A gush of wind blew on my face,as I stepped further. 'Chadramohar.', I wispered as an old familiar smell seem to awaken me from a trance.What beautiful flowers they were.They used to glow in the moonlight,like jewels.That is from where they got their name. It was my native land after all,I should have expected to find a lot of things 'familiar' here,although I didn't quite belong to it anymore.
Improvements had taken place ofcourse. But I guess they were only for the worse. They had taken away whatever little was left of this old town,that made it possible to call it our childhood 'home'. It took me about half an hour more to reach my house,although I wasn't quite sure I belonged there anymore either.
As my eyes fell upon the dilapidated building,a feminine voice called out my name from behind.
'Shweta?',I shouted and hugged her tightly. It was weird how a 'friend' I had not seen for almost 20 years now gave me the warmth I had been missing somewhere.
I held her at arm's length and said,' You are still here?'
'Well,atleast some of us has to stay back.',she smiled. A shiver of guilt,shame and what not rolled down my spine.
I tried to hide the uncomfortable look in my eyes,and started to see around the house. I stood in front of a portrait hanging down the wall. Those were beautiful days. It was taken at of one of those picnics I used to go with my family,when I was quite young,and also a better person. There I saw my mother holding the picnic basket in one hand,and clutching my hand tightly with the other. Beside us Charlie was standing on the ground,proudly showing off his new collar and sticking his tongue out due to the heat. Father was not there. Maybe he was taking the picture himself,I didn't remember exactlly.
'You were such a naughty child then you know. Always used to wander off in search of adventures.',Shweta whispered.
'And who did I wander off with the most ? Don't you remember that part ? Dear best friend.'
We both laughed.
'I miss them you know',I smiled weakly.
We stood there in silence for a while.
'Masi used to talk about you a lot. She also showed us pictures you mailed her from where you live now. Its called London,right ?',she said finally.
'Yes.', I said
'That's a beautiful place you know. I wouldn't quite blame you for not wanting to come back here. This is just a small town. Confining at times for people.'
'For how long are you staying ?'
'I am leaving tomorrow. Early.'
'Oh ok. But it was nice having you here you know. I miss you at times.Bye.'
I heard the door close as she left.
I went to mamma's bed. The table top still had her reading glasses and her knitting set. And also a sweater she had been knitting. It was imcomplete, just like everything else here now. I held it close to my chest and sat there for a while.
I didnot remember much of the day when I left. But I do remember my last words as mamma had asked me to stay. 'But how could I settle for so less in life mamma? How could I stay in this town? How could I realise my dreams then ?' She hadnot said a word. Didnot try to hold me back. Maybe she knew then that I had become one of those,who had started to find this town too 'confining'.
I opened the drawer and it contained letters. Several ones mamma had written,which were never sent. All of them addressed to me. Some begging me to come back. Some telling me about papa's ill health. A one about Charlie's death. The last ones about her own declining health. I could see her handwriting deteriorating in each one,until in the lasts they could hardly be read.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. 'You could have sent them mamma. Could have told me that I needed to come back.' But then I knew why she didn't. Maybe somewhere she knew that I had gone far ahead in life. Too far off. That she herself was now incapable of calling me back. I slept with the sweater in my lap.
Next morning I got ready for my flight and left. I could not stay in this house any longer anyway. I preferred not to say goodbye to Shweta either. I had bade my last goodbyes many years back,I thought. There was no use trying to complete things that had stayed this way for so long. She will understand that.
'London would make me forget things. Just as it had,all these years.'
As I entered my apartment,the tightness inside me loosened a bit. But yet it didn't feel like home anymore. The place where I had lived for the last ten years or so.
As I unpacked my bags,I took out the incomplete sweater. It was the only thing I brought back with me. The last gift from mamma. I didn't have the heart to leave that behind. As I started looking for a right place to keep it,I could not really find any. It seemed to suit nowhere. Not the wardrobe,not the bed,nowhere. It appeared to me as if whatver I kept with it,looked too dull. This old incomplete thing was too warm,for all this cold and shine here.
Then I knew,what I had settled for in life. 'How could I not see mamma ? All these years ? How could I have settled for so less ?'