There are many facets of the life in a city. They change: the facets and the cities, with time. Change is the juggernaut that can’t be stopped by any force of nature or civilization. An insignificant; puny human being can not even dream of changing the course of the flow of time and stopping change from happening. No, I am not a fatalist. Yes, I do feel nostalgic at times.
It took around a month for me to return to my city, when I left it the first time. I reached Cantt. Railway Station at around four in the morning. I had my instructions, clear and loud: “Don’t leave the station campus until the sun rises”. Yet, I could not tolerate waiting, staying away from my city: my home even for an hour. No, I had to dive headlong into the stream of experiences called Kasi. I had to assure myself that I had reached there; that I was home.
So, I came out and took the ever helping auto. The route was from the station to B.H.U. The auto passed Kashi Vidyapeeth, Bharat Mata Temple, Saajan Cinema, Bharat Sevashram Sangh, Sigra Petrol Pump, Natraj Cinema, Kuber Complex, Central Hindu School and Jain Temple to reach Bhelupura Crossing. The shops on both the sides of Vidyapeeth Road were reassuringly the same. The potholes were at their old place, as I had left them. The point that is specially interesting is that I found quite a relief on the auto’s wheel actually entering those potholes around Natraj Cinema Hall. The whole city was under the pall of darkness as there was an unannounced, consistent and by now, habitual power cut. I was feeling so happy the whole way that even the prospect of reaching home with no fan or lights did not dampen my spirits an iota. I had to leave the auto at Bhelupura Crossing, as it turned away from the route that leads to my home. It is an eight minutes walk, but with the luggage, it took more time. I was carrying one heavy bag and a small suitcase. The load was felt but the inconvenience was minor. I took the Gauri Ganj route to enter my gali near Prasad X Rays.
I reached home sweating profusely. As there was no electricity, hence there were no fans and no way to counter the heat. I felt it all through my senses, but the sense of security and relief on return far outweighed the sensory perception of discomfort. I changed into my habitual night dress and went to my room to sleep on my bed. I do not remember anything disturbing my sleep after that.
No pleasure equals the way homecoming feels. By home, I mean the place where one resides and has his full set up. Home is the place from where one departs and to which one returns. Urbanization and modernization have injected a lot of confusion into the concept because the very nature of distribution of employment in the modern times makes emigration inevitable. The place where one was born is generally not the place where one spends most of his life and then dies.
People I know, and I’ll give them the anonymity that I think they’d demand, have missed Kasi their whole life. In the heart of their hearts, they have always wanted to return, but never succeeded because of the circumstances they were stuck in, or chose to be stuck in. I have a very strong urge to return at times. I have chosen circumstances that don’t permit the return. I know that I can break free. I know that I won’t break free. But this post is more about Kasi than me. So, we return to the change in Kasi. When we talk about change in the city, we have certain factors in mind: physical, cultural, social and economical. The physical change is the easiest to observe and demonstrate. It’s the change in the concrete objects viz. streets, buildings, temples, ghats, Gangaji etc.
In our last visit to my city, as the auto was crossing Sigra Petrol Pump, we started talking about change in Kasi. Secure in my knowledge of the eternal and unchanging Kasi, I bragged: “I’ll accept that the city has changed only when Natraj Cinema is not in its place anymore”. I had been seening the Cinema Hall there since the oldest time that I can remember passing on that road, i.e. for around three decades. It is a landmark, even today, by which people give directions. When the auto reached Natraj, I looked towards it. It was gone. Taken down. I was rushed towards home but micro-mourned then, and mourned later, not for the Cinema Hall that was no more, but for the part of my past that was lost forever. Mentioning the fact and the effect here is my way of a definitely-going-to-fail catharsis.
The first loss of the physical continuity of my city that I had mourned was that of the banyan tree on the mouth of the gali of Vagyog/Aseem Rai uncle. That tree had been there since when I used to go to Chaube Sir’s coaching centre around 1990. When I went to the place in one of my short homecoming trips, the tree was not there. What stood there instead, was the last few centimetres of the thick trunk. On that day I was given a lesson on the power and effect of change that shocks one awake to the ephemeral nature of the reassuring continuity.
We’ll continue our talk of change in my city in the posts to come. Presently, I feel the need for supplying the basic technical term for the same:
Urballaghology: The study (Gk. logos) of change (Gk. allaghi) in cities (Gk. urb).