When I was a kid, I used to daydream about a new road that could connect my native home in that lonely hill to the main road. Though I loved scaling down that hill to go to my school and loved climbing it back in the evening to get home, it was tiring. During monsoon season, it was fun to scale down the hill in company of rain streams, which run down the hill to join the channel on the side of paddy fields. I think my inspiration to write may have derived from those lonely walks through different paths in that hill. I was never alone in those journeys as thoughts and imaginary friends kept me cheerful. In the morning, the exuberance of getting to the school made the journeys exciting and the eagerness to get to the home made the return journeys interesting. I still remember the resolve of one of my friend along that path who dug a well for his family with some others as I watched the progress during my journeys alongside his home.
It is crazy to imagine about a road big enough for trucks to get to the top of that daunting hill. There was only a small path, which could barely accommodate two people to walk through it at the same time. Now when I go to my native home in a vehicle, I try to call back the memories of old landscape, as road brought more people to that hill. With lot of houses, now it looks so different. To be fair, road is too steep and raw for vehicles to climb. My first journey through that road was not that memorable as I barely had any senses while sitting beside my dad’s lifeless body on that ambulance. I never thought that I would have to go there after seven long years. Unfortunately, I had to go there again six months later with my grandfather’s body. Well my dream road welcomed me in a rather bizarre way.
Thoughts about that road bring memories of my lonely games with my imaginary friends. I used to build small vehicles using coconut leaves and small coconuts. Well, my wildest wish was to build a bus using wood, but with an engine, so that kids can have fun travelling through the road. I even dreamed that one-day buses or vehicles would be able to transport the believers to the church, which is next to my home. Well my fascination for buses started from there as it was the most seen vehicle in that part during those days. Well, years later, during my industrial training I did fulfill my wish to learn in detail about big buses. I took my passion further forward by designing buses for my cad projects. It is not a miracle; now a road is there along that old channel which brings water occasionally from the dam for irrigation. I have fond memories of playing in the water in the canal. By throwing small stones on the water and seeing the ripples, I tried to kill my loneliness in my child hood. It was fun to walk through the water to catch some tadpoles and small fishes. Now people are able to visit that church on their vehicles.
How fast things change! That is what I felt about the impact of that road on my life indirectly, though I do not live there anymore. Before the road came, nobody cared about land or land prices there. Tapioca was the major cultivation in that hilly terrain as it just grows with the seasons, without much expense. On the other side of the church, it is beyond recognition now. Rubber trees have taken over the entire space. While scaling down that stretch, I found the newly constructed temple. When I was a kid, there was only a small deity on the riverbank near a big tree. Construction took many years though for whatever reason. Well my connection with that temple is still alive. Somebody told me that my dad’s grand grandfather was once a priest there and now he is one of the deities. I do not believe in myths, but I can seek blessings from heart in private. A myth is there related to the temple. Some of the younger cousins told me that ghosts enter the bodies of young girls who walk along the temple with spreaded hair. I have not seen it, so I have no choice, but to believe them. They said that some of those girls who casually went to the temple that way , once the goddess or ghost enter them, they talked Arabic or they behaved like old women or versing shlokas like women of old era. Then to get rid of those unwanted ghosts, they had to undergo prayer sessions or pujas depending upon their faith. I still remember the late priest who was friendly to me. Back then, the river was shallow and there was no bridge. I used to enjoy collecting pebbles from the riverbed on my return from school. Now the river looks bit deeper, may be due to the sand mining. The paddy fields are still there green and beautiful. Now there is a bridge connecting the chain of roads. I can thank the panchayat for having some kind of vision in building those roads.
Life has changed so much to the point that, though I have fond memories about that hill and people there, I have no love left for that place. Once the road came, the price of the land multiplied and the greed to have the land closer to the road has driven some people crazy. As laws are easier for crooked people to abuse or manipulate, they get their wishes fulfilled so soon. It is mayhem for the real owners to clear the cobwebs of red tapism to prove that it is their own land. I do not want to waste my time or energy to take vengeance as I still believe in law. By the time, law travel its own course to bring justice, I think I will be long gone. However, I do not have any complaints, as lawmakers do not have time to make laws competent with current era. More over our judiciary is notoriously so slow that it is better to get on with life than wasting decades over silly issues.
Unlike any other thing that I have faced, this will remain in heart for very long time as it happened right after the death of my dad. Still it makes me very angry that no government machinery is able to provide any relief to our rightful cause. It is not a pleasant feeling to chase down land grabber when we are mourning. Well, my feelings for land ended right there. Now I think about the landless people who do not have even an inch of land of their own, let alone to have a shelter to live. Unfortunately, land grabbers live so peacefully without fearing anyone. Real landless people struggle on the streets.
To my amusement, an illegal shop stand tall in our land adjacent to the road makes it very difficult for me to think about travelling through it again. Well, I wish to be peaceful. It is not a trait of weakness. It is hard to control the anger when I look at their eyes, as they love taunting to destabilize me. It is easier to demolish it and trigger a series of counter reactions leading to countless legal battles. That is what they have been expecting and trying hard to induce from us. However, I have grown up now to be able to laugh at their greediness.
Be day or night, I love hills. I love nights filled with stars and moon. However, there was no star or moon visible as I climbed that hill for the first time through that road. To make things worse there was power cut; I could hardly see the road. As I remembered, the scary ghost stories that they told me about that particular riverbank, I was bit scared to walk in absolute darkness. Well lot of myth is aligned with that riverbank. Many people told me that ghost chased some of their relatives late into the night. Some have seen mysterious people swimming on the river at the midnight and asked them to join for a swimming session. All they did was run away from the scene. Yeah my dad have told me about couple of youngsters who drowned at that bank many years back. Therefore, people may be referring to the ghosts of those youngsters. Interesting thing is that even drunkards believe that they were being chased down by some ferocious figures while walking through that road. Well, I wish not to travel through that road again as I want to move away from that part of the world, leaving behind the memories of my dad right there. I do not want to see his grave, as I prefer to believe that he is always with me in my quest to rise from my terrible fall aftermath his death. The road has changed the lives of people there positively. Now there is quicker access to the necessities. However, I wonder whether that old village charm or innocence exists there. I wish the road to help them to have a better life.
I wrote this memoir based on the prompt “When I think how life used to be” (a line from song written by Travon Potts and Brock Walsh) to participate in carryontuesdayprompt blog carnival and pleasantly-disturbed-thursdays-vol-9 blog carnival. Please visit these sites and check others writings as well. Thanks. J