Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hiraeth (n.):

Homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past. (Welsh)

Apart from the dirt and garbage all around, everything about the city was deeply altered by time. Five years old flyovers which appeared aged and used, shopping arcades where nothing existed, open spaces taken over by cramped up shops and houses and apartments instead of friendly houses and gardens. My sense of distances, still threaded with the experience back then of the languorous pace of cycle rickshaws got a jolt when we reached an hour’s distance in just 20 minutes.

When the flight landed, my feeling of anticipation of seeing the city after 23 years got muddled up with my sense of identity. Was I here as an outsider who had once called the city home or despite the years, I still belonged to this place? Streets and colonies went past in a blur as I struggled to find and recognize the familiar geography of childhood. Senses were overloaded with the transformation to even recollect those innocent fun-filled days. Till I reached my school.

As I walked down the path leading to the main gate and overlooking Mother Mary’s statue, my pace slowed down. The school was exactly how it was so many years ago and like waves the memories came crashing. Memories and nostalgia of a carefree world which I had put inside a box and kept sealed. I asked the gatekeeper if I could go in as the school was shut that day. Something in my face must have softened him as he allowed me in. As I walked down all the familiar areas, somehow I felt taller and bigger and the school smaller. Life has played out its many chapters since then and this is where it all started, this is where my character began to take shape. When a knot began forming in my throat and my heart got heavier, I decided to turn back.

The house where I had spent the best decade of my childhood and the one which still comes in my dreams sometime, has been razed to the ground. The garden which I had so loved was a concrete area waiting to metamorphose into another cold apartment building. The orchard and the pond where we had spent thousands of happy afternoons, was now only a part of my memory. There was nothing left in this mohalla which I could remember or call as home.

Disappointment. Sadness. And a realization that there is no coming back, and the fact that this home was also temporary.