It had been Seventeen months since I had last been to Ajmer. My shoes had, in between, trodden on the islands of Andaman, across the beaches and backwaters of Kerala, through jungles and fields of interior Andhra, on people’s feet in the local trains of Mumbai and had been removed outside the temples of Rameshwaram and Srisailam. After having finally shifted to Delhi, I was going to spend my first weekend in Ajmer. Not too bad, I thought, as I drew virtual lines on the map of India as I waited for the bus to Ajmer at Iffco Chowk, Gurgaon. The primary emotion, bewildering though it was to me, was that I was going to Ajmer, going to my parents, going to be among the Aravali hills, but not that I was going ‘home’.
My thoughts turned towards the concept of ‘home’. ‘Home’ for me has been a little different from most people. I always refer to the place I am living in as ‘home’, and not as ‘flat’ or ‘room’. For example, I had a home in Hyderabad where I lived for 21 months. I now have a home in Delhi. I don’t own that home, but it is my home nevertheless. Why is Ajmer ‘home’ for me? Because I was born and brought up there? Then in that case, isn’t Hyderabad a home, As I earned my degree there, got my first job and bought my first vehicle there? Is Ajmer my home because my parents live there? Then what if they leave Ajmer sometime? And anyways how does that make Ajmer ‘my home’? Can a person have several homes? Or is the entire India my home? Or the entire world…
The bus stopped on the turning on the bypass. There were a few shops already open at 7o’clock in the morning. I adjusted my backpack and hopped over the debris of the construction material lying on the road. As I crossed the road, there ambled along a brightly decorated truck, a Rajasthani song blaring out of it whose lyrics I couldn’t make out.
As I crossed the road, a barren hilly terrain and the black topped, single lane road snaking through it beckoned me. Behind me, the sun was rising. With a quiet ‘Adi Deva Namastubhyam’, to the sun, I squinted my eyes. It was very bright. So bright that I had trouble keeping my eyes fully open. I realized that it was probably the brightest morning I had had in months. Welcome to Rajasthan, the land of exceptional sunlight.
My mom had yet to arrive with the car, so I started walking the 4km road till my home. The almost completely barren hills on both sides reflect almost all sunlight all the time. And the hills are low, really, so you can see till far. The cool morning breeze carressed my hair. This was the road, running up and down which I became the athlete I once was. Up ahead, was a small, roofless ruins of God-knows-what, where one evening many summers ago under an halfish, but beautiful moon I had opened my first beer. These surroundings have been as barren and pollution free since I have been seeing them. And the road as free of traffic.
I plugged my Ipod to my ears. Shubha Mudgal was crooning
Hai kitne baras beete, tum ghar na aaye re.
Raah dekhe kaale megha, dariya pahaaadi!
Under my feet, the road was hard. Turning to the soft, comforting loose sand at the side, I concentrated on the brightness of the hills, trying to perceive the change in their height since I last saw them. Turning a picture perfect bend, I squinted to register the furrows caused by wind erosion on my favorite hillock at the side.
Tum laut aao sajanaa, mera dil bulaaye re…
Tum laut aao sajanaa, mera dil bulaaye re…
Tum laut aao sajanaa, mera dil bulaaye re…!
Round the bend, I was able to see the Mazaar of Madar Sahab atop the hill at the base of which my home is located. As the concluding strains of music faded away, I kept looking at the Baba.
The song had ended. Another one would start now. And in between the songs, I could listen to the chirping of the teetudi. Of the chugging of the spokes of the bicycle of the Dhoti-clad Gujar riding by. A train was whistling in the distance. Wind was ruffling my hair. A polythene bag from a nearby garbage dump was fluttering in the breeze. Up ahead, a runner was plodding down the gentle slope. I removed the earphones. These were sounds I wouldn’t trade for any song in the world.
I now had the full view of the hill above my house, as also of the colony below it. Looking at the Madar Sahab, I raised my hand to my forehead.