Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Leaving Allahabad Forever

Twenty years is a long time in a person's life, especially if that person is twenty-five years old. And when he spends this significant period in a city other than his hometown, that city surely earns a status equal to his hometown, if not greater. Yes, I'm talking about myself and the city of Allahabad.

Over twenty years ago, on 17th April 1987, I left for Allahabad with my parents and sister. My father had been transferred there for two years. Two years! That seemed close to infinity for a five-year old at the time. I hated to go. I had to leave my school, my friends, my grandparents and other relatives behind. And the first few months were really bad, although my maternal grandfather had gone there to stay for a while. It was hot and dry, and the people spoke a language I neither spoke nor understood. Why, there wasn't even a colour TV in our Allahabad house where I could watch the Ramayana in colour like I did in Hooghly. I was just biding my time, waiting for those two years to finish.

Then my father's transfer got extended indefinitely. I was admitted in a large school, and time flew by at supersonic speed. It seems only yesterday that I used to go to school on that trolley rickshaw pulled by Bhola. I still remember some incidents from my first days at school, though somewhat fuzzily. And as time passed, I learnt to understand the strange language --- it was Hindi --- and could speak it as well as any of the local children. I remember my first friends: Antaryami, Abhijit, Fahad, Aman, Priyank... there are so many other names that come to the mind; so many others that don't. The teachers: Mrs. Dutta who still looks the same, Ms Wright, Mrs. Lasrado who loved me too much (and as I now realise, rather unfairly), old Mrs. Anand who was a lovely story-teller, Mrs. Lahiri, the English and drawing teacher who taught me much of the painting that I know today, Mr. Bose whose two slaps were enough to change my handwriting (for the better) for life. I progressed from class to class. We shifted from our first rented house to a new bigger one. And somewhere down the line, my resentment for this city changed to love. As I came to know the city intimately, its roads, its moods, its people, I became an 'Allahabadi'. This was the only city that I could truly call my home, for I had left Hooghly before I really knew that place.

And when I came to Kolkata for graduation, I actually missed Allahabad. I yearned to be back there on vacations, not only because my parents and sister were there, but also because I loved lying on the sunny terrace in the winters, cycling on the roads, meeting old friends, visiting my school and these were activities intrinsically associated with my Allahabad visits. But in the back of my mind, we always knew that the end of our stay was coming near. And we were all looking forward to it, making grand plans about what to do after we return to Hooghly.

Yet, when I board the train tonight for going to Allahabad for the last time (I may visit again but not as my hometown), I will feel a pang of sorrow. I can see twenty years of my life lying unraveled in front of me, twenty most important years of my life, years that made me what I am today. And although we had planned it long ago, the homecoming isn't going to be all sweet either: my grandparents' absence, especially my grandmother's death (who passed away just two years ago) is going to remind us that we were a bit too late.

Still, we have been looking forward to bidding farewell to Allahabad since that April day twenty years ago, and it will be a very happy and much awaited event for me and my family when we board the train back to Kolkata on Sunday. We'll finally be back in our new house in Hooghly, leaving Allahabad forever.
At least my body will be. A part of my soul will always stay back in Allahabad.


  1. Very well described!!
    20 years in a small passage!!
    gr8 work :)
    carry on!!
    n Happy Journey
    ..... the new journey of life!!

  2. Wow Sugata!Your description is awsome....and veryyy touching....wonder how it would be to relocate family and home from the root.....i toh have had bogged down spirits each time i had to shift from blr to delhi or back...or even shifitng Pgs have been morose....gosh!!!to think my Jamshedpur edifice where my family still resides, deserted....phewww!!!Cant think of it at all........neverthless all the best!!

  3. @both: Thanks for your comments... I was a bit busy so couldn't reply.