The temperature was nearing minus. Yet, my legs would not stop. I was elated. The last time I had was visited this place was nearly four decades ago. This was the place of my birth, a place I had grown up as a child.
The biting cold could not dampen my spirit. Hands in pockets, I looked around drinking in the beauty of this cold winter morning. A lot had changed over these past forty years. Old buildings had given way to new ones. Vacant spaces had disappeared. People, their style, language, everything had undergone a sea change. Suddenly I remembered my husband and daughter. They were there curled deep under the quilts in the hotel room waiting for the temperature to rise before stepping out. So here I was all by myself, trying to revive old memories, search for long lost acquaintances and friends.
“Ah! I must thank him,” I thought. If it had not been for him I would not be here even now.
The sun slowly peeped out from the heavy curtain of fog wondering whether it was time to step out. I looked at the house that had once been mine. It was still the same except for an additional floor. So deep was I in my thoughts that I did not see a cycle whiz by. Someone caught me by the arm and pulled me to the side. I mumbled my thanks and moved on. Suddenly it struck me that I had seen something on the hand that pulled me. What was it, a tattoo? Yes, for sure. I had seen that tattoo before, but where? I racked my brain searching for the answer. But it evaded me. If only I could remember where, I thought.
“Hello Amma, where were you?” That was my daughter calling out to me. I quickly joined her on the lawns for tea. She chattered only to be greeted with with stony silence. I was lost in my own thoughts. The tattoo was haunting me.
The sound of a rickshaw bell jolted me to the present. The bright hood, the old man at the helm instantly rang a bell in me. Oh no! How could I forget? It was Phoolchand our rickshaw-wala. I was ashamed of myself. Phoolchand had carted me and my sister to school and back fourteen long years. He had always given in to our whims and fancies, the simple soul that he was. ‘Singhada’ season was fun time for us. It meant mouth watering ‘singhadas’ at Phoolchand’s cost.
The sight of the gulmohars lining the lawn once again took me back to those good old days and Phoolchand. I remembered the innumerable times we had pleaded with him to climb a gulmohar tree and get us the flowers or pluck those raw tamarinds on the wayside trees. The petals of gulmohar flowers are I must say really tasty and inviting. I miss them even today.
I waited the next day for the man with the tattoo in his arms. He came, we spoke. I saw tears of joy in his aging eyes. A wrinkled hand was placed on my head. I cried. I wanted to give him some money. But he refused to take it. Then slowly looking into my eyes he bid farewell and moved on ringing the rickshaw bell.
Suddenly I felt someone shake me violently, voices piercing my ears.
“Amma, what is the matter? Why are you crying?” It was my daughter.
“A bad dream?’ my husband asked.
It was only then that I realized that I was in my home and bed, my face stained with tears.
“No, a beautiful dream,” I said. “In fact I met someone after so many years that I cried out of joy.”
That evening I called up a friend of mine only to be told that Phoolchand, my simple and ever smiling rickshaw-wala had passed away that night in sleep. I did not know whether to mourn him or to be happy to have connected with him just before he departed for the other world.
I sat there for I don’t know how long, just remembering him and the tricks we played on him as kids. Each little thing flashed before my eyes only to bring a smile.
May his soul to rest in peace.
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. This weekend we had to weave a post including the following-‘‘He/She had seen that tattoo before! If only he/she could remember where.’
Inviting you to also visit my blog at blogspot : http://geetasfile.blogspot.com
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