Humming my way through the rock strewn bylanes of Choudwar towards Titagarh Paper Mill, I was already feeling mighty nostalgic about traversing the very roads my mother must have as a kid. A group of kids playing gully cricket suddenly caught my attention and I waved out wildly to them. A scrawny young lad raised both his hands and half a leg in response much to my amusement.The rest of the gang continued to play much to my consternation.But that eventually gave away to the excitement of finally reaching the gates of the TPM colony. My friend who was accompanying me, stopped the car, and we got out to speak to the security in charge who was a little hesitant in allowing us inside. Finally after some amount of persuasion and armed with the knowledge that I was the Chief Engineer R.K Choudhury’s natuni (grandaughter) , we were allowed to step into the campus in the company of another security officer.
As we entered, I could distinctly feel my mother’s voice ringing in my ears. She always used to come up with “Ama Choudwar re” meaning humare choudwar mein….and all of us used to be like…not again!! But at this point, I missed her saying all that. The security officer on hearing my grandfather’s name immediately quipped , “Oh,Choudhary Babu..siye toh B-7 re rahuthile…asantu asantu, mu neijauchi” (Oh Choudhury Babu used to stay in Bungalow B-7,I will take you in). Since the mill had closed down in 2003, the entire area of 500 acre was unkempt, with overgrown thorny bushes almost covering the once well maintained roads. We crossed the dispensary, with the “DIS” almost wiped out and the “RY” hideously covered with traces of limestone dust.An old dusty open jeep was parked in front which apparently carried sick people from their respective houses.Next,we crossed a host of well spaced bungalows which were scattered on either side of the road.
While I was busy scanning the name plates in front of each bungalow, the security officer shouted out, “That’s B-7” . We stopped and walked in. The servant quarters were neatly lined up towards one side and the garage with its rusty asbestos roofing was visible next. The sight of the peach coloured bungalow,slightly peeled off at a few places, with its criss-crossed grilling across the windows swept a wave of nostalgia over me.A rusty Mobaj lock held on precariously to the front door and though I could only afford a sneak peak, I thought of my mother talking about how airy n spacious the bungalow was and how they never had to switch off the lights
and fans,because they had free electricity at their disposal…how they always had the luxury of home made jams and jellies,how they managed to throw people into the holi tanks,about movies being screened every Sunday in the local club,about the badminton matches and the indoor games,about the exciting tambola games, about how they used to board the ferry each day to reach the other side of the river so that the bus could then take them to school, anecdotes of one of my mausis‘ falling asleep as soon as she touched the bus(hence bagging the title”The Sleeping Beauty”) and another one throwing away her food so that she wouldn’t be reprimanded at home for not finishing it.Boy!!It seemed like all that she had ever told me suddenly came alive, as if the yesteryears were unfolding themselves yet again, so that I could capture and savour every morsel of it,till I had my fill!
“Didi,ferry ghat chalantu“, the security officer said.That took me out of my reverie and I looked around for one last time, before we proceeded to the banks of the river Mahanadi. As I manoeuvred my way through the thorny stretches of grass towards the steps that led to the banks, I looked up and saw the lopsided moon peeping through the dark green branches of the banyan
tree.The endless stretch of water ahead painted with hues of crimson and orange and the thought of my mom walking down these steps left me with a smug smile and the feeling of wanting to come back to this very spot with my kids!Coming back to your roots can do strange things to you!