Thanks to an email from Goshi, Habshi has been in Saikap mood, mode, mind these few days. And thanks to the generosity of Azeri national holidays (they have nine in a row, Parsi New Year, Novruz) there has been plenty of time to surf the web and do some Saikap searching. Habshi found quite a few websites. Saikapians are busy folk. Or so it would seem.
The road home leads through the city of Kapurthala, through the enchanted city of Jagatjit’s kingdom, through the city of an unknown enchantress. There is no escaping that unless you land in Amritsar and drive home, which Habshi has not done very regularly. Besides on this road lies a familiarity, the kind that does not breeds contempt, a familiriaty with the roads, the roadside plantation, the construction and various names on the milestones, a familiarity that stands the test of being overused unlike the familiriaty with humans.
Getting into town, crossing the DC chowk (once a destination of sorts), and getting to bus stand appears a waste of time these days. The buses pick you up from the bypass. Habshi gets down at Jalandhar bypass. Usually there is a wait for a bus for Sultanpur but it’s a quiet place early in the mornings when he usually gets there. And he is nearing home, end of long journey is nigh so he is not in a rush. The old gate of school on this side of the campus is visible partially. Still in its perpetual, and it seems eternal, state of being closed. As if it was never meant to be opened. A gate with half fulfilled destiny, never opened, always closed and to add to its agony sometimes jumped over, pichla gate.
A bus arrives and Habshi jumps in. The bypass is left behind. This stretch of two odd kilometers is a stretch to look out of the windows, to look for the top of palace, for the top and for the never raised flag, for the ever lonesome pole on the top. Once Habshi had put his neck up through the top and looked at the world around. Everything was far and small, insignificant. It was a view for the royal to look at the lands and lives that made them. It would still be a view for royality had all the birdshit not stank. Plus those stairs were very shaky, out of repair ever since the royality went out of the palace or even before. You can’t cherish a view at the risk of your life for too long. So Habshi had gotten down quickly yet the memory of the view had remained. He had tried to calculate the distance of various fields and tried to apply the theories being taught those days in his NCC class, how objects appear farther when viewed from heights and how to calibrate your distances mentally. It didn’t work, the stink was too strog. So with his distances in disarray he had come down, out of the dome, into fresh air. Travelling in the bus he always tried to look for that place with the best view, always. Not with a great success though. There were only two three spots left by the ever growing trees which afforded the view. He had to be alert but usually he got a glimpse.
Looking out for the four feet wall and the firing yard was a different story. The boundary wall in that section is still visible from the road, still visible for the lack of construction. Maybe one day it will be lost to needs of someone building a shelter but still young ones play cricket there and the view is clear. The four feet wall is slightly higher at the firing yard section. You can’t trust the aim of the royality that walks the palace these days and gets their share of five cartridges every now and then. Habshi was good at it. Once you fire the first bullet no movement of the gun, absolute stillness, only trigger pressed five times. He got four through the same hole. Moved a bit for the fifth and there was a centimeter’s gap. Yet it was good. A good shot. He isn’t that still now. He has had his share of pointtwotwos and SLRs.
Moving on the school is lost to construction for a while. Nakodar road crossing goes by on the left hand side. He relaxes for a while. He knows the next and only sighting is some distance away.
What is this romance of catching a glimpse, as if of a lover, hard to understand, yet there? It’s the enchatnress in that palace, the one that burns the trapped souls, the one that works at them all the time they stay there, the one that is in the statues at entrance to museum, the one that is in wall art of the conference room, the enchantress of the green house, the enchantress that walks the fields and poisons the water they drink. They all feel compelled to think about her every now and then, long after she releases them physically. She keeps a cord of attachment and they all feel the pull, all their lives.
Habshi should just go to school. Have a look at it, it has been a while. Just don’t get down at the bypass i.e. the Jalandhar bypass. Go to DC chowk , get down, walk to the main gate. Let the gatekeeper know you are here to meet Mr. Mr. who? He is sure there will be many who still remember the Habshi of ten years ago. He was a rebel enough to give them few things to remember. But he is not sure if they have any time to spare for him now, not sure if he is worth the hassle. He is not of any significance. Not yet. Oh just say Mr. Shamsher Singh. On the way out just put the dollar sign of his signature, the gatekeeper won’t know the differece. It’s not necessary to meet anyone. The enchantress will know you came to pay your obeisance. It is her that you need to visit, to look for, to remember, to feel. Or just say I am an old student. Give your school number. But Habshi doesn’t feel like an old student yet. Not old enough for the old boys association. It should be alumni association. Will give more scope for attendance. But this is just playing tricks with the name. He will visit the enchantress next time he is around. May be. If the pull on the chord is strong enough.
Many Saikapians visit school with their families. Once they are married and kids and all. The trophy palace of their teen days, the grounds and accomodation, all the places where they ruled the roost for so many years. They display the enchantress with an air of the owners. The wives are impressed. The kids are afraid of the quiet of the palace. Of the grip that enchantress is tightening around their hearts. But soon they are out of the gates. And there is nothing to fear for the little ones. They are safe. Their dads’ have decided Saikap is not for their kids. They know the secrets of the enchantress.
The bus rolls on. The electricity sub station comes on the right. The wall shows itself once again. That and close by further ahead is the most breached part of that boundary. The bricks laid by the king’s mason worn down by the crossings of the little Saikapians. Syal is still going strong, he is still there, the STD and the bakery and all. Rama is gone. The shop is deserted, shutters down, walls crumbling. No more Rama, no more Rame da besan. Not that habshi was getting down for some. Happy and Happy’s Happy Studio are still there. He doesn’t look that happy not after the day Habshi’s class foxed him with their farewell video money. Underground comes, still there, the little tandoor and all. As the bus crosses the mosque and moves towards the Sultanpur bypass the reign of the enchantress slackens. The bus turns left and onwards straight to Sultanpur. The journey is in its last stages and he will be home soon. The enchantress is forgotten as that girl in front the bus attracts his attention. He moves towards the door of the bus, stands there letting the passing wind blow by, letting the homeward winds reach him.
Till the retrun journy, from Sultanpur Lodhi bypass to Jalandhar bypass. With the left on the right and with the right on the left. Rama still closed and crumbling. Through the reign of the enchantress. For him she will always rule this strip. From one stop to another. Bypass to bypass.
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