So many things had changed, since I had left the place. But travel, remained the same. Long, tiresome but exciting. The bus was slower than the bullock cart riding along with us. Yet, I was happy. I got to live the past again- as I crawled through the roads, the trees, the temple. But the air was new. The people were new.
Parimalgram was not some place that would go away from one’s mind- that easily. It had the life in it, that made it eternal- a cherished memory-in the minds of people who had been there. The soil, the aroma- the birds and trees- hawkers, butchers, sweet vendors- school masters. Everything about the place, had life in them.
At a certain age, in one’s life, just when we would think that the people around you are the ones who understand you perfectly, you’d actually begin to realize that they, in reality, could never understand you at all. There was always this gap in you that could never be filled. And you learn to live with it. Accepting differences- which you could never do, until a few years back!
Sometime back, I had this thought that I should visit Parimalgram with my family- show my wife where I was born- my kids- the school where I studied. When I expressed this thought to them, they would not hear one word of it!
“A village! Do you even realize how unhygienic it would be…” said my wife. I didn’t feel like arguing. My kids too, wouldn’t hear about being somewhere without T/V or A/C. But I couldn’t help it for long. So, one day, I just left. Following my heart. Seeking my destiny.
The bus came to a halt. The board was painted new. The soil was the same. I started to walk on those roads- once again. On those roads, I had left my foot prints as a boy. On them, I had dropped toffees- and had cried all the way back home. The soil reminded me of the boy who was the first to leave the place- to seek a different life- a better life. The soil, welcomed her son, home.
There were new houses. New streets. But my eyes, couldn’t wait to see the home I had lived. I lived on the third street. Everyone knew me as the “Pandit’s boy from the third street”. Will anyone recognize me now? I didn’t think so. I was now, different from what I was then. Suddenly, I heard someone call out “Oh! Pandit’s boy”! I was surprised and turned back. I saw someone calling out to a small boy about ten- who went running to answer, as soon as he heard the call.
Things had indeed changed. I was indeed a stranger who was desperately trying to see things around, the way they used to be. Trying to see the past from the present- assuring myself that I belonged there.
The thoughts had driven me to the third street- where I stood now, facing a series of houses and people, unknown. I walked past them, wondering about the changes- excited about my return. There, I could see my house. The house, where I was born, where I had uttered my first word- where my mother looked young!
Only now, it looked different. There were strangers, living in it. They took no notice of me. How long I had stood there, staring at the house- I do not know. But when I had realized that, I had started to walk.
Things change. And one must learn to accept and appreciate it. The bus was as slow as ever- and I could feel a strange emotion as I , moved away from Parimalgram. The place may have changed. The people may be different too. But the soil and the trees had recognized me. I had felt it. I traveled back to my future, carrying along the memories of my past- again, as a boy- who had left Parimalgram- to seek a new future- a new life.