Once there was a boy in a nondescript sleepy mofussil Kasba tucked in the ‘where-is- that’ country side of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Yeah, the Kasba had a sugar mill, a degree college and a small railway station with only passenger trains stopping at it, but this was all the Kasba had! The route that the boy took to the school traversed through agricultural fields, many gone now, 40 years after but a few still surviving!
The boy, though had big dreams of travelling, seeing the world. He would sneak out to the railway station and read the names of the trains- Bombay VT Express (now Kushinagar Express in these change the name times), Awadh Express, Amrapali Express, Abida (now Satyagrah) Express etc. Then he would imagine the places these trains go to and invent stories to tell to his friends. Stories of how he went to these places, saw things his friends could not even imagine existed and so on though he had not seen even Lucknow by the time he turned 12! His life revolved around Babhnan, the mofussil, and Sultanpur- where his Nani lived, with Ayodhya in between!
Yet, his stories were often so real that this boy’s parents started getting complaints from the parents of other kids- why do you people take him to so many places, doesn’t he study at all, where does he get the time to travel so much from and so on! The worst one, though, was the ‘bad influence’ the small boy was: all the kids now wanted to travel and travel alone, none wanted to study at all! Just like the small boy!
And the parents of the small boy were troubled too! When did you go to these places! I did not, would be the reply. How do you then know of all these places? The famous lake in Pokhara, Nepal? Residency, a reminder of the valiant first war of Indian independence in Lucknow? Victoria Memorial in Kolkata? And Kremlin Square in Moscow, of all places? From the books you get me- and also the newspaper, the small boy would cheekily reply!
And this was true! He would see the pictures of India Gate in Delhi, get some information, would here about Boat Club linked with it and his story is ready: so when I went to Delhi- with other kids listening with rapt attention!
The small boy did not know what soul was then. Yet, some of the places would drag him to them. He would read about Bulle Shah and would long to visit Kasur. He would hear about Master Xuanzang visiting India during Harsh Vardhan era and would think about the route he must have taken- secretly thinking if he too could go on such a journey. He would read about Angkor Wat in his Hindi textbook and would wonder how they built such a huge temple, largest in the world over a thousand year ago and if he could climb its steps.
The small boy has grown up. He has seen the sun rise on the Angkor Wat. He has sat at the feet of bronze statue of Master Xuanzang in Xi’an. He still longs for Kasur though. He calls Hong Kong, some 3700 kms away from Harraiya- where his ancestral village is- home. This story is his story!