“Daddy, is this the lane where you played the cricket?” Robin was curiously observing the alley that led to my ancestral abode.
“Yes sonny, we used to have a two over’s match and breaking windows would be equivalent to a wicket gone.” I was getting that nostalgic feeling gripping me.
Past two days had gone in just meeting relatives and neighbours. I was their American returned blue eyed Guddu. The ordinary boy from a middle class family, who would just waste time in playing gully cricket, hitting marbles and flying kites for hours on the terrace.
Those kites soared higher and higher in the sky, making me forget the ground realities of our middle class income, search for a decent job…you know like one of Shrama ji ka beta types. This species of Shrma ji ka beta…or Agrawal ji ka beta has always been there to set examples. Examples of a systematic life, following all the social bindings and rules. They would oil their hair, study regulary,never bunk college ….smoking and boozing is like a door to hell … sinning. And whenever Babuji’s of ordinary mortals like me would praise them for their latest century in physics exam ,they will never forget to add on the result of competitive exams and their grand success at it. And Babuji would give me a look of that razor sharp Maanja ,and bring the kites of my wanderer soul to the ground….kati patang you know.
“Amma,I am going to the Balwant Chacha’s shop. Is there anything needed?” I tied the laces of my Nike shoes and put my Vouge glares.These lifestyle changes have become a part of my life now. Even though I was a hardcore Purani dilliwasi ,I could not turn back to old life style. Nostalgia is beautiful. But in reality, the achievements, luxuries enslave us and wherever we go we carry them along with us. Meera wanted us to stay at the ITC Ashoka or Oberai. She was worried about apple of our eye Robin. She didn’t want to send him along with me ,because Delhi’s air is famous for being unsafe for inhaling. She couldn’t accompany us. Board meetings you know…they can come up at most unexpected times or… can be arranged so to say. Anyway , Meera is a great wife and a loving Mom and I cannot force her to adore all the things that are nostalgic to me . she wasn’t a part of my this side of life. She is my present and that is what I am now. An engineer ,with a successful business venture in US of A.
Coming back to Balwant chacha’s shop, it is the place which has the most delicious jalebis of the world. Not that they have unique formula of preparation, but because they are full of bites of my childhood memory. I would give Balwant Chacah 50 paisa coin and in return he would wrap those orange sugary coils in an old raddi newspaper. I would not budge. With a generous smile he would add an extra piece to the packet. Dilwalo ki dilli,I guess its because of people like balwant Chacha.
“Guddu , puttar …take jalebis and now we give it in those aluminium foil dabbas.No more raddi.”Chacha grinned.I took out a hundred bucks note to hand it over to him.He just gave a frowned look and I kept it back in my pocket. “Don’t forget to take those Til laddu…tommorow is Sankranti…I still remember you were the last kid to leave the terrace, till late evening. And the most precious customer of Gafur chacha.” He placed a box full of laddus in my hand.
“Haven’t seen Gafur Chacha…I wish I could buy those perfectly made kites of him.”I was lost in thoughts. Gafur chacha was a middle aged man. His collared kurtas and the red Atlas bicycle was his trademark. He would sell all the mundane items of household like soap cases, combs, tooth brushes etc on his bicycle. Come Sankrant and his two wheeled companion would be dressed up with all the colourful kites. The perfect Rhombus shaped kites with sticks arched on them. I would spend hours with him to pick up best of his creations. He would tell me the nuances of picking up a good Kite and how to fly one perfectly.
“Guddu beta, fly your kite as if it holds your dreams. Soar along with it, give it proper ‘dheel’. Free them and watch them find their way. Once in a while they will be defeated. They will come down falling on the dusty streets. Life is like that…Don’t give up. Tie them again with hope of your strings and fly again. Kite teaches you how to fly with all your dreams and that never give up on them…” he would occasionally ask me to pay for his paan.the surma filled eyes would smile at me when I would take bundles of kites without bothering about the scolding of Babuji that awaited me at home.
Later on asking the old neighbours arournd, I came to know Gafur chacha stopped coming to sell his stuff. People waited for him. No one knew his address in Chandni Chowk. His kites were missed, but soon boys found out new shops to pick up the colourful and Chinese kites. They don’t know if he is alive or dead. Our generation got jobs at other cities or abroad and left. The new generation is stuck more with the screens. The sky is filled with tiny rhombuses only about one or two days around Sankrant. The Chinese kites are cheaper and Manjhas are sharper. But the stories of Gafur Chacha are missing. The wisdom that he distributed along with his paan stained smile is missing.
“Daddy, Amma says it’s time for you hobby…And handed me this”. Robin had a bright sunny yellow kite in his hand. I smile and start giving his dreams a flight.
“ Robin fly your kites as if they hold your dream….”I try to give him a sip of old world’s charm and simplistic wisdom.