Translated by Rizwan Shaik
I didn’t want to destroy the beautiful memories I had of those houses. I never wished to return to the altered rooms, doors, frames.
Though I live alone in big cities, I never remember my home. If I do remember anything it is the rented houses that had once been my home. There is always the hope of returning home, but what is not ours, can we ever dream of returning there?
This morning, people living in a house down the street are moving. There is a lot of hectic activity as packers and movers load the luggage onto the trucks. In a moment, they will wheel this family away, leaving neighbours, the street and the house behind. People whose jobs involve frequent transfers don’t get the opportunity to grow their roots. Who knows when a transfer order comes, and you have to leave it all behind! And you are whisked away, to an unfamiliar city!
When Papa said, “Transfer orders have come” for the first time, I realized what “leaving behind” was. I was in the fifth grade. I was beginning to understand that “leaving behind ” meant that I could never return. I had seen many schoolmates leave abruptly. My siblings were sad when they realized that we had to go, too. Mother had sung many praises of the new place, but we did not buy it. This new place was as strange to me as the books of new classes are. I have never been able to befriend new books. At the beginning of the academic year, I would flip the pages of old books, absently caressing the old pencil drawings of flowers and leaves.
The date of the shift was fast approaching. Papa and Mummy began packing household items. They would tie a little bit of their hearts with each bundle, every day. Women from the neighbourhood were visiting us more often these days. While leaving for office in the morning, Papa would say, “It’s going to be late. I’m going to meet a couple of friends.”
He’ll miss his friends, naturally, just like me! When, while playing on the terrace, my friends would ask, “We hope you’re not going to forget us?” I would simply nod my head, unable to say a word, furiously trying to control my tears. Then all my friends would hug me.
They often appear in my dreams, and I reply, “I have not forgotten you at all. I remember playing hopscotch on the roof. Neither have I forgotten the fun of stealing pickle on summer afternoons. Nor have I forgotten shouting ‘Jai Mata di’ while eating Kanjak with you. I still have dreams in which we are merrily dancing along in the doll’s wedding procession.”
I try to play, shout, and dance once again, but I’m unable to do any of those things anymore. There’s a little emptiness, like the vacant house that I left behind.
The ease with which these rented houses become our homes is unimaginable! And they stay like that, until it’s time to leave. While I was going, I saw our home turn into a house again. The living room and bedroom transformed into ordinary places. As if it was the turn of the other actors on the stage after the conclusion of our performance.
I was overwhelmed when our luggage was being loaded onto the truck on the morning of departure. I was anxiously thinking, “Can we not take this house along with the luggage?” I came back to see it for the last time when Ma and Papa were meeting everyone. It appeared to be very desolate. Newspapers with frayed edges that fell out of the cupboard were lying on the floor. All that remained were the marks left behind by the picture frames and the small holes where the nails had been. There was a time-table stuck in front of the study table. A small tile- cleaning brush next to the kitchen sink and an old mirror in front of the bathroom. Ma said, “We will buy new ones at the new place,” and left these items behind.
This mirror must have seen us leave, and maybe it would have seen others arrive as well. A new family would probably have turned the house back into a home. They may have hung new pictures on those nails, spread new papers in the cupboard, and probably pasted another time- table in front of the study table. In time, as much as the house had become theirs, it would have become equally alien to us.
Whether it’s relationships or homes, they seem distant as soon as you leave. Because of this fear, I’ve never visited any of those rented houses. I did meet a few friends from the neighbourhood but never visited those terraces. I didn’t want to destroy the beautiful memories I had of those houses. I never wished to return to the altered rooms, doors, frames.
How can we ever think of returning to what never really belonged to us? And what is truly ours is within us, where it will always be in the form of beautiful memories.
Photo by form PxHere