My father Dr. S.B.Misra (right, picture above) undertook an interesting journey this weekend, and I had the pleasure of accompaying him.
For the first time in more than fifty years, he went to his childhood school where he used to walk 12 kilometres from home every day, and to the home of his late, the legendary Sharda Baksh Singh who was feared and loved across Lucknow district in the early years of independence. The visit was part of my father's research for his upcoming book for Roli Books, "Story of an Ordinary Indian".
"This is where I used to sit," my father said, pointing to a classroom on the side at the school in Itaunja town. A jackfruit tree he had planted had disappeared -- so had a building on the far side, beyond the playground.
He looked around, confused, followed by four children who had taken a break from plucking berries from a tree in the school campus. Birds chirped loudly somewhere nearby.
"There used to be a building there," he said.
"No, there wasn't, there was no building," said the most talkitive among the kids.
"Offoh, I am talking about 50 years ago, kiddo -- when I was a little boy like you, this high," he said, smiling and gesturing.
At the home of the teacher (photo, right) in Singhamau village in the Lucknow district, he met Sharda Baksh Singh's talented and passionate writer son, Mr. Batukeshwar Dutt Singh (left, picture at top), who has renovated the entire house but left his father's two rooms untouched, with the walls, ceilings, books and furniture. Mr. Singh was getting ready to leave for the housewarming of his son's new home in Lucknow. But this occasion was more important for him.
He walked inside his father's old room and brought down a picture from the wall. It was a black and whilte image from decades ago, from the day when his father was retiring from the school in Itaunja town, sitting with a grimace and a garland.
Mr. Batukeshwar Singh, also a student of his father, told my father how his late father did not discriminate between him and other school children. He narrated old and forgotten stories. They laughed about old times. They both wiped the photo frame together.
There was dust on it -- the dust of time and forgetfulness in an age where teachers are harassed, insulted and almost never respected.
It was dust that an old and favourite student had come back to wipe clean.