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I had a headache. I could not remember if it was a mild hangover or the common cold making an appearance again.
But wait! this is not my house! But I know this place, this place looks familiar….this was my home, the home I lived some 20 years back. The joy of reclaiming back the known terrace and forlorn backyard of my South Calcutta home was somehow marred by the lingering thought about what I was doing here? Am I seeing a very nice dream or did time travel just turned real?
And then I looked at myself. That was me. Not the one who had seen broken hearts, compromised dreams and the truth behind some of the fairy tales, but it was the ‘me’ that I loved knowing. It was ‘Papai’, the carefree young girl, just the way I remember myself from the old photo albums.
And I did not know how to react! I was lying on my parent’s bed, I could hear my mother cooking in the Kitchen and my grandmother talking to her about something. Will they be able to recognise me? My fears took a backseat when I saw my father approaching- “Mamoni! you shoud get up or otherwise your mother will come and scold you. She is already very angry as the domestic help has not turned up for work today.”
I smiled. I knew that 20 years from now, that handsome face will have wrinkles all over but he will be a very successful man, one who could rise over any difficulty in life. Age does not spare any one, but he will continue to be the most handsome man I would ever meet in my life.
By now, I was feeling overjoyed. I had my 25 year old brain and 25 years worth of experience to give me company while I still was just 5 years of age! And I could do things all over again…I knew all of the true faces of friends turned foes, of the ones who stood by me and I could relive innocence. I did not know if this was ‘science fiction turned real’ but this was the best thing that happened to me.
(Image Source: Here)
I got up from my bed and peeped into the kitchen. I could see my grandmother sitting at a corner. In my mind, I was making a ‘to do list’ and spending more time with her was definitely on the top. I had seen her die and I knew the feeling about how it was when she was no more around. This time I am going to make sure that I end up spending a lot of time with her. I promised myself that I will not end up fighting with her just because she told me the same stories of her childhood again and again. After all, I knew that those moments were the most precious ones for me.
I turned my head to see my mother…a beautiful young lady who was busy managing everything on her own. I told myself that this time I will make sure that she pursues her own dreams and if that made me drink milk at one go, I would do that. I would also not hold her back for unnecessary things, cry over her absence just to make sure that she can very well pursue her hobby of interior designing.
The broken window pane at the corner of the kitchen reminded me how naughty I was. It was broken during one of my fights with the neigbourhood ruffian, more of the miniature ruffian of our group. Time and again, I had missed them. I had made wonderful friends all across the globe during different phases of my adult life. But these were the friends that I missed the most…my first friends…my childhood buddies. 20 years from now, they would live in different corners of the world and only add rough and dry ‘likes’ on each other’s Facebook display pictures. This time I will make sure that I spend more time with them.
While I was thinking whether my 25 year old brain would permit me to be a 5 year old again in circa 1992, I saw ‘Bhudo’ my best friend making a face while he was going to school riding pillion on his father’s Bajaj scooter. I returned the gesture and then started thinking why did I forget to be in touch with Bhudo after they changed houses and moved to a different locality. After all, he was my secret box. I had to do this one thing differently this time.
I could have stood there and thought about how things could be done differently this time, when I heard my mother screaming at – “So you want to be late again for school? your class teacher will scold you and me, both. When will you learn discipline, shona? Come here, let me tie your hair..and yes! please bring your uniform. You do not have time to take a bath today. You bus will come any moment.”
I chuckled when I thought about how I hated taking bath as a kid. Actually, I just hated those rushed and hurriedly taken early morning showers before going to school. I loved the ones where I could play abundantly with water when I came back from school or the Sunday ones. Those ones should not be missed, I made a mental note. And this time, I would repeat my earlier experience, that of getting up late so that an early morning shower could be avoided.
“Do not stand there, come I have your breakfast ready” my mother was now running against time to get me ready for school. I ran towards the dining table to find my favourite breakfast meal of “luchi aloor torkari” (Puri sabzi) being served by my mother. I had lived alone from the age of 17 and everytime I had to make my own breakfast consisting of boring bread toast and boiled eggs, I remembered everytime I used to make a scene when my mother served me freshly cooked ‘luchi’. This time, I decided, that I will do no wrong.
My mother probably noticed a hint of tear on my face when she asked me- “What happened shona? Ki holo? ok! jus have one…I have packed your favourite lunch of egg sandwich….please eat, ok?”
My mother would probably never be able to guess why the 25 year old in me was crying. But she had no time to spare as my school bus had arrived and the honking horns made sure that both me and my parents ran the Olympic run. I climbed the stairs of the bus and smilingly said “Tata” to them. In my mind, I was super excited about reliving the golden years of my life- “my school life”. I was excited to meet the little bully who would always tie my pigtails together and then laugh, my ‘school’ best friend who shared her lunch with me, the first boy whom I was always envious about….everyone. I was happy, probably the happiest. At that moment, I looked back and saw our house. I made two promises to myself. This house was smaller and did not have many modern amenities. My father would have rebuilt it a few years later. But somehow, I always ended up attaching the best part of my childhood with this house. I decided that I will convince him to let it be the way it was. Probably change a few things here and there, but not the entire house.
Also, that I will study hard and be in the top three of my class so that my parents can attend the prize distribution ceremony. It would not matter some 20 years later, but the happiness on their faces would really mean the world to me. Winning a prize at my Class 1 prize distribution ceremony would be a small memory later, but the photographs will always end up making happy memories.
I was sitting by the side of my bus window when I looked at the city..the city where I no longer lived, but the city which will always be ‘home’ for me. I could see people talking, people smiling at each other and none looking at their mobile phones. At that moment, I promised to see more of the city when I have time, be a part of everything that she stands for..after all, I had once desperately tried to leave her, but only realised her value in my life after she was gone.
I was probably feeling a bit sleepy and dozed off, just like old times…I knew my Bus uncle would wake me up and drop me till the school gate.
“Helllo!!!! wake uppppppp!!!! you are late for work!!”
And then I woke up again. It was my mother’s voice, but this time it was the phone alarm. I never quite managed to wake up all by myself and none of the alarm clocks worked for me. So I had devised this plan of recording my mother’s voice as the phone alarm and evidently, that worked wonders. I woke up groggy eyed. It was still 2014, we had mobile phones and I was still 25. It was 6’o clock in the morning. I had to make my own breakfast, call up my parents living in another city and get dressed and leave for work. I smiled at myself and thought about the ‘if only’ question.
Later that day I told my mother about this really weird dream I had and since mothers always engulf you with the most endearing thoughts, she told me- “Great! you will get to relive your childhood again, after all ‘early morning’ dreams always come true”.
She smiled and I hoped that it happened that way. Soon.