The first thing I can tell you about myself is – I’m scared. Shit scared. Don’t ask me why. Or about what. Of course I realise it seems funny that I should start a narrative about a holiday in this fashion. But that is why I’ve left home all alone to come to a town where I know no one. Because I’m afraid. And I do not want to be afraid anymore. I think it’s time to stop hiding. Behind people, and masks, and stories. Stories are beautiful, but it’s time to paint my reality with my own shades, whatever they might be. Even if they’re darker and uglier, oozing venom- those bleeding cuts are as much a part of me as anything else.
Little things scare me. The men on the train with me. The way they look, and the way they don’t. The glare of the corridor light, mildly blurred through the chink in the curtain. The velcro strip is half torn, much like my thoughts. Wary of missing my stop, I try to focus on the rhythm of the wheels, the blinking headlights of cars on the distant highway. After waking up thrice in three hours, I give up on sleep. It’s still pitch dark outside as I plug in my headphones and listen to songs. Old ones that I’ve had ever since my school days. They calm me, reminding me of the seventeen year old girl who had an unabashed bravado. In the flashes of blackish green countryside I occasionally hear her laugh in tandem with the beats of a folk song. She is the first fragment I need.
The cool air slaps my cheeks, oddly soothing. I look around the tiny station, the first part of my journey over. The rest of it will be by road. As I successfully locate and board the bus, there is an odd sense of accomplishment even though it isn’t the first time I am traveling on my own. As the bus slowly winds up the hill roads and the lush valleys emerge, I realise why. This is the first time I am traveling for myself. I am sick of existing for someone, with someone. This is the best pilgrimage on earth. The search for lost pieces of my own soul.
I indulge in my favourite activity, walking, as I set out to get a feel of the place. It is, sadly, much more of a town now than it was years ago, and concrete has obscured many a field from view. The tiny art museum in Kotwali Bazaar gives a fine glimpse of history, and is vastly under appreciated by the mobile toting families who are eager to photograph every exhibit.
Someone in need of tranquility would feel more at home in the Civil Lines area, past the hospital and government offices. The Martyrs’ Memorial here has an oddly resonant silence that befits the solemnity of the place. Here is a place that has receded into itself despite the intrusions of man. My blood hums in approval. It is a fine place for seekers.
I walk past the pillar of a thousand names, carved into stone, scratched away by years of rain and the more recent initials of young lovers. It irritated me once, this perverse habit of humans of leaving a mark,however trivial on every shred of nature they enter. Now it amuses me, because I know the futility, and I appreciate the attempts at preserving a fragile existence. After all, every one of us wants to leave a mark. Some do it on pillars, and some do it on souls.