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‘We used to ride our bicycles here when this was just a dirt road.’
Her eyes blankly stared at the road as she spoke, visualizing her younger self on a cycle with her classmates as they go to school.
‘The guava tree on the left, oh, it’s also gone’ she exclaimed with sadness.
Shivam continued gazing at her while she relieved her childhood memories.
‘Let’s see the school’ she proposed, as they began walking on the concrete road on their left from the main highway.
The vacant land lining the unpaved road she used to run on, has turned concrete, empty spaces filled by large buildings.
The short serene 2 minutes’ walk, filled with greenery was an eyesore of shops and extravagance now, luring children to empty their pockets before they even reach school in the morning or at home later in the day.
The small gate was massive now, small scattered rooms got together to form themselves into a huge edifice, the ground strewn with pebbles and little grass struggling out of it, was now tiled, landscaped and everything was colour coded.
She didn’t try opening the closed door, observing everything from a small hole in the gate, her eyes refusing to believe what she saw; this was the same place, she used to come to every day 12 years back.
Everything looks so alien, distant, artificial and emotionless now.
‘The school has changed’ she declared, Shivam listened quietly.
Her eyes met his after a long time as she spoke. The excitement of catching a glimpse of her childhood suddenly vanished, she stretched her hands to hold his.
‘I hate this place now’ she announced.
She muttered, pulling him towards her, as they begin their walk back to the car.
‘Sanskriti beta’ suddenly she heard her name from somewhere. Thinking it was just random noise in her head, she continued, but Shivam stopped.
‘Sanskriti beta’ the voice repeated itself.
She turned around to see, an old man, wearing the uniform standing in front of the open school gates.
‘I saw you from the guard room.’
Sanskriti ran back towards him, her eyes sparkling at his sight, flying in a world of her own, she gripped his hands tightly.
‘You are still working here’ she asked eagerly, still panting after her quick sprint back to the gates.
He nodded his head, a smile lighting his old creased face.
‘I am so happy to see you; Raman bhaiyya, Mukesh bhaiyya, Chandan sir, Rupa Ma’am, Chandni Ma’am, Saini Sir, Rupak Ma’am…..
Sanskriti spewed out the name of every teacher and staff member who worked in school when she was studying to find out if they are still there.
Overwhelmed with her questions, Ram Charan, took a deep breath before replying in a slow, measured but exciting tone; responding to every enquiry of hers calmly.
Sanskriti was sad to find out almost everyone has left barring Chandan sir and Rupak Ma’am.
Her sad face again lighted up as Ram Charan offered them a tour of the school.
Spending more than 2 hours observing everything inside, she emerged out of the gates, unable to control her emotions, she hugged Ram Charan, thanking him for remembering her and changing her perception of the school which was on the verge of becoming permanently gloomy.
‘I will come again and meet you and Chandan sir and Rupak Ma’am’ she announced while hopping like a child as they resumed their walk back to the car.
Shivam watched with a smile as she reached the car before him.
Once settled inside, he pulled out medicines Sanskriti needed to take frequently, she gulped it down reluctantly.
‘I’ll be back in a while’ said Shivam while gesturing to buy a water bottle.
Tears suddenly ran through his cheeks.
‘This was his wife’s last wish to visit her school, and now it was over.’
The tumour in the head allowed her just a couple more months and one more day of those 2 months was coming to an end now.
Sanskriti knew why he left, her eyes, however, remained dry, aware, one of them have to ‘Act’ strong.