A Wayfarer's Waffle
After receiving tika from elder ones at Dudhe, my mom, I, uncle and aunt boarded a crammed bus to Urlabari, a dusty little town in Morang district. My talkative uncle was giving a lecture or two to all and sundry. When we disembarked at Urlabari, a rough road seemed to head southward that takes you to Rajghat where I spent a couple of years of my early teenage.
Cycling to Urlabari from Chhapan, Rajghat-5, watching Nepali movies at packed halls, attending weekly haatbazars that fall on Wednesday (Damak), Friday (Urlabari), Saturday (Durgapuri) and the list goes on.
My uncle pedals the bicycle and I sit rather uncomfy at its carrier. Sitting there, I felt like I am heading towards my past. The paddy fields with ripened rice heralded the autumn season. Autumn's mellowness and gentleness were hovering in the air. I, unfortunately, am not blessed by muse. But then, anyone with a bit of lyrical genius would have created a verse or two.
After almost every ten minutes' ride, we bump into children swinging in Linge Ping (bamboo-swing) made in the middle of this bumpy road. I would call it: swinging in delight! As we reached Durgapuri, we beheld local village beauties clad in their best attire attending mela (fair). The hustle and bustle really created an aura quite Dashain-like. I thought, here people celebrated Dashain to its fullest. People of all shades and hues thronged in the village-center. At mela, a whirling blur of faces appeared that created a sea of humanity never witnesssed by me here before, thanks also to rapid population growth.
"Welcome to Chhappan," reads the inscription posted in the land which once belonged to us. But, we shifted our base like nomads (but buying land here and there). Nevertheless, it familiarized us with multitude of people and places. Now, our beloved property's occupant was someone else. I tried to figure out my days there nearly ten years ago. No, the place (or may be I) has undergone a sea-change. Only my pleasant memories, like a distant past, were with me.
The space was the same but the time was different. I made the rounds of my childhood haunts; pausing in sentimental meditation before the house my father bought from my uncle. I gazed at the fields and ponds where I used to fish. I had become adept at fishing, my first after-school activity being only that. My uncle guided me towards his wooded cottage with thatched roof. Electricity was there unlike the days when we grappled with schoolbooks in dimly lit room. He was pleased that Maoists didn't come to his house looking for shelter, for they preferred big houses. My uncle, as the biblical adage goes, reaps whatever he sows. A farmer by profession, he seemed quite content with the way he eked out living.
I went to meet my senior pal Karna who ended up in his birthplace after, as they say, his trysts with destiny in Biratnagar and Kathmandu. His parents told me that he has gone to his inlaws'.The next day, they told me that I was mistaken for Maoist. My friend's father remarked that when he saw me last time, I was tall and lean and thin but now a bit burly with chubby cheeks which was why he couldn't recognize me. I concluded that any stranger in villages can be suspected for Maoist.
An intimate friend of me once remarked: "Nostalgia always moistens my eye dikes." Believe me, it didn't moisten my eye dikes. That must be a vulnerable heart. No, I didn't take things for old time's sake. Here I was, reading my past like an old book, meeting people whom I would have never met. A general air of surprise and satisfaction fell upon everyone. Their bewilderment apparent in their faces, their rustic rigor still intact.
At Durgapuri, my maternal uncle lives king-sized life. King-size, in that he has plenty of land and is boastful of that. My maternal aunt lamented how it had been ages since she saw me last time. "It was our elder daughter's marriage, right?" She recollected. Her daughter already had children. So, the house was replete with grand children. When we returned home, I sat incognito at the roof of a dilapidated local bus that was over packed by passengers heading to receive tika from their relatives. It was less a travel and more a travail among strangers with the fear of being thrashed by branches of trees along the road and the cables above. Nonetheless, it was quite an adventure.