Updated: Apr 11
It is common for one to assume that the museums and galleries of their hometown are only frequented by tourists. One living in Delhi often forgets the awe that the India Gate inspires, while one living in Mumbai grows accustomed to seeing the sea while rushing through the city. A person in Srinagar finds Lake Houses and slanting roofs unremarkable for the most part. These things are still noticeable to the ones settled around them, especially during a lazy afternoon, a late night, or an early morning before life resumes itself. But for the most part, the ones excitedly pointing at statues and fountains and wearing sunglasses inside buildings can be safely attributed the title of “tourists”.
Govind and Shilpi had been different though. The bane of Shiva Nagar in Bhubaneshwar, the siblings had spent every idle moment of their days as children hopping around the Odisha State Museum, pointing at statues and exhibits even more excitedly than the most enthusiastic tourist.
This was because their father worked at the Odisha State Museum and the two had free reign over the place as children. They went to the Bindu Sagar Lake often for picnics on the weekends, that was all there was to do back then, they would now tell their children. They would run around playing made-up games and having pretend tea-parties like the grown ups while their parents sat on a bright red sheet reserved for these outings. Their mother would bring a book, a classic detective novel each time, and their father would either set up his chess board and coax her into playing a game with him or begin chatting with a stranger.
“Such fond memories, I cannot believe that I no longer live here. That this isn’t my home.” Shilpi said to herself, now a grandmother to a toddler and settled in Faridabad.
“Didi, would you like a drink?” Govind asked his older sister. Shilpi turned around to see him, a younger brother who no longer looked young himself.
“Yes” she said with a smile.
Govind opened his black Outer Woods bag and pulled out a bottle of whisky. As he began to mix a drink, he looked up at his sister and asked, “What are you smiling about Didi?”
Shilpi shook her head and said, “Just things. Promises we made about never leaving each other’s side as pre-teens and how we ended up having lives we never imagined having, away from each other. How we left this place we never thought we would leave, and it just sat here for years without Mumma and Baba, people we never imagined living without.”
Govind laughed and said, “Are you sure you want a drink? You seem philosophical enough without it.”
Shilpi chuckled and said, “Yes, but remember, our parents would’ve been rolling in their graves if they saw us drinking right now. Good thing they were cremated not buried.”
Govind said, “Oh God, where are you getting that dark sense of humour? I expect nothing but flowers and rainbows from someone who had Amol Palekar posters in her bedroom for most of her teen years.”
Shilpi replied, “I have been spending too much time with kids these days. They have a dark sense of humour.”
Govind handed Shilpi a glass and said, “Your granddaughter and my grandniece is 2 years old. How can she have a dark sense of humour?”
Shilpi said, “Oh, you know, children from around the neighbourhood come to play with her. Sometimes I talk to them, sometimes I just listen from afar.”
Govind smiled and took a sip. He smacked his lips together and said, “Aha! Perfect!”
Shilpi took a sip and was awestruck at the subtle smoky flavour. She asked her brother, “What is this?”
Govind replied, “Something new.”
Shilpi pulled Govind’s bottle bag towards her and said, “This looks nice. I wish we had it when we used to go for those picnics. My hands always tasted like salty ice after rooting around in Mama’s homemade cooler bag for Khas sharbat.”
Govind smiled and said, “Innovation Didi, that’s what this bag is. Things change for the better sometimes when someone puts care and thought into making something. Look at this bottle cooler bag for example. So flexible, you can carry anything you want but it cares for it the same.”
Shilpi laughed and said, “You are still such a lightweight. You are rambling now younger brother who is now an old man.”
Govind said, “I’m not old, I’m vintage. My daughter wrote that in my birthday card this year.”
“You bought her a new phone.” Shilpi replied.
Govind replied, “I’ll buy you a bag like this from Outer Woods if you stop making fun of me immediately.”
Shilpi nodded and finished her drink. Then she said, “It is nice to think that another family will move in here soon. Maybe their children will return home to share a drink like this someday.”
"Life takes you unexcepted places, love brings you home." - Melissa McClone
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