Whenever I cross the distance between bus stand/railway station/airport and the destination in a new city, almost always in an auto, this gush of thoughts cross my mind. In Bombay, I just stare out and remember all those bollywood movies where this scene is depicted – a new migrant enters the city of dreams and just looks around at the skycrapes, at the crowd, at the buses and so on. Feels like a character in movie myself. In any other new city, I try to weigh the city in terms of its ranking in development infrastructuraly. Coming from Delhi where, by the way, metro construction on Mehraulli Gurgaon Road is also progressing very fast, I can’t help noticing the state of roads, the traffic, the public transport of any new city in a non-hilly region.
This time I happen to come to the city, which was once ‘nanihaal’ for me, i.e. nana nani’s home. This place bears sweetest childhood memories for me. I fondly remember minutest details of the time spent in that particular house in Jawahar Nagar, the park in front, the phisal-pati (slide) in the park, that strange (fantasy) lady who would look like a witch and scare all of us, us – me and my cousins. The excitement of meeting my cousins again was so much that I couldn’t sleep the night before we would leave for this city. There was charm in each and every thing in Jaipur. And hey, Jaipur for me was all that was within one km radius of nani’s house. It was extended to one km also because there was this awesome churan shop at the bus stop near by. This shop would go mixture of all assorted sauf. Something we kids would die for. This stuff taught us basic measurement (much better than any textbook in math could ever do) when we divided equally into 3. Apart from that, Jaipur was nani’s house, the park in front, the school at back, and a sweetmeal shop which made best jalebis in the world.
After so many years, Jaipur was a different city for me. I don’t even know how far I am from nani’s house at present. From auto, it looked like a strange place. It looked like any other new city. I was searching for fimilar sights. Branded showrooms. Malls. This is what I saw. Not something I was looking for. Where are those typical Jaipur houses? Made of stones from Aravallis. Where’s all the desert sand? I had been to some tourist destinations in Old City many years back. The city which tourists looks at and the city which dwellers live in are quite different. I wanted to spot painted walls in jaipur style rangolis and patterns in non-tourist spots. Finally, auto wala passed through some old colonies and I saw 2-3 house walls made of Aravalli rocks. And just then, in a vikram (bigger auto) in front I saw an old man, a young woman and a child with all their luggage at back. Somehow the old man looked a lot like my nana, he even wore the same type of coat which nanaji used to wear. It felt like Jaipur, then.
I have been traveling a lot. To different places, different cultures. In every new place I find the reflection in the mirror different. Sometimes I live without looking at the reflection for entire week. Sometimes I like what I see. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wish I could change it to some original form (which was what I don’t remember). Sometimes I think it is only natural that it changes with place. Now I wish it would stay the same. Atleast for a decent period of time.