On a mission to revisit the past

As a senior citizen I have the luxury of time to ruminate on the past. And nostalgia is a no-cost entertainment.

As a senior citizen I have the luxury of time to ruminate on the past. And nostalgia is a no-cost entertainment. For many, the place of their boyhood remains in their mind-screen, a distant dream. But spurred by excitement, I decided to revisit Erode—the town where I did my schooling and college—and the house where my family had lived as a tenant for 20 years. My wife said she had better things to do when I asked her to join me. My son smiled and said, “You get a lot of time to do whatever you like.” But I was undeterred. How would a fan of John Keats feel when he is about to visit the poet’s birthplace, Hampstead? That’s how excited I was.

Before booking for the journey from Chennai to Erode, a doubt arose in my mind. What is the guarantee that the house would remain there? Fifty years is too long a time to expect it to sit there unaffected by the fast pace of our times. Still the zeal to roam those streets again pushed me.

When I reached one end of that street in the middle of May, it was 11 am. The heat increased my perspiration. I was not optimistic. But when I reached the middle of the street it was there intact! My joy knew no bounds. Only now did I note the house was built in 1932. The majority of houses in the row, and the two on its left and right also stood there, impervious to change. 

Having observed me standing in front of the home, the aged landlady in the opposite house enquired what I wanted. When I told her about my mission she was happy to volunteer information about the copious changes that had taken place since we vacated the house in 1970. Meanwhile, a woman in her early sixties, the present occupant of ‘my’ house, emerged with a quizzical look. When I told her about the purpose of my visit, she was glad. She invited me to come inside the house as if I was a close guest. While preparing tea, she told me she has been a tenant for the last 19 years there. I got her consent to survey the house and went upstairs. The many incidents in those years flashed in my mind. 

After half an hour, I left the house thanking her profusely. I walked along the street, where I once played with other kids, from one end to the other, twice. The visit was an antidote to life’s monotony. Joy’s essence lies in its transitory nature. As John Keats said, “Pleasure is oft a visitant, but pain clings cruelly to us.” I readied my mind to fall back to the routine.

R Sridharan

Email: sridharan111052@gmail.com 

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