So here I am. Not exactly in the home in which I grew up, or even the neighbourhood, but in dear ol Hydie. If the idea of this trip was to retreat far from adulthood and responsibility, I’m doing an EXCELLENT job! Ably assisted by the rents of course. I have been subsumed into a life I only hazily remember, from twenty years ago, dappled in the golden sunlight of remembering childhood.
The first thing the rents did was to get me short term temporary membership at the Secunderabad Club, where I spent an inordinate amount of my childhood swimming, secretly reading Archies, devouring cheese sandwiches at an alarming rate and generally racing about tripping up adults. We even occasionally spent time in the playground, a playground that has sadly been razed to make a parking lot, since I imagine the kids who go there have better things to do than make themselves dizzy on a creaky lopsided turntable, and their parents need somewhere to put their audis.
Since I turned 25 I have no longer been allowed to use the club under my dad’s membership, and it was truly heartbreaking. One of my friends is a member and I used him shamefully to revisit the old haunts whenever possible. But it wasn’t the same. When I got the card I was resolved to spend as much time lounging about there as humanly possible, but that didn’t happen mainly because I am VERY lazy. However, I have been going swimming, which was the main purpose of the entire exercise anyway. The other morning, when I lounged about muttering to myself about how no men seem to swim freestyle anymore and really does ANYONE in the pool know how to breathe anymore, and turned myself into a ball to stretch my back, I was suddenly swamped by nostalgia.
If all I want is to belong, then here is where I belong, like nowhere else in the world. Here is where I have peed countless times into the pool; here is where I have died of excitement in anticipation of getting Universal Bakery jam tarts; here is where I have swum races with my mum and been thrilled to death when I won; here is where Oldest Friend (who is still lethally hot–stop blushing you), his brother, my sister and I have spent HOURS playing Marco Polo and diving for coins; here is where I learned to swim and to love reading; here is where I discovered the softy ice cream; here is where I learned to drive and dented the Qualis; here is where I befriended my first doorman and bartender; here is where I came home from school in a lather of anticipation because Amma said she’d take me with her to the market.
Though many things have changed, others stay the same. The trees that lined SP road, and filled up with chirping birds every evening at six, have been replaced by flyovers–but the traffic still sucks. There is so much more glitz and drama, but underneath it all I can always hear the faint whisper of ‘kaiku tenshun leri re, araam se chal’ that defines Hyderabad and is the source of all it’s tolerance. No one lives where they used to, but wherever they live fits just right. The caucals have disappeared, but the koels still drive me batty. Here is where, no matter how many malls spring up, how much the roads change, how many old landmarks disappear, here is where I know my way around, eyes closed.