Misty, winter evenings have a way of overwhelming me. It’s sadistic. On 9th December, I knew that the last homewards journey from school would be more memorable than the last day itself. It’s not that anything special happened. In fact, a premature darkness had set in due to an overcast sky. By the time I got off the bus, the world was lit mostly via streetlights and shops.
There is a 15 minute walk from the main road to Mangalam Park, through a twisted network of alleys. Unfamiliar people are bound to get lost, but once you get used to it, the locality is worthy of appreciation. It’s through these lanes that I’ve been returning home for the past 7 years, and attachments do develop.
I wondered how the very idea of returning home changes over the years. Initially, it’s bliss; walking away from the horrible educational building, hand-in-hand with mom. A little later, it’s about rushing back in a desperate attempt to catch the last bits of your favorite cartoon, the timing of which is always just a bit too early. Then, slowly, as these compulsions begin to disappear, it’s just about returning home.
On a warm, summer dusk, you can walk back slowly, arms supporting the back of a thrown-back head, whistling softly to a tune of the season, with the red sky radiating a soothing heat and a warm breeze fanning the untidy hair, messed up with the activities of the day. A beautiful picture. Just that: neither can I whistle, nor does the heavy backpack allow much luxury. And I actually mind weird glances from fellow pedestrians. So, it’s not as perfect as one would want it to be, but nevertheless, enjoyable.
There’s the monsoon, when it absolutely HAS to rain during the short period of this walk, every day. Being a lazy person, I find it easier to enjoy the shower, than to open the backpack and take out the neatly tied-up umbrella. According to the norms in Kolkata, it’s seldom more than a slight drizzle, and there’s nothing like the pleasure of bathing in a fine spray. Heavy rains are best avoided, as they tend to spoil the books inside the ‘waterproof’ bag.
However, the best attraction of the monsoon remains the sight of people on the glossy streets. It’s fascinating to see figures concealed from head to toe in raincoats, or having firmly held umbrellas in their hands that hide their faces from the halogen lights. Reminds me of detectives in some distant way.
During winter, the retreating light is bothersome, and you can’t help feeling a sharp remorse for spending another useless day at school. There are so many things to be done. More than what can be done in a lifetime. And here we are, spending 9 hours each day in school; mostly learning things that would be forgotten within days. Or hours, perhaps.
It is this lonely remorse that made 9th December memorable.
I remember, back in lower classes, I had to tread these streets for all my tuitions too. The lessons would conclude by 9:30 pm and we would be free to fool around till 11. Of course mom would get terribly mad initially, but then she yielded, giving up all hopes of the bright future she had planned for me. I miss those carefree days.
Yes, I probably won’t miss school that much, but I will definitely miss returning home.