It was a gloomy, dark and depressing day. It was a long weekend and whole of India was celebrating Diwali. My parents had deserted me and had gone to Kolkata. I was in the bus with an almost stranger who was sitting beside me. I was not yet sure that time if he even was a friend. He was a colleague who was alone during Diwali. My cousin was also with me. There were a couple of families sitting ahead of us; why was I with these people I did not know.
We sat in the bus, did not speak much and slept for six long hours. My friend wished that he were with his family or with his girlfriend. I wished my mum and dad were here and I still don’t know what my cousin exactly wanted. And to add insult to injury, we arrived in Panchgani when it started raining. It was cold and misty. We ate lunch without much mirth and started walking. It was November and there was fog and chill permeating all around. There was this Banyan tree and all of us tried hanging on its branches. The road was winding and moss-green. Slowly we got talking, we reminisced one of our favourite TV show and stories of Enid Blyton. That chilly November afternoon had a lot of warm conversations. Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar are a home of fresh strawberries. We gobbled a huge glass of strawberry and fresh cream.
As the evening proceeded, we walked towards the plateau. The volcanic plateau of Pacnchgani was fenced by mountains and hills. There was a tree which looked like the tree from the movie ‘Sleepy hollow’ where the three of us sat down. An odd couple asked us to click our photo. We simply sat in silence and breathed in fresh air. The mountains around us were hushed like us. I remember distinctly the smell of my cousin’s cigarette and the sound of friend’s camera when it clicked.
When we came back the Diwali celebrations had started. The children of Pachgani were bursting crackers. The smoke and mist filled up the sky and we walked on in the smog. It was as if we were knocking on the heavens door. We drank coffee and onion crispies in a small coffee stall. The view outside seemed surreal. Myriad lights filled up the streets, the air above was clouded and people around were contented.
We drifted between the dreams and talked about music, love and life. We bought some wine and spoke some more about our childhood; stories that are pristine and safe with us. There was one street lamp which welcomed us whenever we stood below it.
Maybe if I was back at home I would feel more lonely thinking but then the clouds moved away and just for that day, I was a kid and had a brother and a best friend. That day I had a happy family. And it was Diwali.