It's been a week since we started on this journey. So far it has been nice but extremely hectic. When we are not chasing stories, we are hunting for cyber cafes or hitting the road to chase more stories. Sometimes we stop for a while at a roadside dhaba to have some rajma chawal with a spoonful of ghee and then we are at it again chasing stories, covering distances.
And though my father's meticulous notes have helped me come up with a contact in every place, and there is a little scribble of a backgrounder for every place and every person, except for Jammu city everything is new to me, and the memories are all borrowed.
So when we got to Poonch I was naturally excited. This was where my story began. I was 15 days old when we came to Poonch and lived here till I turned three. But there were snatches of the place that I remembered, believe it or not.
I remembered we lived in a house with a huge gate, like an entrance to a fort. We lived on the upper floor of the two-storeyed house when my father was teaching at the Government Degree College there. We occupied two rooms and there was a door which opened into what I recalled was a yawning terrace.
Just before I began my journey, I asked my mother what she remembered of the place. With utmost fondness she said "thool" (eggs). Apparently in those days, eggs cost one rupee a dozen. And what with all the pangs of recession it was not unnatural that my dear mother could come up with nothing else.
After spending some time at the bus station followed by a brief stop over at Degree College, I arrived at what was my former neighbourhood. So many years later, it seemed like a grey crowded area. Houses and shops rubbed shoulders with each other and the lanes were not big enough for cars.
And then I saw the gate.
Did I say fort? Well, the tricks memories play on us. It was a big gate, nice and arched and I could see it had been freshly painted pink and blue. I met the lady who owned the house. I gave her my father's reference and after a few moments, when she had placed me, she welcomed me warmly. Their neighbours, a Sikh family, also remembered my parents.
I couldn't wait to climb up the flight of stairs. Yes, two rooms just as I remembered it. But the terrace seemed small and cluttered. I spied a washing machine and a smart kitchen. I was not sure if I should ask, how much do eggs cost now?