After a depressing New Year’s Eve 1, I decided to start my new year with an early morning walk around my hometown field, or as we called it, ground. It has changed quite a bit since my childhood days. It is more structured with a boundary wall, areas demarcated for exercise equipment, cricket nets, tennis, and badminton court.
Barns School, one of the few English medium schools around during my time, is still around with its haphazard near-dilapidated structure propped up by ad-hoc structural improvements. Recently, the Society restricted their use of the ground by erecting a fence to separate the school property from the society.
With an adjacent space for small meetings, the small local temple has expanded into a more significant community center. I don’t know what it’s used for because I’ve only seen people outside its locked doors. Believe it or not, I used to attend “_sanskar warg_” (cultural classes) back in the day where a bunch of kids led by an elderly lady used to memorize and recite Sanskrit shlokas (verses) from The Bhagwad Gita. Although I’m an atheist now, I still remember enough from one chapter that I had fully memorized.
When not used for weddings or cultural festivals like Dandiya Ras, the rest of the ground is open to all kids who live either in the Society or anywhere else in town for all outdoor activities, although 95% play cricket. It’s the perfect melting pot for kids of all communities, ages, and backgrounds. There have been minor attempts to keep out the “outsiders,” but thankfully, none of it has worked.
I made nearly ten rounds along the walking trail or about 2 miles. I’m sure I got some looks from the regular newcomer wearing a Route 66 t-shirt with black Nike shorts. People here usually do not have walking outfits, and although shorts are now more common, people will still do their walks in button-down shirts and pants that they would otherwise wear to work.
Later in the day, I took a short walk in the town, although I didn’t venture too far. I still saw some stores around when we were kids, e.g., Anand Stores is where we bought our cricket bats, balls, and if our parents felt generous, stumps too. The local cycle (bike) store where I bought my first bike is also around, although it looks so much smaller now and is relegated to a basement location and replaced on top by fancy clothing stores. I might take another walk and shoot some pictures of the order in the chaos.
I spent the evening catching up with a couple of my high school friends who are married to each other and talking about our struggles with parenting, the rising cost of college in India2, better digital payment options in India, and of course, our high school days of crushing on girls. Much liquor was consumed, and plenty of takeout food was had. I finally stumbled home close to midnight.