Tuesday, May 23, 2006
There are places and there are places. Some places you think you’ll never go to, some you think you’ll never leave, and some you think you’ll never stay in.
Strangely, Pune fits in all these categories. Although I have been here since last September, I still think of it as a freshly frequented place. My body tells a different story though.
My feet know the turns around Koregaon Park when I walk distractedly to buy sausage and bread. My eyes may be fixed on a proud crocus but I will deftly step over a pothole that has been adorning the road ever since I moved here. While my brain still wrestles with the new, odd, awkward, unbelongingness of Pune, my mind has already cozied in.
The other day, I was out with a friend. We went towards NIBM, and were driving up a slope. To the left were huge white buildings with whooshing driveways and to the right were big land crevices with billboards of property builders. My friend pointed to the right and was telling me how he wanted to buy a place there before he got married. I tuned off right about then, dreamily feeling the cool, night-air on my eyelids and cheeks. The nuzzle of the rustle. Ah! Wind!
As we reached the peak of the slope, all posed to drive down, I saw Edwardian, onyx-like gates open to an endless driveway. It was lined with fairytale lampposts that held bulbs as deferentially as pearls. Right at the edge of the driveway where it swooped down some more, I saw the moon. It was full and big, and just tipped the ridge of the road.
From my window, I was looking at the driveway to the moon, with the lampposts standing like regal attendants.
On our way back, we decided to stop somewhere for some chilled Coke. My friend went out to get us a couple of bottles, while I sat in the car and savored that beautiful, picturesque sight of astral sorcery.
As I looked around, I saw a building and my heart lurched. It was where I stayed when I first came to Pune. Beyond the white façade and droopy trees, I remembered how I had met Z and J and her family, how I had befriended her daughter with a banana (yes, I know the ways), how I used to kill cockroaches while Z made khichdi, and J suggested we go out to eat. My bus rides from there to office, my howling arguments with the rickshaw fellows, the endless wait for the dhobi who took away my smart, pink shirt.
The night ended with me sipping my Coke in some gravitas and telling my flummoxed friend that days pass by so quickly.
Then, last Friday, I heard that my yoga teacher was moving to Mumbai. I felt so good for her. There’s a jump in my heart whenever I hear of people moving to Mumbai. I love it. They’ll get roughed up and rowdied and ultimately, tentatively find their sconces.
On my way back from my final yoga class, I was thinking of how she would discover the ready nearness of the Barista at Versova or the soothing escapism of Mount Mary Steps in Bandra.
Suddenly, I saw the guy from a nearby grocery store waving at me.
‘You weren’t there yesterday?’, he smiled.
‘No, I was in Mumbai’, I replied. I am always mildly surprised when people actually expect me to be in Pune, when I can so easily spend some time in Mumbai.
‘Oh, going home now?’
He teetered off on his bicycle.
A few paces ahead of me was the building I had occupied since the last seven months or so. I had always mentioned that that was where I stayed, that was my flat, my apartment, my 1BHK living accommodation. Today, someone called it my home. Strangers are strange.
I don’t know how many tomorrows I have in this place. But now, when I think about it, I have enough yesterdays stacked up to miss it when I leave it.
Nostalgia sure is speedy.