There is less time to reflect:
I met Anil when I was in my twenties. A small town of Ghodachowki, in Shimla. A short fellow with a faint line of a moustache on his face. He always carried a comb in his back pocket and sold socks in Lower Bazaar, in front of Laxmi hotel. He rented the front portion of his shop area from Lala, the owner of Laxmi hotel. I arrived in Shimla, it was a rainy day, the month of October. Low white clouds curled up on the skyline, heralding another winter. The rush of tourist cars and buses queued up, jamming the traffic and honked their horns which could be heard right from the top of Ritz. I hired one room in Laxmi hotel and that was the first time I got introduced to this fellow who would later become a much- longed friend.
Sunday was a gala day for Anil. He made good money and treated him with a bottle of country liquor. The window of my hotel room opened to the bustle of lower bazaar. Businessmen displayed their goods on roadside kiosks and lured the passersby. Early morning, I often took long strolls towards Zakhu Hanuman temple. As soon as I reached the foothill of a long steep climb, I saw monkeys waited at the stairway, waiting for the pilgrims. On one such occasion, a black-faced monkey with a long tail, a langoor, came up to me and shoved its hand inside my sidebag, threw the books and diary which I often carried with me and sneered. After a while, when the langoor was satisfied that I had nothing edible, he left and ran towards the wood. Walking along the pine-scented trails, I used to sit for hours on the hilltop- writing and reading and used to return late in the evening.
In the evenings, after dusk, while the streaks of vermillion lights still lingered on the horizon, the serrated pattern of clouds formed a nostalgic display. Buses coming from Delhi could be seen beaming uphill with their headlights. The smell of burnt coal came from the train station. I stayed until late night, till only the last few tourists remained. As I walked my way down, faint noises of people came in from the late night bars.
20 years have passéd since I last saw Anil. The last update, I have of him is that he had moved his business to Theog, a small village along the Shimla – Mainali road. He does not have a Facebook as I searched him for a long time. I remember him saying that he had a son in his village somewhere in Mandi. After all these years, I still have an urge that I should go out and look for him. I don’t know where he is now but I strongly feel that I will find him somewhere. His business must have grown. He must have had more children by now.
Sometimes, there are faces that leave a lasting impression on our lives. We tend to forget but we can’t. One day, I think I will wake up, book a ticket to Shimla and just go there. Life is too short to regret later.