‘You have to take us to your house!’, both of us said at the same time. Discussing about the old town of Patan, Robin, our host, had casually informed us that he also owned a house there. Incidentally, the place where he grew up. It’s evening, and as promised, he is taking us along to his old house. When the bikes can’t go any further, we park them in a line and start walking. The local corporation has dug up the length of the lane; water pipes are being reinstalled here. We criss-cross them in a dance-like fashion, and the local people around look at us with apparent disbelief.
Robin’s family currently lives outside the old city, walking distance only though. The old town has limited space, and the aged houses can’t bear the weight of the new storeys anymore. You either rebuild them in a crumpled fashion or move outside. They opted for the later. This felt all too familiar. Two decades ago, more than a thousand miles from here, a kid in old Jaipur had been a part of a similar story, when they moved out of the crumpled lanes of the old city, too tired with its own weight. Outside, to a newer and brighter future.
As we go nearer to his house, I can see a spark in Robin’s eyes. He’s probably visiting this place after a long time. The lanes have only enough space that an old Maruti 800, with much difficulty, can wade through. Robin’s eyes meet others’ on the road, some Dai and some Didis, ‘You have grown bigger!’, they say.
‘This side,’ he indicates a small door that can’t fit me full. I bow down and walk, and we are suddenly in an open space. The same courtyard pattern as the rest of the old Patan is followed here as well. Most of the people have added one or two storeys to their houses, but Robin’s house is still the same. A portion of the house has been rented out to a relative. We climb up almost vertical, wooden steps. He tells us about the times from his childhood, his dens, the corners where he ruled. It wasn’t probably for us, a reaffirmation of his past, to himself.
He probably didn’t know, but this walk-up had sent me somewhere else. While we climbed up the wooden stairs here, I climbed up the stairs of my childhood home. From the rooftop, Nahargarh fort would be visible. I dreamt of my paper planes reaching the walls of the fort. When that couldn’t happen, I sent them down from the fort. One of them did make a wonderful flight and kept the wings high until I couldn’t see it anymore. No one lives there now. Once in a while, we still go with the family, the last one being two years ago, but the walls don’t have the same color anymore, rather no color. The houses around have also added a few more storeys, now neither the fort is visible, nor my paper plane.
It’s probably much better in the past. And I don’t want to think or visit the house anymore. Maybe, there is a fear that the reality would be too harsh, and it might overwrite the beautiful old good. I wonder if Robin is also thinking about his past. I wonder if I, too, would take him to my childhood home when he visits us in Jaipur. And then we would contemplate what we have lost and what we have gained.