The last time he wrote it was my birthday.
It surfaced much later.
I turn the page each day to a blank.
I took my muffler and some crumbled ten rupee notes and went out for a walk. I take short strides. I don’t know if they make a long way short or a short way longer. I don’t know if I walk like my mother or my father. I don’t know if walking gait is at all a ‘blood’ thing. If it depends on who teaches you to walk then I presume I walk like our landlord/lady of the house/coop we had rented during those years. They were beautiful years, when I could hardly walk and badly wanted to run. When at the slightest incitation I would rush to the shoe-rack, pull out my bubblegummers, slip into them (almost always squeezing in the wrong foot in the wrong pair) and declare:
“Juto poye tata bye-bye”
(I have worn my shoes which means I’m going out)
I could keep pace with my grandfather (my mother’s uncle). He had a failing heart and had to take short strides. I had to run alongside my father on the way to the school. At other times I would fall behind every two minutes but did a great job imitating him (my father walks with his hands knotted behind ). Only that it was tough keeping my hands knotted, they were small enough compared to my diameter (a tiny waist ensconced within a good deal of baby-fat). As such they would often slip or else give the impression of a waddling penguin.
The last ten years of school I enjoyed solitary walks ---crossing over the bridge---walking past fields ----swinging the water-bottle----sometimes banging it against my head----playing with dirty puppies ----being chased by their mother----being chased by senior boys in middle-school---and maths tuition in high school.
College has become synonymous to walks. Central— a wiff of unpleasant odour from the adjacent vat ---a more welcome smell of toast and ghugni while squeezing through the open air stall near C.M.C gate---- again an attack of repulsive air arising out of the hospital waste and garbage at the other gate---and finally our heaven (Yes, it is dirty inside our gates as well but we do not wash dirty linen in public. Period.) And of course there’s enough space inside for walks…various kinds of them. A morning sprint to the N.S Building to attend pass classes, in the very first month of first year when you have not yet adapted to the ways of the wild and know not pass classes= free periods. If a senior invites you for a walk more often than not the conversations bear fruit on a particular day in January or February (or at the least they get the idea that the fruit is not for them to pluck. Here I’m talking about the red apples and the blue apples and the latest addition the green apples * wink *). Walks with classmates or batch-mates are mostly speculations on inchoate romances, where the boy and the girl still claim to be “good friends” but are adding each other to the “Friend and Family” number list (Advice: Try BSNL’s Kolkata 99 plan).And then someday we all walk out of that gate in slow motion while a junior clicks the ‘pic’.
I had walked long enough. The ageless trees of Moore Avenue were alive with the birds singing in imperfect orchestration. It was still music. It always will be. And unspoken conversations keep buzzing with them…directions to a ‘home’, a mother, a childhood, a mango tree…
And we keep walking in different directions. Forgetting the world is round.