Going back to Navy-nagar always makes me bliss. I wasn't born there, haven't even spent major chunk of my life there, just two years effectively, 5th and 6th year of my life, but its weird how some places of your childhood play a role in the way you are, for-ever.
My parents have strong circuits there, too many people we know, actually, they know. I don't remember much of them, nor does it matter to me. Twelve years I have been in Vashi, renewed the very foundations of my life, very far from trivial bondages, but faded memories always remain. I go back sometimes, for some hours, but only to some specific places, meet those specific people. Remaining part of Navy nagar is stored only in form of moving pictures in the mind, pictures that sometimes I can't even make a head or tail of.
Yesterday I went to Navy Nagar again, to visit Dadu and chachu. Dropped by INCS, but it was closed for lunch break, a good half an hour of wait. It was drizzling slightly, the weather was too inviting, so I bought Ice-cream [mango candy!] and told my father that I would be around. Picked up my umbrella and walked off. Around the main gate some I saw some cadets at work, ah! my brain said, "the feast has already begun.."
Walked, absorbing the scene. Lush green tidily done lawns, absolute cleans roads, not one man around to interfere between me and the surrounding, the smell of the soil, and top it up, tiny droplets leaking from the sky. I walked through puddles, splashed water on my feet, felt heavenly, carefree. I drifted so much in the new-found freedom that I wasn't too aware where I was heading towards. Still, I was certain I would find the way back, cummon, it was Navy nagar! I suddenly saw the end of the road I was walking on, and surprizingly it looked very familiar. Excitement got the better of me, I almost ran towards the gates of that very known place. But the gates were closed, it was not time to open yet. As I peered through the gates, I felt warm, and happy.
Yes, I knew that place, have had some memories there. It was the shiv-mandir. We celebrated Durga puja in these very premises. I remember running around with my brother in the opening, offer pushp-anjali with entire family, eat sweets on sindur-utsav, bow to the mother. It is the best part of the year Durga puja! And just beyond the stage was the sea. Kids weren't allowed to go there, but the sound of the sea splashing on-to the shore was one thing I remember. It has been fenced now. Sigh....
I saw to my left, and just as I expected, The Commander's swimming club! Used to come here as a very little girl with chachu. This place marks the onset of my love for being in the water, yes, it is special. It has been renovated, good. But to it's right, parallel to shiv mandir, I saw an official looking gate, it read "Sea-view Park" and the gate was open. I walked into the park.
It was one simple park, but it opened into the sea! the sea roared and so did my heart, with happiness! I walked straight to the very end, as close as I could get to the water. Stood there appreciating the beauty, of life, of nature. And then,
I felt a hand on my shoulder and almost instantly, an unknown voice said "Excuse-me",
I was taken aback! I turned around to find two guys standing very close to me, one of them was a sardarji, his hand was out-streched towards me. I was so stunned and enraged, took two steps behind, as far as I could get from them.
"My name is.."
"I don't care." I turned my face, preparing to leave.
"Wait, do you need help with directions? you are not from here, are you?"
"Yes I am, mind your own buisness!" and then I began to walk off the garden.
The other guy came running rehind and held my hand.
I turned behind and smack! slapped him right on his face,
"Don't you dare touch me"
"Listen girl, we are just trying to help."
"I don't need any help."
"Stop acting stupid, you have lost your way."
"I have not, leave me alone"
and I ran, as fast as I could. I didn't know where I was going, but this road was surely not familiar. I was feeling absolutely stupid! It was raining heavily now. For few moments of timepass, I had landed in this unknown-unsafe-absolutely-empty-neighbourhood with two loafer-likes. It was my fault.
"Stop, its no-entry ahead! Its not safe, its high-tide! We are not here to hurt you, damn-it"
I stopped, had no choice but to, it was dead end.
I turned around to face them. Both of them, drenched.
"Please don't panic, we can explain ourselves."
"Don't come near me."
"Ok, we will not. We will stand just here, fine? Now will you talk to us?"
"Hi. My name is Vishal." The first time the other guy spoke.
"I was your friend in school."
"You were not, I remember all my friends, atleast their names."
"In Naval Public School. In your Second standard. I was a couplea years senior than you. We went to school, in bus together. You knew me."
"Oh, Maybe. Why scare me like this?"
"I saw you at INCS, recognised you, but couldn't gather the courage to talk to you in front of your dad. So, when you left the premises, we followed you."
"So now you done talking with me? I have to go."
"You haven't changed much. The same little school girl you are, I realised this while following you. The same innocence. When you played with the dog and fed him you ice-cream at the end, you made me smile, just the way you did when we were kids."
"Yea, I did not know then, but realised this after you left. You took a part of me with you. All these years I kept thinking of you. I always had a crush on you."
"See, I hardly know you. Do you really think I would entertain you?"
"I am not asking for anything. When I saw you looking at the sea, the look on your face, the brightness in your eyes, I just could'nt stop myself. And, the way you were walking, we knew that you had reached the park by chance, you had lost your way. Its not safe here you know."
"Yes, now I do. I am so sorry for slapping you, I misunderstood. Its too late, I have to get back, Papa must be waiting."
"Its OK, take a left and then walk straight. Third left will be INCS."
"Wait. One last thing."
"Yea, what happened?"
"Can I touch you? "
"To assure myself that I am not dreaming. Atleast let me shake you hand, please"
I streched my hand, he did'nt grab it. I felt like he was making a joke of me. But then he smiled, "Can I walk towards you now?"
"Huh? yea yea." and then we shook hands.
"This is it then?"
"I guess" I smiled back.
"Good to meet you, again."
I got back to INCS, and no, they didn't follow me this time. Did my shopping with dad. But the boys did'nt come back to INCS. I half-hoped to see them there again. Still....
When I was waiting outside for dad to get the car to load all our stuff, a small girl came to me and gave me a peice of paper. It was a note. It said,
You made my day, Thanks.
Keep Smiling always,
I don't know why, but I kept the note in my pocket. Its always good to know that you have an admirer in some part of the world. :-)