A trip to nostalgia

A trip to nostalgia

About 20 years ago, we had planned a trip to Araku Valley on our way back to Bengaluru from Kolkata. “Why don’t we get down at Vizianagaram and from there to Araku?” suggested my wife, Vani. She had spent two years of her childhood in Vizianagram and wanted all of us — our son, daughter and me — to visit.

They had shifted to Vizianagaram to recover from a tragedy that had befallen upon the family. My father-in-law had joined the Mysore Electricity Board as an engineer. With linguistic reorganisation of states, he was put in the Andhra Electricity Board, since his home town was Kuppam in Chittoor district, though they were Tamilians settled in Bengaluru. He got his posting in Hospet, in Karnataka, at the Tunga-Bhadra dam site, as a member of the Andhra board! The reason, perhaps, was that he knew very good Kannada and also Telugu. 

My wife and her brother, older by four years, grew up in the TB dam site. But her brother died there, at the age of 10, due to meningitis. The vacuum was unbearable to all. My father-in-law’s request for transfer was accepted. The new posting was in Vizianagaram — the other end of what was at one time the Vijaynagar empire. The family being multilingual, Vani had no difficulty in studying in a Telugu medium school.  

On arriving at Vizianagaram by the Howrah-Chennai Mail, Vani could barely wait. From inside the train itself, she pointed to us, “That was the theatre where we would come for Telugu films every week. My father had his office, I had my school but my mother had to live in day-long isolation, thinking about my brother. We also saw Raj Kapoor’s Sangam though none of us understood Hindi. We needed this. ”

“Tell us the places that we should take you to, madam,” our hosts asked. “Let me guide you,” she replied. “From here we turn left, you get the main road. From the ghanta sthambham (clock tower), a little ahead you take the second left turn and you will come to my school…” We followed her directions.

“Now, we shall visit the house that we lived in. We had rented it out from an Odiya family.” There we were welcomed, though they could not remember Vani. She spoke to them in Telugu and translated for us. 

Vani moved about the house as if she had never left it, with the current residents watching her and us with some curiosity. “Yes, here is the kitchen where my mother would serve us food as we sat on the floor. We used to live in this room — my parents, my sisters and I. This was the hall. And where is the ‘extra room’ I used to study in?”

She located the ‘extra room’. Pointing to the corner, she said, “That was where my study table was, next to the window. Every morning the paper man would slip the newspaper through the window — my window to the world.”

“And one day, I saw the headline: “Man on Moon”! What a thrill I felt! But my brother was not there to share it with. I shared it with my school friends. But the vacuum was hardly filled.” She still talks about it as we reach half-century of moon landing.