I wrote this back in August 2004. Some names and incidents have been changed, but like most of my writings – this one is more or less autobiographical. By the way Mozart would have been 250 today.
…It had been raining all morning and I could still feel it in the winds. I had not been to Delhi in a long time. Where the time flew, I’ve never known. After spending what seemed like a lifetime in scratching a living, I took a trip and went back to my roots. A journey back in time to old and dusty lanes of Delhi. By the time I got off the Bus, it was already mid-day. The month of May could be brutal especially when you are not used to the scorching heat of North India. But Delhi without its summer wouldn’t be Delhi at all. It’s a place where anyone and everyone lives. I am not sure if I belonged to either one of those two. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t have left.
Although I wasn’t as young as I used to be, I still decided to walk. Everything seemed different. Old houses had disappeared and skyscrapers had taken over. Old man Qasim’s teashop was gone too. How many lazy afternoons I had spent there? It almost seemed like a faded dream.
I looked around as I strolled through. Perhaps I still hoped to find a landmark from the olden days. But nothing â€“ not even a trace. It felt as if everything was out of place. Or may be I was.
Delhi – the land of dreams and aspirations. A place where hopes turn to dust. I had seen it all. May be that was the reason I couldn’t stand it anymore. Now returning as a middle-aged man, I was searching for some shattered trail of my past. Not surprisingly, I still remembered the way to Pallaviâ€™s house. Her laughter was still alive in my mind. I felt like the tide that reaches out to unseen shores of the moon. I wondered if she would remember me. Time, as I knew, had always changed people. Would she be the same Pallavi I knew? An old song suddenly found its way on my lips. Song about a love of long ago. I hummed it to revive some of the times I’d known. Delhi, I had known.
But it was all too far. All too vague.
On my way I met Bimal. For a moment he couldnâ€™t believe his eyes. Was I the same struggling author? I am not sure if I was able to convince him that I was. He, however, seemed elated to see me after so long. I canâ€™t recall how many stories I made up about why I hadnâ€™t been to Delhi in all this time. Anyway, I managed to prove my point. I promised I would visit him before I left. A good lad that he was, I was glad he had turned out to be a promising young man. He barely reached my shoulder when I had seen him last. I wasnâ€™t too sure of the purpose of my visit anymore. Old ghosts I had buried long ago had started to spring up again.
The trance ended when I found myself staring at Pallaviâ€™s apartment. The usual flowers were blooming on the edge of her window. A young childâ€™s clothes hung listlessly. Perhaps she had a daughter as beautiful as her. Time had taken its toll on my sight or I might have been able to tell if she still had a taste for Lilies. I must have been staring at the window for a while as I saw the guard come up. He asked me if I was visiting someone. Was I? How could have I faced her? There were too many questions that I didnâ€™t have answers for. I told him something about being a connoisseur of old building designs. He probably didnâ€™t know what it meant so he went away mumbling to himself. I looked up at the window again hoping to catch a sight of Pallavi. But the withering flowerpots were the only ones that returned my gaze. For a moment I almost thought she was staring at me. Just like she had once from the corner of her eyes.
So much had changed. If I only could have changed, this story would have been different. There was nothing left for me in Delhi anymore. It just wasnâ€™t the same. It couldnâ€™t be.
Catching the early morning bus from Delhi bus stop was not easy for a middle-aged man like me. I had to put up with quite a bit to find some room inside. I found some of my lost enthusiasm and barged in through the unruly crowd. There I sunk in my seat. Another journey back to the heights of Himalayas where Iâ€™d been living alone in a cottage. Only place I could call my own. All through the journey I asked myself the reason for my return to Delhi. I turned deaf towards the voice of my soul. I still havenâ€™t found my answers.
Drapes in my room often cast shadows on my mind. They remind me when Pallavi looked at me in that crowded bus on that hot summer day of long ago. To this day, I can hear her laughter in my dreams. At times when there is a full moon, I look high up in the sky and hum a song I had written for her long ago.
Take me in your arms and never let me goâ€¦show me oh my loveâ€™s same old afterglow.
I am not sure if I would ever visit Delhi again. Itâ€™s not the same place I once knew. So what if I canâ€™t watch Lilies bloom on Pallavi’s window. She still smiles at me through the picture frame that rests on my desk. Iâ€™ve lived for too long watching her smile through the glass. But I know now that I must see her before the river of my dreams runs dry. Before my pen has said its last.
May be someday I will return to Delhi again.