The city you grew up in, regardless of the times you left and returned, irrespective of whether you stay or go again, carries a unique place in your heart, but more so, in your continuity. I walk through the narrow street which, at one point, housed the kindergarten I went to. The school is no more; there are apartments in its place now. But this has no hold over the memory. The kindergarten exists still in some lives, and children still go there as far as memory is concerned. I walked through the town, which is not something I have done in a while, for the sidewalks were all turned over and filled with dust and cement—surrounded by workers toiling in the ruckus of the day and the chilly air of the night—did not offer much opportunity. But now, everything is made anew. The lights all over, the ever-evolving skyline, and the pristine and meticulously paved sidewalks have enticed me lately.
Today, I followed the route I would follow often before the city got buried in dust a year ago. A wave of nostalgia crashed over me as, once again, I saw my whole life happen before my eyes, and I walked through both key and banal events. I lost people all over again, and I found them again, and then, I lost them again, too. I lost them at crossroads, on sidewalks, on benches, and sometimes, I lost them in the crowds.
I returned rejuvenated and energised but also heaving a sigh at the sight of my heavy heart. Perhaps, there is solace in this, that I am leaving again, and that this time, unlike before, I plan to return. I am not running away from the small town anymore, no. If my eyes are any good, this sprawling urban centre is neither small nor a town. It is now the oldest friend I have. The one from whom nothing is hidden, nothing is omitted. It has seen it all, yet it invites me for a walk.
We leave parts of ourselves, ghosts only we can see and remember. Well, us and the city. I walked half a score of kilometres, and not once did we run out of stories. Remember that luxury hotel used to be an oily food joint? Remember when no malls existed? Remember when I fell in love over there, on that corner?
Of course, it did. It remembered everything.