Took the morning HRTC roadway Bus, a packet of plum cake and a carton of juice. I took the window seat, the monsoon had shown some much needed mercy on Delhi last year. The highway painted neat blue, black and green, the air was of course breezy hence I did not mind giving up on a fancy Volvo Bus. By the time I reached Shimla I had already started puking with nausea and before it could get worse I thanked my luck, the bus finally slowed down at the ISBT parking. I was trying to map the old and the new bus stand to reach Sanjauli in the hustle bustle of the market dressed in the glee of flickering white and yellow lights, the smell of brewing chai and the scent of tall pines sprayed in between. Whistle of the bus conductors aggressively beating their hand on the door of the buses calling out people to hop on triggering a sense of urgency. The aura galvanising my senses; smell, sound, sight, taste. Well I managed to find the blue bus which was supposed to take me to my destination.
I found myself a comfortable seat whilst envying my friend for having been brought up around such aesthetics, lost into what my eyes saw profoundly. I marvelled at the sun, the dingy crooked houses standing tall like a huge canvas balancing itself in difficulty.
1 2 3 turn
Plum bedecked cheeks.
1 2 3 turn
Forbidden property rights
1 2 3 turn
1 2 3 turn
Purple woven sweater
“She would not let me enter her house. I wonder how even a glass of water belittled my relationship with her. I believed she was my best friend hence I did not pay much attention at all. I knew my family was denied entry into few temples and have been treated differently at various places and situations but I wasn’t mindful of the tension sparking between me and my friend. Sometimes things too close to the eye seem invisible.”
And I travelled back to the gelid air of Sanjauli. I looked for my friend and we hugged and jumped around.
“Please don’t mind I have an extremely small house”
A two storeyed small house painted with dull blue colour, subservient to hyperborean Himalayas and history. Black neatly slated roof with a perfectly positioned flue. Small framed windows feting sharp meshed strands of sunlight. Bloated bedewed dark brown wooden railing. Smell of moist pines assorted with the vapour of hot yellow daal.
I quickly fancied the image of her house vividly sketching the architecture as she told me apologetically. We descended the hill forking to a bend on the road, stood a massive WELL-BUILT house. I was heart broken. It was nowhere close to the idea I had sketched of her “small little habitation”.
Her ‘two storeyed house’ was affably built,and neatly painted in red and yellow.
“She lost a lakh rupee to the builder as he left deceitfully. After father died Mom was denied the share of property, hence she started from the scratch. These events took place while she was pregnant for the third time with Vivek and I was a toddler myself. She would run for her work whilst I cried back with the babysitter. Aaya would hit me after mom was gone and would not let me have the milk stored for us, she would rather have it for herself and mix wheat flour with water and make me drink it. And Mom? Well she oscillated between family and econometrics of life.”
I stood staring at the door anticipating how Aunty’s features must be like, butter tracing her in the purple woven sweater and mustard head scarf akin to the picture Anchal showed me once. She had been waiting for us and I was delighted to see her. She looked frail and my virtual sketch of her face did not match the body I looked at.
“I used to walk more than 10 kms a day when I was young. I could carry 10kgs of ration home on my back. But it hurts now, I am getting old. I was struggling to bring up my baby brother. He was studying MBBS and is well established in his profesion. It wasn’t just my responsibility being the elder one to support him it was because I loved him and I wanted to see him progress. He stays 2 house away now, but after his marriage he does not bother to talk to me or ask about my well-being.”
Gurdd gurdd gurdd gurdd!! Borborygmi demanded to be soothed and I couldn’t think less about eating. Whilst we had been readying the ingredients for Patird and Siddu (Himachal cuisine) Aunty served us with red slurpy hot rajma (red beans) chawal (rice) with Achaar and a good glass of buttermilk. I could see Anchal conscious about whether she could stand up to the perfections of good hospitality. I was tickled to see her unusual composed conduct and my focus divided between her and the food.
“They would not have lunch with me. Since I do not belong to the so-called upper caste I was made to borderline exile during the lunch hours, the ‘General’ people did not like me anywhere close to their tiffins. I wouldn’t dare take water from them or taste their food. I was depressed I came back home and cried and this went on for long before I accepted the situation. How does it matter? And for how long can it bother me? I needed company to share my lunch with and what caste standards are they thinking about?! Caste over humanity is their idea of society, they bring it in anything and everything. I started having my lunch with the housekeepers they are humans, I was in peace besides they were extremely good company.”
I just saw them and I kept staring. I stared at the TV anchor reading out the numbers and statistics of misery and developments of the country. And I saw them again. I positioned myself comfortably on the corner of the bed and listened to them. I kept listening.