“Yaha bikta hai sab kuch, zara rehna sambhalke,
Log hawa bhi bech dete hai, gubbare mein daal ke.”
To mankind, in all its glory.
Holi in Kashi is an exuberant affair. Simply put, it is one of those days when the city is at its loudest, boldest and brightest. For some, it is the effervescent colours of the abir, while for some others it is the evening aarti at Dasashwamedh Ghat. And for some nomadic souls like me, it’s a glimpse of home.
I never carry a map of the cities I wander off to. There is an inexplicable content in unwinding the unknown and relishing the battered roads. I could say I like to travel, but that wouldn’t be completely true. I like to travel, but I’m selfish, for when I travel, I make love to the stretch of blue above and the wind over the dusty lanes. I travel to understand myself; the farther I go, the closer I get to what people call home.
But that was till I met her.
She terrifies me, in every way a lion terrorizes a deer. When she looks at me, I can feel her eyes piercing right through my soul. She is a tigress trapped in a woman’s body, fierce but beautiful nonetheless. She fascinates me like no one else. I’ve read enough to know how this feels like, definitely like bliss. She is the haven where my dreams and nightmares meet.
Holi in Kashi is extravagant, more so, with her by my side. As we run down the steps from the temple to the ghat, she grabs my arm and pulls me aside, “happy holi”, she whispers, sprinkling the vermillion playfully on my cheeks, blinking naively. At that precise moment, I can tell you how being with her feels like, it feels like coming home.
I am no writer, that I know. But I like to wander, on and on and on, if only for inspiration. When I travel another mile, I see a thing or two more, I learn a whole lot more, and liberate a lot, lot more. Home has never seemed a familiar place to be; I know how it feels like to spend a lifetime at one place and never truly feel at home. But now I know how sinful some indulgences are and for once, how glad I was to be wrong. She had done the magic, she brought me home.
I was a qaidi, a prisoner of hushed voices and lulled maladies. Now, I’m just willingly enslaved in rapture. I can almost write a tale on the capturer and the captured, delightfully remorseful. I would have liked to think I freed her, but I didn’t. It was the other way round. So even when I finished the epilogue of the novel, I didn’t set her free. I kept her amidst the pages, locked away from ravenous readers, and tucked her safely beneath the charcoal-stained sheets. I didn’t tell anyone why my protagonist dies midway.
I kept her all to myself. I was selfish, you see.