18/04/2012 by Siddiqui Fayesal
This post has been lying in my drafts since at least four months and pending since the past eight. This is not a travelogue. Or, rather its not just a travelogue. It’s an essay of a place I visited after almost seven long years. So I was looking for an apt time when I could sit back with total calm and write about it with all the tiny details that would justify the effect it had on me. But after some months I realised it was folly on my part to expect such a sabbatical wherein I could write an essay to my liking. So here I am sitting in an auditorium waiting for the speaker to arrive and enlighten me with the Concept of Costing and Finance. And this is the time that destiny has chosen for me.
Just like how sudden and surprisingly my visit to Gorakhpur was.
Readers might be forced to think that Gorakhpur would be where my roots lie for me to speak about it with so much affection. Truly speaking my roots lie not 150 km away from Gorakhpur at a place called Jalalpur in the District of Faizabad. But after 7 years this was the closest I was to it. And anyways UP was my home state if nothing!
I hadn’t visited my home state since the past 7 years until I stepped in the hot, dusty and dry city of Gorakhpur. It might be a cliché to say it but the very first gust of the dusty air hit home. If I hadn’t experienced this coming home feeling even I’d have difficulty accepting it. I’d think well its just the author being an author. Or, it might just be something that you got to write when you talk about your native.
But for the people who fly back to Bombay even after a mere week of any other darn city in the world will know exactly what I’m talking about! That’s how I realised that Bombay really does smell really different. An elucidation in the form of, “Wow! I’m finally home”, is pretty much an accurate description of the reaction as the whiff of Bombay air hits you.
Well, Gorakhpur did that to me too. The quaint city with carts and temples welcomed me with a musty rainy smell that probably came from the very fresh horse manure! The little things that I noted reminded me about my own town. Things like the upturned rear view mirrors on bikes; the ubiquitous roasted groundnut sellers; the distinct smell of puri’s being fried in mustard oil!
Yes! Mustard oil!
Here, out in Bombay, people identify bhaiyas with mustard oil. Any new migrant will be seen with his head dunked in mustard oil. Its the way things are done there. People wrinkle their nose in disgust as he passes by. They call it kadva tel. Maybe because of its smell. It does have a distinct smell but I don’t think its so pungent as its made out to be.
Or maybe I’m just used to it!
I’ve used mustard, groundnut and sunflower oil for my cooked food and I prefer my mustard. But even I’m not comfortable with the thought of it on my head 😛
The very fabric of the town; the unintelligent, but distinct, babel; the dhoti clad old men; the women behind colourful veils selling bangles and, of course, the loud proclamation of trade or profession from the registration numbers of cars and bikes, were all like a prod telling me, asking me in a pleasant tone, “Do you remember this all?”. Remembrances was all that I had; cocooned somewhere in my head waiting to be unraveled into a rhythm of beauty. The more I saw the more I realised with a tiny smile playing along that Yes I did remember this…from somewhere in the past! It hit me with nostalgia. It hit me hard. Every twist and turn I saw something that reminded me of the by-lanes I played in every day for a month every year till I was in class 10 or so!
The same kind of graffiti splashed across the walls; the same form of hoardings and ads which clearly showed with an apparent displeasure that it had to leave its “small town” description to “semi-urban”; the same kind of trinket sellers; the same omnipresent demand of coaching classes catering for civil services…
The list is endless. There probably was more. But I must’ve missed them!
A funny thing about the two towns I’m talking about. Actually I can safely throw the net over the entire state and call it a state wide phenomenon. The bikers there have this weird habit of over turning their rear view mirrors and, thereby, ruining and totally decimating their utility. It was funny a first few…100 times but then I started getting worked up! Everywhere I see it’s the same.
Apart from the bath from the past I went to Nepal for some time. My first international trip and I literally walked to it! Apart from the armed guards everyone for the first 200 meters was Indian! Beyond that I’m sure I’d find some Nepalis.
PS: Readers might think that the horse manure smell line was a joke. But trust me on this one. It really has an earthly musty smell! I like.