A trip to the hometown is always busy and fulfilling. Meeting people you haven’t heard from or seen for a long time, relieving the moments of the childhood, seeing familiar faces, getting recognized by someone you don’t even know but they knowing you somehow, curbing your intense desire to smoke as you never know who might be watching and might report it to the parents and above all not even knowing how the time just flew by.
Nakul was enjoying the last day of his holidays back in Lucknow. Although he was born and brought up in the city, his job had taken him to Bangalore and traveling from there to Lucknow had now become a rarity because of the distance and his new job. Riding his younger brother’s bullet, he was completing the last round of the city before taking the flight back at night. 10 days seems such a short time when you are at home, compared to when you wait for the monthly salary credit to your account, especially when you hit the last week of the month. At that moment, it feels as if the last 7 days break the usual 24 hours a day rule and move onto a different cycle of 48 or more hours as almost everything takes double the time to get over.
As Nakul crossed the street leading to bada chauraha, he noticed seeing someone familiar in the crowd. He was getting late and thus decided to continue driving forward; however, something pushed him to take a detour as he drove back to confirm his intuition. He parked his bike on the sidewalk and went ahead to explore what he saw.
This place was nostalgic as he used to frequent it during his school days while on the way to his school. The place was famous for its sumptuous aloo kachori’s and the place would witness long queues of people waiting to get a handful of those, which only the lucky few would finally get. The owner Raj Kumar, a middle aged man with a receding hairline did not had much to provide in terms of convenience but what he offered in terms of taste and flavor outweighed all the distress. People would come from afar to taste his amazing recipe and such was his popularity that he would sell all his kachoris within 2 hours. Not a single day had passed in those times, when not less than 50 people would leave empty handed as the stock would finish off well before all those demands could be met. Nakul mentally reminisced about the old times fondly as his eyes began searching for the familiar face again.
One man sitting under the shade of the tree with disheveled hair and a random outgrowth of unkempt facial hair was looking down with almost no awareness of what was happening around him. Nakul looked at him closely and was surprised to find the person who had fed some of the delicious mouth-watering kachori’s to the entire city with his own hands. Nakul felt a surge of emotions as nostalgia gripped him with memories of his childhood. The only face he remembered of Raj Kumar kachoriwala was, unruffled and serene amidst a sea of crowd, trying to topple one another to lay their hands on his amazing creation. He never shouted or tried subduing anyone, somehow maintaining a calm countenance in the presence of a crowd of overzealous customers.
He wanted to know what happened, went closer to him to greet with a Namaste. The man however remained unresponsive and continued to look downwards. He tried seeking his attention again by saying Namaste even louder, however this also did not have any effect on the man who still maintained a downward stare. Seeing Nakul trying to talk with the old man, one of the passerby asked why he was he trying to converse with a mad person. As he said that, others also began telling him about the lost mental balance of the man he was trying to talk to and advised him to rather go and carry on with his own work. Having seen him as only an affable kachoriwala, his current state was something that Nakul never expected to see of him. He ignored what others said and went closer to give him a light hug. The man remained unresponsive; although he could feel the warmth of his affection many a times during his school days when he got kachoris free by him even though they were in high demand.
He wanted to help him and decided to bring some food for him. He tried giving it to him, but this too did not elicited any response. As he was trying to place the food packet in front of him, he got a call from his brother to return quickly or risk missing his return flight.
Nakul once again looked at the old man as he reluctantly walked back towards his motor cycle. As he kicked the engine to life and began riding forward, a quick glance backwards showed him the man pushing the food packet towards him.
Nakul was in a dilemma – to stop or continue with the ride!!!