The station was bare like it always used to be. A septuagenarian stationmaster walked from this corner to the next, while a young moustache sporting hawaldar sat on the benches fanning himself with an old newspaper. The platform was a total of twenty yards long, with one government teashop in the middle and one phone booth at one corner. The other corner had food-dripping plastic plates and bowls scattered all over as a witness to the euphoria generated by the poori-chhole vendor who stopped there every morning on his way to the nearby temple which was his day-long stop. The old tin board with jagged corners said Teespur in a dull faded color of paint.
Soham descended from his train slowly. This was familiar territory. He had been watching it for the past nineteen years with an anxious breath each time. Anxious because he anticipated change every time which did not come, leaving him with further anxiety for his next visit.
He picked up his luggage and started walking towards the iron door of the railway station. There under the grand mango tree stood Lakshman, the sole auto-rickshaw owner of the village bearing the few remaining teeth in his mouth. Upon seeing Soham, he ran to take his luggage, but Soham insisted on carrying it himself this time. They sat down in the rickshaw and started their long and slow journey, to the other end of the village, and to the other end of time.
The journey to his grandparents’ house was a total of thirty-five minutes but it always felt like an era to Soham. The dirty children playing around the trees, the little weak men toiling in the fields, the ornamented women doing petty work here and there covered from head to tow. He always wondered how these women saw what they were doing with a big cloth covering more than half their face.
He knew it would come and it came like expected. A certain kind of heaviness started swelling up inside his heart before he had even spent fifteen minutes in Teespur. It happened with such an uninterrupted steadiness each time he stepped in the village, that Soham took it for granted. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the figures, the faces, everything about Teespur took him to another world. A world, which he was not familiar with, back in his cozy apartment, his swanky office and his luxurious car.
Back in his city complete with wide lanes, huge shopping malls, cinemas and restaurants, Soham did not know that life existed in this form also. Either he did not know or he chose to not remember was something that he still wasn’t sure about. But one thing he was sure about was that every year he came back to this remote piece of the world called Teespur and the reasons were completely unknown to him. He could have forced his grandparent to shift in with him in his apartment, or take another one close to his own. They were extremely well off and owned quite a fortune in Teespur and the adjoining villages. He very well knew that though they were hell bent on spending their entire lives in Teespur, they would have relented to Soham’s wishes. He was the only thing they cared about in the whole world after his parents died in a road accident five years back.
Lakshman parked his rickshaw in front of the Banyan tree and bared those two teeth in his mouth again. Soham knew they had reached the sprawling farmhouse of his grandparents. He looked around and smiled satisfactorily. All seemed well. Meanwhile Lakshman had very energetically taken his luggage to his room and called the couple outside. For an old man of sixty, he had still a lot of alacrity in his fragile body.
Tears were rolling endlessly from amma’s eyes when she hugged him. Dada patiently waited for his turn. When he was done, amma insisted on hugging Soham again. Lakshman stood there laughing.
In the evening a table was set out in the garden and all the delicacies of his grandmother were prepared and laid out for him. All four sat there eating, talking and laughing. Soham looked up at the sky. The clarity amazed him. He felt he could almost see the heaven above with bare eyes. He looked at everything around him. He knew he loved each and every inch of substance around him. The dizziness inside his head had started subsiding and he already felt a little better. He looked at the happy faces of the three elderly people around him. I can’t yet come. I will, one day. But not yet.