The sad part of visiting home once every few years is that while you are away, some people you thought you would meet when you are back are no more. Yesterday when I said my final goodbyes to my grandparents, I wondered if I will ever meet them again. Not that they are sick or ailing, but they are old. When I came back to Kolkata, one thing I couldn’t help noticing is how grown up the kids looked, and how old or aged the adults looked. I was seeing people after 4 years, and my mind could not keep pace with the changes time had carved out for everyone of us. Mother has more strands of grey hair than I could remember. Father has a couple of wrinkle lines that wasn’t there before. Grandfather is almost white and bent with age. Grandmother has slimmed down a lot (and ironically looks younger) after her gall bladder removal. My maternal uncle in his mid-40s died of a heart attack a few months ago. My grandfather’s elder brother died of cancer.
And then some people are married, some have divorced, and some have remarried. The so called kids have started going to college. Newly born babies have started going to school. The guy in the neighborhood whose leg was amputated after the train accident got an artificial leg.
Some people are missing black hair, while some have gone bald. Wrinkles. Missing gall bladders and kidneys. Depressing, moribund, and strangely funny conversations, ranging from who died under what circumstances, and what was the menu during the death rituals. I think we Bengalis are a strange lot, deriving stimulation from recounting gory details of someone’s last days of life, the menu of the death ceremony, and even who was wearing what.
In the broader scheme of things, there are more changes. Anu Malik has copied more songs. I've thankfully stopped listening to Himesh Reshammiya. There are more flyovers. More crowded trains and metros. Longer queues. Steeper prices. More KFC and Subway joints. Something in the city is dying. The innocence of the city is dying.
Next time I visit, there will be more changes. More people I grew up with gone. More wrinkles. More white hair. More baldness. When you see people once in a few years, the change is stark. It depresses me. It depresses me more to think that I am growing old too. I’m progressing and retrogressing at the same time, in the same time scale, with the same people.
And in this depressing scale of things, I have some comfort. I feel happy looking at old picture albums. Pictures where I was a baby. Parents looked so young. Grandmother took me to school and picked me up. We had more fun filled family trips. Roads looked less crowded. Amusement parks looked more exciting. School friends who vouched to always be with each other.
Things are changing. And for good or for bad, I have to accept it.