“Can you hurry up? Sharma uncle’s nephew will be waiting for us” her dad shrieked.
“Dad, we don’t even know them. This makes no sense” said Naina.
“That’s what this meeting is for my dear! We got to be nice to our neighbors and their family – they have invited us with so much of heart and we should be forthcoming. Besides, the nephew is in IT and could help you with a referral someday”, assured the dad.
“Oh yeah, haven’t I heard this before! Do you have the house number?” asked Naina in a dubious tone.
“Sweetheart, this is our town…our community. Addresses here are located by names and not by numbers”, the dad smiled.
The words filled her heart with nostalgia. She stood still, collecting reminiscences of her past.
She belonged to an idyllic small town, a place where the community and especially the neighbors continued to be the key influencers, a place where shops did not require signage and were known for the heritage and a place where recipes were discussed over balconies than over the internet.
“Do tell them about the exam you recently qualified….they’d be proud”, added the mother.
She was made for something big, she always pondered. She felt confined, both at heart and in the mind. Inadvertently, she always blamed the place of her birth for limiting her flight, for she wanted to break free. She was hostile towards the myopic society that criticized her for brewing ambition. Having fought an ugly battle to take the leap, and move to her city of dreams, she felt victorious to find her realm. Still, she was scared to profess that something was amiss.
Been 5 years that she big adieu to this place, she could not reconcile with her bothered, bewildered self. She yearned for a glimpse of strangers, who were once friends, for mountains she never climbed and for love that never happened.
“Naina….this ain’t the right way…guess you should do a refresher in driving” warned the dad. Dodging the concern, she turned to the narrow lane to avoid those road-blocking tents and memories of her 16 year old self. The streets reminded her of the better days, hoping for her to stay.
Suddenly, the excited voices of the clan, the stocked-up fridge, the silly neighborhood commotion and sporadic visits by friends & family started making all the sense.
“Naina…..Naina” she was rocked by the mother. “Baby…say hello to Suman aunty.” An overwhelmed Naina greeted aunty with the warmest smile ever. She then rushed and hugged her dad and little brother. She was still, speechless, but the dad heard the silent cheer from the heart.
She’d found happiness, in her very own ‘small town’!