What was that again? Ah, that thing about change being the only constant in the world. A cliche, but like all of them, true. In a way you wish for change, at most times you don't. Yet it does and you rebel, fight it, sometimes (thankfully) win over it.
There is also that part of your life that never changes, or at least, remains reasonably unchanged. I was at the Express office briefly today after this assignment. Nothing had changed, nothing much at least.
Express was where I discovered and nurtured my passion, for travel, writing, journalism, life. It was there that I came to, alone in a big city, fresh out of college, with ideas and dreams and several others...Express was, well... anyone who has worked there will understand why I cannot complete that sentence.
All new faces at Express. But you can still walk right into the office, the corridors, with the look and feel of my nostalgia, feels the same. The canteen guys are there too, silent Anil, the others whose names I never took the trouble to ask. They still know I take sugarless coffee and they still serve it with a smile. There is something there, perhaps, no...I cannot explain it. Express will always be...that something.
Off late though, I have seen several changes in what was dear, those little things which were rather inconsequential, but a part of a life nevertheless. Next to Express buildings was Sanman hotel, a regular haunt for great coffee. For those of us who worked on Sundays when the office canteen was closed, a treat was to walk down to Sanman for evening coffee. Nothing else was great, just the coffee. The waiters knew how I liked my coffee, sugarless and strong. Today there stands some other store, with glass panes. I don't look up when I pass that way.
My recent trip to Chennai threw up surprises too, none pleasant. The worst was my school was being rebuilt. Vidya Vinaya Vinoda Matriculation Higher Secondary School was one of the few that offered Kannada as an optional second language. I went there, because I couldn't start Tamil classes from the ABC level in class 3. The Kannada lyricist R N Jayagopal, who passed away some time ago and his wife ran the school. Madras (I can never call it Chennai) was special and so was the school. That was where I met Vani, built beautiful memories.
This November, I walked along the quiet lanes towards where I knew the school was. What I saw was a torn down building, construction materials. I walked on, I did not want to know what happened. Some things are best not known.
There were shops that I greatly loved. Maharaja's, the supermarket, remained closed, just like last time. I had written about Madras and memories two years ago here and here. Golden Smiles and Veena Fast Food were both gone, something I didn't bother remembering in their place. The road to Vailankani Church is full of branded stores; there are no vendors selling tiny plastic toy buckets and dolls. I couldn't find Fashion Folks either.
Change. I don't really like that word. You begin to love a place, associate it with some of your most cherished memories and there it is, gone! For arguments sake, you could say, memories can be pulled out on a rainy day, relived and the thought would make it just as sweet, bring a smile on to your face and chase away the clouds.
I would rather keep the places and the people and the situations and add to my memory box. I would rather live again, and again.