“Don’t be a jerk,” I chuckle and give him an affectionate punch. “I don’t know, I just have to see it.”
I do, I have to see it. Because I’ve heard my father and uncles talk about it so many times, its taken on a mythical quality in my head. It sounds majestic and beautiful and ethereal. And because their mother died there, my father and all his siblings feel some sort of deep connection to it.
“Has any of them ever been back to visit the place?” Rahul says, tilting his head down towards me, as if reading my thoughts.
“No, they haven’t,” I reply quietly. “I don’t think I would go back to a place where someone I love died. It would be too painful.”
After walking at a brisk pace for just under an hour, we reach a little village market with a handful of rundown shops and hawkers’ stalls. Is this what passes for ‘town’? I can’t be sure. Not much business seems to be going on and men are lazing about, seated on plastic chairs, talking in hushed tones and eyeing us curiously. Suddenly I feel rather uneasy in my hip linen shorts. Rahul immediately shakes off my hand’s grasp on his. I know he’s uncomfortable with the gawking too, but letting go of my hand abruptly has only made it worse.
“I’m going to ask someone for directions,” he says and walks off. Self conscious and feeling deserted, I turn my attention to an unattended grocery store, outside which an old man is sitting on a handcart, selling bidis and cheap cigarettes. He is wearing a Nehru cap and looks about a hundred years old. Despite that, he is clearly ogling.