It’s a weird feeling when you go back to the place where you have lived for nearly 20 years of your life and find your house all abandoned. None to take care of it either. That’s the screw up of living in staff quarters.
To give you a brief description of the place where I grew up I begin by telling you a little story. I had invited a few friends over for lunch. When they reached the station where the board read ‘Mankhurd’, a quiet suburban area right before where New Bombay begins, some guy asked them where platform number 3 was. From where they were standing they could only see 2 platforms. They just gave him that ‘we don’t know’ expression and left and later made fun of me all day that Mankhurd was such a small place.
My only counter argument to that teasing was that- Atleast the place is ‘Green’.
Well, my parents worked for an institution called ‘Children’s Aid Society’, a social welfare organization which is affiliated with the Govt of India. This place housed about 1000 destitute children in a lush green campus. The children were aged from 1 to 20. They had all the facilities from schools, huge playgrounds, hobbies classes and of course a home where they lived. This institution is basically divided into 5 main parts where the children are kept according to age groups and sex. My mother and father both headed different institutions.
So, till the age of around 14 the only friends I knew were these kids. My evenings were spent playing games with girls my age and if someone asked me what has been the best part of your life, I would definitely say the stay here. It’s a different thing altogether to play kho-kho, lagori, kabbadi, langadi with a 100 girls all fit and strong. And in the post game chat sessions I used get a daily dose of how fortunate I was to be born in a house where I had a Mother, a Father and a Brother. These relations were quite unknown to these girls or rather hadn’t been as smooth as it is for us.
I have heard stories of how they were sold off to some stranger in exchange of a few thousands. And later how they were rescued and brought here. The kind of stories you read in the news papers of street children, beggars etc. Well, these were the lives of my friends.
Going back to where I started, I was standing in front of my locked house 2.5 years later after leaving from here and memories kept flooding back.
Suddenly I hear a familiar voice calling out ‘Pinky, Pinky…’
I turn around to find ‘Sultan’ standing right in front of me flashing one of the biggest smiles I have ever witnessed. Sultan is a boy from the MDCH.
In the latter part of my mom’s work life here she headed an institution called Mentally Deficient Children’s Home(MDCH). So you get the idea. In 20 years I have never found anybody as lovable as the kids here. Hell, they are mentally deficient. They are the smartest I have seen. Even after nearly 3 years the kid recognizes me and calls out to me. He has this habit of calling every other girl he knows as Pinky in our campus. Makes life easier for him and we used to like it too.
That one call out was enough for me to be nostalgic for days and here I am venting it out. The place, Mankhurd, is just beautiful. And the concept of housing where I lived was just lovely. We had row houses there with big gardens in front of every house. And each house for some reason had pet cats. Mine was called ‘manu’ and to describe her would require an altogether different post. And I choose to leave that for later.
When I was about to leave I took one last look at the house and for a second, I felt abandoned. It was the place where I spent 20 years of my life but I did not hold the key to the now changed lock.