I look on. Beyond the twisted lanes, cluttered brick houses and blocked pipelines. I look on to tales of my childhood that bloomed in this very place…Agra! An identity I always tried running away from, not realizing how much a part of me it is. As I look around today, it all looks so new, and yet, exactly the same! How can that be?
Is it possible that the universal reality of time is somehow not applicable to this part of the world, of my world? How can it be that nothing here has changed, as if I were playing in these lanes just yesterday, but no, it sure has been 15 odd years. Really, has it? HOW!
Some faces I can’t recognize, but they know me. They say I have played in their home as a kid, did I? Where is your home, can I go with you? I remember this room where I now sit scribbling my random musings, it belonged to my grandfather. I stopped visiting Agra after he left us, but seeing his room today makes him feel alive, like he’s still here. Funny how that works, I don’t remember the last time I remembered him so clearly!
Tring Tring! I’ve heard that sound before. OH WAIT! I run to the gate, Divya realizes it too. She runs after me. Is it what we think it is? We want candy!
Which reminds me, this is where I fell from a cycle once. It was Shaina’s older brother’s big cycle, I had a little crush on him even as a kid. A part of me used the cycling lessons as a reason to stick around, strange how I can’t even remember his face anymore. Shaina. She used to be my closest bestest friend, and I just never tried staying in touch. How silly is that? Why do we take our childhood friendships so lightly?
My grandmother is so excited, she stands by the gate, telling everyone who will listen “Yeh Renu ki chhoti beti aayi hai. Haan, badi ho gayi. Yeh events mein kaam karti hai” I don’t really work in events, but it doesn’t matter what I do. I smile, say a salaam, and let them tell me tales of my childhood.
This was my first trip to Agra as a traveler. This was also the first time I fell in love with Agra for everything it is and is not! Traveling has changed me at so many levels – the places, the people, the locations I always dismissed and disregarded – today I can’t be more grateful for their presence in my life, even while I have been absent in theirs. These are the people who loved me when I was no one, these are the people who will love me when I will be no one, and this is the first time I am learning to appreciate the value of people in my life – both family and extended. I am being invited to chai and dinners. Let’s go visit Khushbu’s house? Why don’t you wait for Aarif bhai. Nazmeen baaji will be happy to see you, why don’t you wait?! Shaina-Sheeba are at home, why don’t you go meet them? Until today, I didn’t even remember any of these folks, and look at them now, trying to make me happy. And what for? What do they get out of it?
That’s the point, not everything should be done with a selfish motive – and this is one lesson I will take back with me from here!
Come, take a walk, quite literally down the memory lane, where my childhood blossomed, and is somewhere still alive! A lot might have changed as the photos are captured now, but the stories and memories they inspire and rekindle, shall, inshallah, remain!