A modern city is the place where a modern man is born, grows roots into its soil and then, most probably, is uprooted from it to be transplanted some city else. I shared the soil and the roots with one such man. He passed away nearly a fortnight ago. The loss was personal and so was the grief, or whatever ounces of it I am capable of.
Funerals are strange events. For me, they are more about my death than that of the dead person, and more about their life than that of mine. So, I stood by a black stinking drain of a river that they have converted Mother Yamuna into and looked at all the goings on. I saw myself on the pyre. A lot of his identity was mine and vice versa.
We belong to Varanasi (Which verb do I use when talking of my dead uncle and me alive? Should I use his tense on mine or mine over his? My using past tense may create ambiguity here so I’ll use the present tense whenever I’m confused). We spent our active professional careers away from home. We raised children (his three, or my two) and played various roles given to us in cities we were not born in, and in my case, never grew into.
On his death my thoughts went to the boy who grew up in the lanes of Varanasi. He traversed through the same lanes that I was to walk in, thirty odd years later. Did he feel the loss of his city as I do? I never got a chance to ask him this question, and many more.