It was the longest I’d stayed away from home. About ten months had passed since I’d spent any time in Nagpur. Back for a Diwali vacation, I was planning to stay for a week or so.
At the airport, my parents were overjoye to see me. The happiness on their face was cinematically perfect. They’d been working hard to clean up the house. Somehow finally convinced that they should get rid of the years of accumulating cruft. I simply nodded along as dad gave me a guided toured of the newly painted house. It took me some time to realize that they wanted to surprise me.
The tour ended with my room, now completely whitewashed. All the furniture was the same: the rickety table, my chair, the wall clock, a whiteboard and of course the cot. Even the curtains were the same, but they too failed to deliver the reassuring envelope of familiarity. It was as though I’d walked into a sterilized version of my room. All the pieces in their exact place, but devoid of character.
I looked for the twin oil patches, perpendicular to each other on the corner walls of my bed. I missed the familiar smoothening of the walls due to hair oil layered over numerous nights reading books. They used to be guiding indicators to cradle my head when settling in with a good night’s read.
I squinted at the walls, searching for the dark red splatters of the flies and mosquitoes I’d murdered in cold blood. All the evidence had been cleaned up, even from the hard to reach places. It felt like someone had taken away all my hunting trophies.
Discreetly, I eyed for the stains of passion behind the gallery door. Decorated while imagining various escapades, they used to trail all the way to the floor in a characteristic fountain. Now, the dried up droplets were nowhere to be seen, let alone the memories of their recipients.
I tried looking for remnants of cellotape under the glistening yellow paint on the cupboard. Tape which used to hold up the bouts of artistic inspiration I’d have in the middle of the night. Only a few stubborn bumps remained, the shards of glass and shiny plastic they held were discarded without a second thought.
That night I lay on the cot with crisp laden sheets, I stared at the ceiling trying to figure out what had changed. I could relate to what Elkunchwar had meant, when he never got a chance to say goodbye to his ancestral home. I too could feel the tinge of sorrow of never having had a chance to wind down all my personalizations of the room.
It felt as though I was transported back to the day we first moved into the house, eight years ago. My room was newly assigned, the walls freshly painted and ready to record life as it passed by.