As I reached the SBI ATM to validate change of mobile number, I felt something familiar. I saw people’s faces — girls, boys walking on the footpath, taking off their shoes in front of the Gurudwara that makes traffic scenes in front of it because its entrance touches an already narrow road. Traffic Policemen bored to death in their shelter stand at the round about, engaged in conversations with acquaintances. People standing with their Jholas plunging from their shoulders, waiting for their bus to home. It felt familiar because there’s a certain innateness about places looked over at in one generation. It essentially doesn’t change. Years ahead now since I first came here, it’s like there is something in the air that binds people. It’s like that air is a cage of saturated solution of brine, unless a new person — unaffected by the previous person — would make a new one, it would always be saturated in the same way. Adolescents learn from the way they see people around, act like them, copy them, realise that the way to be cool, is the way to be adamant, ignorant, bossy, egomaniacal, thuggish, indulgence in hooliganism. Children actually learn from their fathers and mothers to fight, literally, banging people’s heads with an iron rod or the defamed and infamous hockey sticks. This is where I’ve grown.
There’s this whiff of air about the place that gives out the nature of the presence of the people there — a very general, averaged feeling. When I went to Maihar, I felt it there too. Youngsters were rowdy, elder people either edgy from the day’s work, or sometimes really nice. Like the fruit vendor we met who turned out to be much nicer than we thought. Also like the odd man we met in the train who wouldn’t let us read, even with only our small seat lights on, at 9 pm in the night because he had to sleep — such peremptoriness.
Places, in their jaunty purpose to exist, at every moment leave behind an ink of acquaintanceship. Like hands shaken with a stranger on the road, feeling bizarrely palsy-walsy in the manner that induces a part of a memory without telling you. Whether that part was false, we’d never know. There will never be a way to known. The suddenness of how a place paves a way for you to form an opinion about it, just by being in it, is something I’m struggling to find words for. This feeling is different for different people, obviously. There’s a comfort in knowing a place like this, taking your own time to let it seep in you, while you walk around wondering what this feeling is, and why.