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A trip down the early 20s memory lane

 


I am just back from a 24-hour trip to Bhopal, my hometown and my mind is full of several nostalgic moments I experienced in the last 48 hours. It started with a taking a red-eye flight alone - it's been some time since I've taken one of these red-eye ones alone; last few years I've either travelled with family or with some colleague in tow. As a solo traveler, there's that eerie botheration that I may take a nap and miss some important announcement like the Gate of my flight changing or boarding being announced. While I've never had any trouble like this, but the anxious botheration is a part of travelling solo and I experienced this anxiety after a long long time.   

Then, of course, the emotional rush of being in your city of your birth and upbringing hit me as I took a taxi from the airport towards my destination. When the Taxi guy took a road different to what I'd usually take to get around, I gave him some instructions, only to realise that roads and landmarks both have shifted considerably since I took these roads. 

[Interstingly, it's not been too long since I rode in Bhopal. I had camped in Bhopal at my home for 8-10 months in 2020-21 during the Covid-19 pandemic. But since I drove down in my own car, I took the same roads which were etched to my mind; and also never had to give any directions to anyone. But navigating a taxi driver who probably must have come to Bhopal well after I left the city, made me realise that his and my defintions of the same landmarks was quite different. What I called Board office chauraha (square), was DB city mall for him; what I called tin-shed was platinum plaza for him!]

Then I reached the venue to join my parents for the wedding of a close acquaintance. It was probably more than 12 years since I would have attended a wedding party alone with only my parents. Ever since I got married, I was always with my better half - the two of us forming a unit in itself, independent of my parents. Yesterday memories of school years gushed back as I found myself tailing my parents through the party. I felt like being transferred back to those years when we attended numerous parties of my father's colleagues where our main lookout was to hunt for the most delicious serving on the dinner spread!

Thereafter, on my way back I was to take the Rajdhani Express and I decided to ride an auto-rickshaw to the station. Important to note that almost since I was in college, I had stopped seeing the Bhopal Main railway station because most trains, by then, had a halt/stopover at Habibganj (now Rani Kamlapati) station which was much close to my house. So I was probably visiting Bhopal railway station after a gap of 20+ years. [Rajdhani Express has very few stops and hence it doesn't halt at Habibganj.] 

Again the commute was alienating - I had never taken the road which the auto-rick navigated because it didn't exist when I used to live or come frequently to Bhopal railway station. The railway crossings which were landmarks and cornerstones of Bhopal's traffic, for me, had disappeared completely leaving not even a trail of their erstwhile existence. The station itself has been modernised and looked different. And cleanliness near the station impressed me but, ironically also alienated me. I was used to seeing dirty bylanes around the railway station, not wide roads with organized parking! The ride and the destination was almost like visiting a completely new city. 

Finally, I had a wait of 2 hours before my train came so I started reading a book - the book read was getting pushed down my other priorities for the last month or so. Again came back gushing memories of my Engineering college days, later at NITIE and then at KPMG when I would travel alone to Bhopal and managed to finish a book on my way home and another on my way back. Since Navyaa has been born, I've not had this chance because travel now always entails either being busy managing logistics or spending some time with her. After probably a gap of several years I picked up and finished a book bang within 48 hours - a feat quite refreshing if not pure nostalgic.

All in all, last 48 hours have not just been a quick trip to and back from Bhopal but also a saporous nostalgic trip down the memories of my early 20s.

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