|Aghara (Hindi: अघाड़ा) (Photo credit: dinesh_valke)|
With temeperatures hitting the low 40s this past week Mumbaikars have been sporting sweat drenched frowns while they scurry around in a city that is growing more concrete than grass. The hot weather, however, hasn’t stopped two people I meet every day from sporting smiles that are growing wider by the day. Bayda the Bai an Madhukar the Chauffeur ( Driver is too plebian a word to describe this gem of a man who drives our car as though it were a Rolls and holds open the door for me as though I were the Queen!) are the two people whose joy is growing deeper as the temperature keeps rising. The reason for their unconcealed joy is the fact that they are both going home next weekend.
It is strange how both of them who are living a life far better than they’d ever imagined away from what is called in Indian Bureaucratese their “Native Place” still pine for what they call home. Both of them though not living in the same vicinity will still have to make a long trek home : Bayda will spend a good 8 hours to cover a distance of a mere 180 km only because there is no convenient bus to take her there; and Madhukar will spend a good twenty four hours going all the way to his home which is in the heart of the Konkan, a desolate strip of land along the Western coast. Once home they will be forced to walk some distance to get drinking water which will have to be stored in earthen pots, will have to collect twigs and wood to light their stoves to cook their food, will have no light switch to turn on at night, will have no fan to stir a breeze and above all will have no escape when their mothers drone on and on about their knees that hurt or hearts that pain . They will have to go back to eating the rustic food that their palates have long forgotten, tend to their fields in the hot sun and walk on dusty tracks to meet old friends .Yet despite this all, the two of them couldn’t be happier to go home and are literally waiting for the day they can go on home.
I often wonder what is it that makes people pine for what they have left behind? Can they still call home a place they had left all those years ago? What ties bind them to people they don’t meet for months on end ? How can they re-connect to a lifestyle they abandoned all those years ago?