After we got out of the museum, we started off towards INDIA GATE. India Gate looks like a place you see in movies. This giant memorial stands tall in all its grandeur and glory, sheltering a flame that has been burning, probably, since before I was born. As my legs shot closer, a beautiful evening flashed in the back of my mind.
“India Gate! It’s beautiful. “She was saying, her eyes big and bright, like the lampposts above us.
“It’s just a monument. “I had said, and she’d made a face that says you-are-a-goliath-sized-stain-on-humanity.
As I looked around, at the parks adorned with trees, and trimmed, even grass, and a battery of blue-coloured dustbins, I almost felt her on my side, walking with those slow, relaxed steps, swiveling her head around and observing little things you’d let slip by. I let a sigh, and dragged myself back to the present. I’m finally going to be there – at the same place she once was.
“Your phone’s battery is alive, right? “Mr. Selfie Addict asked me. He didn’t care about this girl in the back of my mind, that selfish selfie maniac.
“Yeah. 29%. ”
“Oh my God! Fast. It’s a critical situation. “He said, and we hurried. Mr. Gym Freak was hungry, as usual, and had his diet consisted of human limbs, he’d have ripped our legs and hands apart to quell his hunger.
The place was bristling with people, both Indians and Foreigners, and there were hundreds of stalls representing the states of India, and their handicrafts, and some providing shelter, while some displaying the freedom struggle through pictures and videos. There were armed military men around, along with cops and security guards, making sure no headlines of national grief are picked up from this place. There was a guy dressed up as a Rakshasa, scaring kids and getting clicked with adults. Then, there was this guy who walked on sticks. And there were free caps at Maharashtra stall. I was very curious to see Bihar’s stall, but when I did, a muffled cry escaped my throat. They had clothes, the ones you would find in yearly Disneyland melas, which is nothing like DISNEYLAND.
“Bihar is famous for clothes? “Mr. Selfie Addict asked. “I’d heard it’s famous for Litti-Chokha. ”
“You can’t have Litti-Chokha in the handicraft section. “I pointed out, and he grunted.
We moved to the other side – the one with foodstalls – of the road, and the sight of Bihar’s stall displaying a collection of mineral water bottles kind of broke my heart. The Litti-Chokha had already appeared at Jharkhand’s stall, so maybe my people were left with only mineral water. But there are so many dishes in Bihar – we have like one thousand chutney recipes, let alone maincourse and dessert. I was hugely disappointed, but the sight of such a magnificent collection of the best delicacies from all over India nearly compensated for it. We hurried towards the Litti-Chokha, and checked the price.
“40 rupees per piece. “I said.
“Be******d!!!”Mr. Gym Freak cussed. At home, you’d get 8 pieces for that price.
We walked back carrying sad faces. Mr. Gym Freak spotted a huge tv set showing Olympic matches and sat there, while we continued towards the India Gate.
Every time I’d blink and my eyes would shut for an infinitesimal fraction of a second, I’d see the quiet, smouldering nights in the quiet, foggy streets of Shyamli. I’d see her and me and the emptiness around us, and the way her lips parted when she spoke and that beautiful laughter of hers and the everburning curiosity in her eyes and there was so much in those tiny moments that I loathed the present with all my heart.
“There are 80,000 names engraved here. Of the martyrs who sacrificed themselves in the war. “Mr. Selfie Addict said, somewhat proud. I saw those names and the flame below, and was instantly filled with a chill, and the glory. There’s something about soldiers you or me can’t ever have. I don’t know if it’s because of the courage or patriotism or sense of responsibility, or perhaps all of these, soldiers are no ordinary people. They are superheros.
We clicked pictures and trudged back, joining Mr. Gym Freak engrossed in watching a Korean compete with a Chinese on a badminton court. He wouldn’t know a thing about patriotism, that protein shake man.
Twenty minutes later, as we moved back under the dusky sky, I turned my head to take one last look at the monument, and the parks and the people. Just by the small blue dustbin on the left, there was a girl and a boy, under a tree, perhaps talking and laughing and pretending they had a forever……