Note: All characters might not be fictional.
I used to love travelling with my parents. My father used to plan the most sudden weekend-trips, to the most unfrequented places. A small village in the hills, a screened beach along the ocean, even a solitary jungle wood house.These places were beautiful— rustic and untroubled. The pace of the city, and all that breathlessness just fell short. I always felt the deepest longing to stay, when we were ready to leave just two days later.
But most of that changed as I grew older. As a teenager, I didn’t like travelling on such a short notice. Specifically, I did not appreciate the lack of control I had on these abrupt travel plans. Perhaps I also had a very happening life with my friends, nevertheless I found it very tiresome to hang around with my parents all-weekend-long.
Suddenly, I started having the most important, assignments, presentations and tests every Monday of the year. I got through most of my school avoiding these trips. But I did go on a few, courtesy those little breakdowns when I thought about how I couldn’t stay without logging in on Facebook every second hour—that hasn’t changed much to this date— and how age was putting away that longing I felt for nature.
I think I was 16 when my father was transferred abroad. I grew up. I went to a college away from home. The trips stopped completely.
Life in college was straight out of a 70’s rock band. I had gotten to like the groove. Made close friends, knew my way around the campus, and around most of the things I could do there.I also started liking a girl. I remember her hair smelled like the ocean breeze on a summer evening. I was tethered. I began to stay back in college a lot during the vacations. It was during one these that she planned a trip for us to her parents’ holiday home, she insisted that I come, it felt exciting. We were to stay there for a whole weekend.
I packed my bags for first train out on Friday morning. I received a call from my father on Thursday. He was back home and wanted the family to go on one our trips that weekend. I was torn, but he was so cheery, I did not have the heart to say no. So I jested with him that I had anticipated his call and that my bag was already packed. A few minutes later I hung up the phone.
The next call lasted for half an hour. I was hoarse and tired by the time I hung up. I think I smoked out all the cigarettes I had packed for the trip, in the same night.
I spent my weekend right next to a little stream, chatting with Ma and Baba, recalling all the great times we’d been away together. I was a child again.
Monday morning saw me in the backseat of our car, staring off into the distance. There had been no texts or calls that weekend. I went back home and called to find the line busy. Wearily, I logged onto Facebook, she had gone on the trip she’d planned for us. She’d gone with a few friends of hers. I guess it made sense, no point wasting a well planned trip. Maybe I was a bit hurt then, maybe I even had a regret, I don’t remember now.
Incidentally, she’s dating one of the friends who went on that trip with her. They’ve been together for a few years now. I talk to her sometimes. She tells me they might get married if they’re still together by the time she completes her Ph.D. There was a time when she would pop into my head involuntarily, several times a day. I barely think of her anymore, she’s almost like a phantom haunting the fringes of my memory. But when I grow old, if I ever live in a house by the ocean, maybe I’ll take a walk in the summer evenings and I’ll be reminded of her.
Photography By: Dikshit Sharma