As I sat down to have a cup of tea this morning, I heard my home calling me. There was a new post, and even in my mid 30s, I was as excited to receive it as I was at 7. Anne kept yelling since I had betrayed our old tradition of having breakfast together. We did it to spend some quality time with each other (in our otherwise busy lives). No matter what, neither of us would get up until the breakfast was over. The table was placed just outside our kitchen, in the lush green garden, facing east, as the sun stares right at us. It was so quiet that if one looks beyond the garden wall, one might assume there is a different world out there. We both liked the soothing silence and found fulfillment in natural beauty.
But today, I jumped out of my chair and rushed to get the envelope.
“You traitor, get back here, now!” shouted Anne. She was so loud that the old lady in the neighborhood thought that we have been attacked by a gang of burglars. I kept running till I got hold of the post. It was a post card with a picture of a middle aged women in a red Saree, with her head slightly tilted towards the wooden pole just outside her home. She has three piercings in her nose and don’t know how many in both her ears. Her smile reached her eyes and spoke of innocence.
I came back to the breakfast table with flashes of my past in mind, because I immediately knew where this post-card had come from. As soon as I reached the table, Anne was there with her angry face but my expression dissolved it all.
“What happened?”, she asked.
“Nothing. Just a post card, I haven’t read it yet”, I replied.
“Go ahead and read it, Mahir. Stop making dramatic faces.”
“This is not dramatic at all” I turned the post card and started reading it but she stopped me.
“Tell me what’s written. Where is it from?”.
It was in Hindi, and with her minimum sense of the language, I knew she wouldn’t understand it. So, I decided to translate it in English and read it to her.
Dear Mahir Sir
How are you?
Where are you these days?
I am good, we have renovated the two clinics in Kerpai and Kaniguma. It’s like a mini hospital now. We have small clinics in Silet, Kandelguda and Semikhal as well. You know what! We have WiFi in our clinics. The road from Bhawanipatna to Bilamal is completely modified. There is an excellent bus service which takes only an hour and a half to reach Kerpai from Bhawanipatna. Things have changed drastically since you last visited 9 years back.
Do you remember Raju and Sumit – the kids from Kerpai Gullu? They are doing an online distance learning course in computer science and teaching volley ball to the kids. Every morning they make sure that each kid from the village is in school. By the way, the school in Kachilekha has also been renovated. There are eight classrooms now, each for a different class, and the residential school that was under construction when you were here, is also functioning. There are 150 kids in that hostel, from 9th to 12th grade.
Sumita and I run the clinic now. We are training new girls from the village who want to pursue the course of Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM). Meena has become a school teacher and visits the clinic every Saturday to spend the weekend with us. She has two daughters, both of them exactly like her. Leela has shifted to Puri, where she works as a senior nurse in the government hospital. She is enjoying her life along the coast and visits us during Toki Porba. Sanjana and Anita are working as nurses in District hospital of Bhawanipatna. Both of them are happily married. Raja has finally got ticket to run as M.P. for Kalahandi and is busy preparing for elections next year. He is confident of winning but I am not sure. Amit is a government school teacher in Silet now. He shifted there with his family. The kids love him as he takes them on small picnic every month. Ramlal is also working as a teacher in Gunpur. Karan has set up his own shop in his village and sits there all day. He has grown a little fat, and his daughter is in 8th grade now. Jayram has become the Sarpanch of Kaniguma Panchayat, and is doing an amazing job. I also have a small daughter who I find really cute. Everything has changed but we all miss you. Please come to visit us soon.
I could feel nostalgia running through my veins. It was one of the best feelings in ages, to hear about everyone thousands of miles away, sitting at a breakfast table in Tula. I felt I was with them. It had been a while since I went back. Life was moving really fast since I moved out from there. This letter reminded me of the wonderful year that fellowship was. On an impulse, I opened my laptop and sat with Anne to browse through the pictures of the unforgettable journey. She resented initially as we hadn’t even met back than and she wouldn’t relate to any of the photos, but later had to change her mind.
As soon as we finished looking at the pictures, I asked her to, pack her bag, called Sandeep and told him to meet us in Delhi. I knew he wouldn’t have anything better to do and won’t say No.
“Wait! Pack? Why?”, asked Anne.
“We are going to Kalahandi. The time has come for you to visit that place”
“But you know I have this important meeting next week, Mahir”
“Come on! You can postpone the meeting. Please!”
“Sometimes you are just unbelievably random.”
“Thank you so much.”
Tomorrow, we are leaving for Kalahandi, a much awaited trip, to see and show her around, the place where I started my journey.