A Sunny Walk Through Downtown :
It was a strange day when one approaching afternoon sun shone down upon me, and with each passing step I slipped into the past.
Well,the sun has always been this way. It reminds me of many things – both good and bad. What I remember are the summer holidays or the long walks back from school and the exams of mid June. This always carries a feeling of melancholy with it. But when I look at the subtly warm sun, it reminds me of the days when I was a small kid and took great pleasure in accompanying my mother to a school where she taught. My mother was and is a teacher. Now, there is nothing so special about it except that you get to be treated with real love and respect, for no reason other than you being the daughter of their teacher. And I so enjoyed the love, but that was not what I loved the most. What really fascinated me were the lanes I had to walk on those days. The streets of downtown.
The broken stone paths of the narrow lanes were somewhat alive and when the sun touched them, it sent a vibe through my spine. It is the real sun and it touched this path. The slight mud that popped out those cracks little moist would dry up I thought, but it never really did. And how brown it used to be always. The wooden benches and the smell of that school instilled in me a feeling of newness as if I was protected and I could be here as long as I want. Half of the compound of the school was shadowy and I wondered if ghosts lived there as it had a temple beside it. I don’t know why the temples reminded me of ghosts. May be because once my cousin played a prank of being caught by a spirit while returning from abandoned temple of Rougnath in one of the corners of city near my maternal home. We were kids that time and just curious of the structure. The chilly tour had affected me that time and I for some reason to this time relate ghosts to the temple.
On both sides of their school, ran narrow lanes where the strong smell of spices and wedding suites hovered. You could look down the window from the second story which was actually the only possession of school and all you could see was the life in hustle and bustle. Though the lanes tasted little of the sun and seemed craving for the warmth but the smell and aura brightened up the lives with its innate warmth.
My afternoons there were delicious. All the smells from households jumbled up into the lanes and entered through the windows of the school. The smell of spices, oils, curry all came out from various windows and conjunct down to the street. The sniff was unavoidably delicious. All of it added to my urge to spend my life there, which was not practically possible. I did not want luxuries of the world, but this aura did something to my senses. “As if the temple ghost has bewitched me”, I thought to myself.
Leaving the school by evening with my mother was not a pleasure but the good thing was that my maternal home was at a walking distance from there. Though I never remembered the directions, I never tried to do so either. I loved walking on the strange paths again and again I relished walking in the sun through those lanes lined up by tall old buildings of past. Their wooden carved windows and the mudded walls. The ivy on the roofs and the enameled glass. The long bridges and the river flowing under it. It strangely was a fairy land to me. For some reason I knew that I couldn’t get lost here. My mom held my hand but I continued to walk in a different world of mine where all the smells of mud water and kitchen infused in me an unexplainable feeling. As if the materials were far from me and the unconscious overpowered my will. Those women sitting on the windows and talking across to their neighbors. The men busy in repairing cycles or children playing cricket all had an artistic effect on my mind. The prayer calls from all mosques in every corner and the old structure 0of Rougnath Mandir at the same time was something that left me in admiration towards the richness of this place.
I seemed to be the owner of every emotion in the air. And every emotion owned me. Hatred and envy never did exist. That childish memory of those old lanes and ignorance is most enduring. To this time the sun reminds me of the place I walked though and reunites me with the unforgettable unity of the mighty downtown.
By Aiman Banday