Photographing nostalgia – The bylanes of Agra that were my childhood!

Ghar, galiyaan aur yaadein! (Behind the camera: Manan Kashyap)

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!

Nanaji ka kamra! My happy place, from where I remember seeing the world before me!
Nanaji ka kamra! My happy place, from where I remember seeing the world before me! (Behind the camera – Devanjali Sarkar)

 

If you haven't tried the sugar candy in North India, you haven't done it all! I remember getting all kinds of fancy designs made for myself as a kid, sometimes roaming around with 4-5 sugar candies made on my arms and wrists.
If you haven’t tried the sugar candy in North India, you haven’t done it all! I remember getting all kinds of fancy designs made for myself as a kid, sometimes roaming around with 4-5 sugar candies made on my arms and wrists.

 

Bachpan! What a beatiful time :)
Bachpan! What a beatiful time 🙂

 

Growing up, I would always be annoyed with my mother's habit of NEVER shutting the door. This time in Agra, I understood why. People here never close their doors. Chaukhat talks are a thing, and to be honest, they are beautiful! The way my naani speaks to every passer-by just from the door, I never realized how much my Mom should miss that - noone has time for chaukhat talks in Mumbai.
Growing up, I would always be annoyed with my mother’s habit of NEVER shutting the door. This time in Agra, I understood why. People here never close their doors. Chaukhat talks are a thing, and to be honest, they are beautiful! The way my naani speaks to every passer-by just from the door, I never realized how much my Mom should miss that – noone has time for chaukhat talks in Mumbai.

 

This was my second home. I would spend hours here with Khimiya naani, helping her make papadom's, which she would later sell in the market. Khimiya naani is no more, and so is her house.
This was my second home. I would spend hours here with Khimiya naani, helping her make papadom’s, which she would later sell in the market. Khimiya naani is no more, and so is her house.

 

My childhood bestie, now married with 2 kids. How far we both have come, become!
My childhood bestie, now married with 2 kids. How far we both have come, become!

 

Little joys of living in small towns - when all things you love reach you at your doorstep! So fascinated was I by this profession, I remember once spending all my saved money on buying chips, and setting shop outside my naana's room. Boy, was I yelled at later for doing that!
Little joys of living in small towns – when all things you love reach you at your doorstep! So fascinated was I by this profession, I remember once spending all my saved money on buying chips, and setting shop outside my naana’s room. Boy, was I yelled at later for doing that!

 

Shumaila ka ghar! Though she was only a tenant, if there is a face from my childhood I very very clearly remember, it will be hers. She doesn't live here anymore, and naani didn't know her whereabouts, but I'm sure she's well wherever she is! :)
Shumaila ka ghar! Though she was only a tenant, if there is a face from my childhood I very very clearly remember, it will be hers. She doesn’t live here anymore, and naani didn’t know her whereabouts, but I’m sure she’s well wherever she is! 🙂

 

And I finally put an end to my endless love-hate rant about the TAJ! When you ave to visit the same monument, twice every year, it no longer is a world heritage for you. I have grown up telling people who overrated the Taj Mahal is, but a part of me always wanted to return, and that's another bucketlist check!
And I finally put an end to my endless love-hate rant about the TAJ! When you ave to visit the same monument, twice every year, it no longer is a world heritage for you. I have grown up telling people who overrated the Taj Mahal is, but a part of me always wanted to return, and that’s another bucketlist check!

 

Happiness is going through your childhood moments with good friends by your side! In this picture, Manan and Divya remind me of Saifeena from Kurbaan! :)
Happiness is going through your childhood moments with good friends by your side! In this picture, Manan and Divya remind me of Saifeena from Kurbaan! 🙂