Homecoming

RANBIR V DAS·FRIDAY, 29 DECEMBER 2017  

Ray didn’t make plans for the day.
The past few days after the arrival had gone by quickly. A succession of visiting familiar faces, most of them a mixture of disbelief and wonder at how much has changed, old friends and family trying to make up for lost time. An orchestrated whirlwind, a crash course of catching up; it was fun, but the pace felt unfamiliar after years of routine.
On such a lazy day, being in one’s childhood room felt strange. Ray looked around it from the old bed of daydreams and leisure, acutely aware of it’s importance as the personal standard of comfort. There was a table, stacked with books read many times at some point, almost sorted from fiction to encyclopedias. But it was not the table where one spent the last vivid memories of hours spent in sincere effort, no, that honor belong to the one lined with the tomes which still intimidated the casual with their technical titles; admittedly less cherished than the former, but still kept to be hand me downs or as a library. The wardrobe was a slightly musty exhibition of what former tastes or the lack of it used to be, and a mirror curiously would show an occasional stranger. There were a few subtle changes to the room, intently made by the folks to be as welcoming as they could.
As the winter day waned, with the sunlight streaming down the wall in familiar paths, Ray thought of different days, especially the rainy ones, the ones with the wailing trees in the winds outside, and the fragrance in the aftermath. It inevitably made one want to go outside, see more of the city and how it felt.
From the bungalow’s terrace one could see there were new shops just outside; they weren’t a branch of a chain with employees, they were personal shops where the middle class dream still pulled folks through, an odd collection of items with no clear demarcations, where people brought items from the sidewalk. Some of the customers were efficient and hurried home with their purchase in one of the vehicles parked haphazardly near the sidewalk, some of them lingered to share comments, and some stayed to listen to the game if the owner played it.
Ray decided to visit Grandmother and she what she was up to, recalling that visiting the young cousins, uncles and aunts always made the day feel better. The auto-cab drivers hung out together below, from their awkwardness they seemed to know Ray was rusty, one of them asked for the address and agreed to a fairly reasonable price after some haggling. Ray scrolled through tagged memes as a passenger while the wind roared inside the vehicle.
“I have seen you somewhere before.” the driver said.
“Huh?” Ray looked up.
“Didn’t you used to usually walk around these parts?”
The driver asked. Ray wondered whether that observation was one of an impressive memory or skeptically one of cold reading.
“Yeah. Did I ride with you before?”
“Yes! I believe I took you to Brown’s Cafe”. That checked out; to Ray, Brown’s served the best affordable chicken stroganoff in the city.
“That is impressive that you remember that, I haven’t been there for years.”
“Have you been out of the city?”
“Yeah.”
“Must be different, coming home after a while huh ?”
Ray wanted to talk more of the memories of the time away, but instead hesitated to do so and merely nodded in agreement. They travelled through a rough road, with potholes in it.
“These have gotten even worse this year with the floods, I don’t understand why they haven’t come up with something to pave them properly once since ages, instead of having to do so every few years” he said.
“Probably because there’s more profit in doing the same thing badly every year instead of doing it right once.” Ray shared and he agreed with disapproval.
“What’s your name, if I may ask ?” Ray said
“Onu”
“I’l try to be as good as you are in remembering stuff, Onu, let’s hope we meet again”
Onu was pleased with the compliment, one could tell from his smile and how he rushed to open the door for Ray. He took off shortly afterwards, heading back to his friends and an interrupted game of cards.
Ray knocked on the door and waited for an answer. After growing antsy trying again for a few minutes and no answers Ray decided to use the side door. Upon approaching it however, Ray was surprised to find Ol’ Brandy guarding it. She looked older, but hale. She didn’t recognize Ray and bared her teeth. “Hey girl, how have you been ?” Ray asked nervously. She looked confused, one could tell she recognized the voice somewhat but not the person. Ray looked carefully to check if she was chained, but alarmingly she wasn’t.
It didn’t look like things would proceed well, but the side door was suddenly slammed open and out came Grandma. “Brandy how dare you not recognize Ray” she scolded amicably and held her back. “What’s up Grandma?” asked Ray while Brandy sniffed the stranger and finally recognition dawned on her. “Oh you know, the same old, making dinner for the family, y’all will eat in a few minutes. Come in, too many mosquitos these nights outside.” she commanded.
The dinner involved a lot of talk but Ray remembered the home cooked food the most and how much it was missed. The recipes for these weren’t noted down in a book Ray could refer to while trying to cook after going back, but they felt more wholesome than those that were. Feeling sleepy and somewhat jetlagged Ray decided to sleep over.
Lying in bed, Ray felt peaceful with the nostalgia of homecoming upon hearing a distant train in the otherwise silent night.

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