She was walking back and forth the East Car Street searching the AVT [Anand Vinayaka Temple]. The Street was not dormant as it did decades back. The somnolent street had now metamorphosed into a main thorough-fare… a hub of trading activities. Falling into a maze of grand structures and skyscrapers, it had changed itself beyond recognition.
‘May I help you Thaye [mother]? You seem searching for something here,’ she heard a beggar’s voice from the entrance to a mall.
‘Anand Vinayaka Temple’, she replied, looked up morosely at the beggar; her eyes were still scanning the street for the temple.
‘Anand Vinayaka Temple’! The beggar exclaimed, his voice drawled, eyes became somber. After a long pause, he said: ‘Thaye, you can’t see the temple. It was demolished years back, razed down to widen the road. They are keeping the Vinayaka idol in another temple.’ He paused again and asked her: ‘Where’re you staying, Thaye?’
‘Minerva Hotel,’ her voice trailed off, she stood frozen with shock and bewilderment.
‘OMG! That was the hotel built on the debris of the AVT.’ The beggar now looked deeply into her eyes. ‘Aren’t you then staying over the erstwhile abode of a god?’ the beggar now laughed impishly and moved away from her in quick steps.
She stood flabbergasted, felt a sense of guiltiness squeezing her heart. A quick flurry of thoughts numbed her body, and a broken mind told her that she had committed a sin by staying a place which was once her Vinayaka temple. She wasted no time, retreated to the hotel, checked out hurriedly and deposited herself in a cheap lodging house.
A crimson ball, the sun was calling it quits and slipping into the sea when she reached the seashore. Earlier, she didn’t choose the straight road to the coastal area, but preferred to walk down to the seashore through narrow lanes and alleys, which were very familiar to her and they still had the print of her feet in tact. While walking, she could discern that the whole town was breathing a new air of change and development. Even its lanes and alleys did not reflect even the vestiges of the glorious past. A becoming, and high-profile town, it had the waves of development lashing at it constantly, making bonfires of all the cherished old monuments like the AVT.
The seashore too was not at its old splendor. She saw the sea had rebounded a few yards from the shore and the reason was the recent Tsunami. The sea with its foam crusted waves was no longer the old green canvas, it had turned grey, having got itself bedraggled by the effluents that were being pumped into it by those industries mushroomed all over the town.
She retreated to the town piecing together a breaking mind; betook herself to the places which, she faintly hoped, would retain its old ambiance and charm- where she could happily hug her past. People she saw and met on the roads looked strange with no homely airs. They seemed to have no belongingness to the town where they were eking out their livelihood. The ongoing industrial development, she realized with a tinge of regret, must have brought people to the town from far and near. She heard a medley of dialects spoken around her and found the local culture unabashedly sleeping with the alien one.
She went to the area where her house was once located, but couldn’t meet a single known soul over there. When she asked an old man about the whereabouts of those who were residing there once, he curtly told her to look out for them in the cemetery. When she got onto the side of her old school, it wasn’t there having had the fate meted out to the AVT. A grand multiplex stood elegantly over the place which was once her school. For the first time she felt like a stranger in her home town.
Mid-night. Dark-hewn Universe fell into an abyss of silence. She looked out through the window from her suit. The town was dazzling and glittering, invaded by floods of lights. She was crestfallen. Her disoriented mind was in revolt not being able to find out her roots and kiss her past. She took out her laptop from its sleeve, sent a mail to her husband:
am today winding up my trip here. i do it with reluctance and regret. the town is not mine. it had long back stumbled into a sort of anarchy after swallowing up all the old monuments, old tranquility and the social atmosphere. The erstwhile mellowed, magnificent face of my home town is not found anywhere. it seems to be an evolving city, fully commercialized; its contours not in place. in this wild jungle of modernity, am like a mother lost her child in kumbh mela.
i came here to embrace my past. but, this town, built on the debris of old heritage, has no past; it cherishes only in its present and dreams about more future anarchy. briefly, i feel i don’t belong here. the town can never be my own. it had razed down my moorings and dreams. i won’t come here again. i know that the only way i will ever see it is in my memory.
bye darling. tc. convey my ‘hi’ to mom and kids,
The Chennai-bound bus moved slowly out of its bay, would bounce forward only when reaching the National High Way. It was not crowded, having a few passengers on its board. ‘Who, the moron, would undertake a bus journey and that too for sixteen hours on end under the scorching sun’, she thought. Reclining on her seat comfortably and resting her head on the head-rest, she closed her eyes, determined not take even a last glimpse of the monster town, once her paradise.
She could only close her eyes, but, pitifully, not able to blink away her tears.
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