, I had all the time to ride around the perimeter once and then I was on my way home.
Ooh! one little geeky thing – you see, when you drive past the park with enough speed, the air that reaches to your ear through the fences (or the slots in the boundary wall) would make a strange sound due to differential stream. It’s like beat (interference pattern due to two sounds of different frequencies interacting with each other) which always fascinated me. I still haven’t found a proper explanation for that sound and this is the closest I could get from what I have studied.
Now that I live in different places, people often ask me where I am from. All I tell them is the name of the city and never this part of my homeland. How much I wish I could show them this.
Song Highlight –
Kid Francescoli is an electro-pop music project of French origin. I first came to know about it when Casey Neistat used one of its songs at the end of his vlog. I was instantly hooked to that tune and searched for it online. I have come across plenty of amazing music videos and this one stands out even among them. As a person who sometimes dabbles into graphic design, a similar aesthetic being used in a music video certainly gripped my attention.