For one more time, I saw myself standing there. It was quiet, still and I was alone. The place was familiar, a lot familiar. I have grown up here and I knew this area by heart. But I couldn't comprehend the mystery why I failed every time. It was supposed to be there, I thought. I walked closer. It clouded more. I couldn't see clearly but I was sure it was there. And with the last step, it vanished completely. I ran again, not losing the verve. But I couldn't find the bridge, that small open bridge, which I never knew would be so important to me that I would crave to walk through it once again.
There is this tiny, little, petite part of me which yearns to go back, particularly to the years that I have spent in Kanpur. To my old junior school, to those grey colored pavements, to those big corridors and narrow aisles where we raced in the afternoon with a heavy bag on shoulders to reach first to the swings' section, to the place where that mysterious foot print on the cemented floor was, that place where one of my classmates had thrown sand in my hair. Uh! how much I hated that boy. And then there was this graveyard beside my school, and how we cooked up stories about the dead, and the small botanical garden with just one special attraction: touch-me-not plants.
Then maybe, after a while, I would visit my old home too. That calm old street, Ektapath, that's what it is called. My home, it would be where I had left it but not how I had left it. It might have shrunken by now. But the younger me, would still be embalmed cozily. And I would long to be that girl again. At one moment, she would walk past me with a piece of cloth around her big eyes and hands stretched in search for her friends and then the next moment, I would watch her trying to get to the secret room without any help. My room had a smaller room which ran up the wall adjacent to my bed. Ma used it for storing random stuff. I was short so I had to put up a chair and a stool and a shorter stool to get to that room. And yes, at times I had spunk to do it all by myself. I liked those pink walls. They were mine. Only mine.
Then a noise of laughter would snap me out of the moment. I would rush out and watch the girl playing golf with a random stick and her older brother standing nearby waiting for his turn, probably. The lemon tree would still be there, on that corner. But it might not recognize me. It might not remember how I rejoiced at the sight of so many bright, big lemons falling on wet grass whenever it rained. Neighbors dropping by our place, having an extended chat with ma (she was the charm of Ektapath) and grabbing some lemons from the garden: this had become a routine back then. We had this long stick with a hook on one of its ends. My father had designed it to reach the higher branches of the tree and get lemons by pulling them down. But Bhaiya and I cleverly utilized it as a golf stick. Thus, the game.
After quenching my thirst by replaying such beautiful episodes, I would step out and take a stroll on the old street or I would just sit on that unkempt grass of my garden. I think that would make me feel sanguinely good. That feeling of being finally back home! But what if I would just want to turn around and leave the episodes untouched, unadulterated and pure...like an abysmal part of the lost pages...like snippets of memories hanging loosely, somewhere in my mind. Just like they have always been.
I am not sure whether I'm ready for an answer yet. But I would like to know the answer, sometime. And when the time comes, I would walk through those grey pavements once again, through those narrow aisles of childhood! I would reach the fogged bridge and cross it without losing it into nothingness. I know the little girl with that piece of cloth around her eyes, may not see me but I think she would be happy to know that I am her older self. And maybe a little proud too.