He is in the city which holds many secrets and stories of his youth. Tired of his present, he decides to visit his past for a day. Will he be welcomed there? Read the story to know what happens when Raghu goes back to his past.
Last month I was in Delhi for some work. It was originally a two-day trip and I had to return to Banaras on the morning of the third day. But due to some issues, work was cut short and everything got winded up in a day. Since my train tickets were already booked for a day after, I had no choice but to stay in Delhi for one more day. “But what would I do for a day?”, I wondered as I collected all my paperwork from my desk and left for my guesthouse.
As I walked through the dimly lit gallis of Chandrawal, I noticed two boys standing below a tree, smoking cigarettes. They looked like they were final year students. Suddenly it occured to me, why not visit my hostel tomorrow! It would be nice to visit the place which holds so many stories of my youth and see who accommodates my room now. Oh, and I could also talk to Kishen Ji…I wonder if he still stays there.
It has been more than 15 years since I graduated. As a student, I received a very meager amount of pocket money from Baba. And I had to manage all my expenditures including my accommodation in that small amount. Unfortunately, I had not cleared a seat in my college hostel and so I had to look for a room or a flat elsewhere. Luckily, I had met Suraj, now a very good friend, during the admission process and while talking we discovered that we had taken admission in the same course. I asked him about his accommodation and he told me he had booked a room in a small private Boys hostel, 20 minutes away from our college. He took me there and I found a good room which also complimented my budget. The owner of the hostel was a middle-aged man, Kishen ji, as everyone including the boys at the hostel used to call him. He was a cheerful man with a huge paunch. Kishen Ji used to always say, “The secret to a man’s happiness lies in his paunch size!” and everyone used to laugh at his mini life funda. Kishen Ji was very understanding and never bothered the boys for early fee payments. And every now and then, he used to bring delicious chole-kulche and kulfi for everyone in the hostel, including the aayahs. Everyone liked Kishen ji, even his business rivals simply because that’s the kind of man he was. Kind, understanding and always making people smile with his jokes and life fundas.
I reached the guesthouse and was disappointed to find the building looming in the darkness. In this July heat, power cuts are nothing but God’s red signal to you to either give up your life or go for a long swim. Since a swimming pool in the humble walls of my guesthouse could only be an imagination and I was not in a mood to give up my life today, especially after I had spent a good half an hour thinking about my college days and Kishen ji which had made me happy at heart, I could only sit and patiently wait for the power to come back. I had nothing to do and I was reluctant of going back to my room in this sweaty darkness, I decided to recollect more memories of my hostel days and Kishen Ji. I was happy to have found a good escape from my dull life for a day, to my past, my youth where only possibilities and good moments lived and not regrets. As I dreamily wondered about what I would say to Kishen Ji and the student currently residing in my former room, the power returned and I slowly dragged myself to the room, desperately waiting for tomorrow to come.
Next morning, I had a quick breakfast of parathas and started from the guesthouse for my hostel. The hostel was a bit far, so I decided to take an auto. I was in such a good mood that I even tried to make a small conversation with the auto driver which earned me the knowledge of his family and hatred for the current government. I reached the hostel in half an hour and managed to take the auto driver’s umber for my future adventures in Delhi.
I stood before the double storeyed, green building. Flashbacks from my college days started embracing my eyes. Before they could embrace so hard that my eyes would shed a tear, I decided to go in. I opened the gate and entered the building. The porch door was wide open.
“Koi hai?”, I shouted.
“Kishen Ji??”, I called loudly.
There was some noise in one of the rooms and a door opened with a creaking noise. Kishen ji came out of the room with a toolbox in his hands. He still looked the same. Only, signs of old age had gripped his body. He had very little hair left on his head and he used a walking stick now. He stared at me for a minute and said, “Yes. I am Kishen. Kya chahiye tumko?”
“Namaste Kishen Ji. It’s me, Raghu. I used to stay here as a student, some 15 years ago. The 15 number room on the top floor was mine. I used to stay with Suraj. Remember?”
He continued staring at me for another minute or so and then exclaimed, “Ah! Raghu! How are you? What are you doing here? Look at you with a paunch and all, must be living a very happy life, ain’t you?”, he grinned.
I laughed. “I am good Kishen Ji. I am in Delhi for some work. Had a day off so I thought of visiting you. How are you?”
“I am good but old. Aging, the only thing no one has a control on! I am so happy you came. Who knew in a city full of historical wonders, my small hostel would attract someone!”.
“Kishen ji, actually I was half expecting you to not recognize me and shoo me away. Who remembers tenants, that too old ones!? It’s a delight you still remember me.”
“Haah! You expected me to not remember you but did not expect me to be dead? The expectations we human have, I tell you…”
I chuckled. You can always expect Kishen Ji to say such things. It felt nice to talk to him. I felt young again. Whether it was from talking to an old man and forgetting my own age or by being at a place which held so many memories of me as a young boy, I don’t know. But I felt very young and happy.
Kishen Ji walked towards the kitchen and returned with a plastic cup for me. “Now I expect you to know where the water filter is Raghu. Go and take it yourself.” I did as directed.
“Chalo, I’ll show you your room now. A boy named Madhav stays there now. But he has gone home for vacations.” I nodded. I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted to meet the boy. But I was still excited that I would get to see the room that has so many stories of my youth, plastered on its walls. Kishen Ji took me upstairs. He was about to open the door of room number 15 when suddenly we heard a noise downstairs.
“Must be the laborers. I’ll just go check with them. You stay here Raghu. And please finish the water before it vaporizes in this mad heat!”, he added pointing towards the plastic glass in my hand. I smiled and nodded. I finished the water in a gulp and Kishen Ji smiled back. He turned and was about to go downstairs when he turned again, looked at me and said, “Also Raghu, never think that you won’t be welcomed here. As long as this building stands, you will always have a home in Delhi.” He smiled and left before I could say anything.
SOURCE: Self clicked
I smiled at myself and started looking around at the posters on the wall. Suddenly I heard a voice from downstairs, “Kaun hai?”
It was not Kishen Ji’s voice. Confused I came downstairs. A hefty man somewhere between the age of 30-40 was standing there. He was wearing a white shirt and a thick gold chain.
“Who are you? Where is Kishen Ji?”, I asked.
“Huh? Kaun?”, the man said in a confused tone.
“Kishen Ji? Where is he? And who are you?”, I repeated myself.
“I am Niket, owner of this hostel.”
I was confused. Who is this man and why is he calling himself the owner of this place? And where is Kishen Ji?
He must have sensed my confusion. He said, “Oh you must be wondering…I am so sorry I should have told this to you earlier. Kishen Ji died a few years ago. I have been handling the business ever since his death.”
I stood there, shocked and a million questions in my head. I managed to mumble.
“There was a leakage in the water filter. He did not notice and stepped on the leakage, slipped and had a brain hemorrhage.”, the man said.
I stood there silently, still wondering and analyzing everything that had happened in the last 45 minutes. The man turned and went upstairs.
As I was walking towards the door, I heard the man scream upstairs, “Pintuuu…Madhav ka 15 number room saaf kardo. Kal aa jaayega wo.”