Going down memory laneThe last time I was home, I visited the playgrounds where I spent most of my childhood. It had not changed much. Yet so much had.
Some days when my usual disposition gets tinged with a pinch of nostalgia, I sink into my couch and travel down memory lane. And almost always I go back to the same memory.
It was a balmy summer day. My friends and I were playing football in one of the many fields we had turned into playgrounds. Suddenly, the sky had turned grey and thunders bolted the sky. Our team had been playing against long-time opponents, and the hostility was conspicuous on the playground.
Despite the downpour, we didn't stop the game. We were leading, and we thought winning could be the best humiliation for the opposing team. We could barely control the ball; we slipped, we hurt ourselves quite a few times, but we never stopped.
We won that match and countless others. Our brotherhood grew as we played more matches. But seasons passed and we changed according to them.
On the field, we moved from football to cricket. Then we outgrew cricket too and moved to other sports. During that time, my friends and I played every game possible as a team. We even tried our hands at dandibiyo.
Outside the field, we grew in age and grade. Academics strengthened, courses toughened, and we started to meet less. Because of that, our team shrank—to the point that we didn't even have enough players to make the team. Our meetings were limited, and slowly our friendship faded. We lost the innocence that was unique to us. We lost unity and spirit.
Then, for high school, I moved to the Capital. I was anxious about the change that was happening. It was hard to leave everything behind and pursue a new life some 321 kilometres away from home. Higher education was demanding and adapting to this new environment was a different struggle altogether. I would go back home only once or twice a year. When I’d be home, most of my friends would not be there. They had left too, some for studies and others for work. All of us moved ahead with our life, trusting time, never knowing time could be such a perfidious ally.
The last time I was home, I visited those playgrounds and fields where we used to play. Nothing had changed much. Yet so much had.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to us that stopped us from playing together. Why couldn't I gather everyone and make them play? Why did no one come to the field again?
How strange it is that we forget so easily the things we thought we would never forget; how easily we replace the memories we thought would always bind us together.
While I was walking hopelessly through the abandoned playground, I saw a bunch of kids rushing towards it with a football. I stepped aside and watched them play. I wanted to play with them. I wanted to shout, scream, fight, slip, get hurt, but couldn't. I just stood there and watched them play.