We moved to Meerut from Ghaziabad in the summer of ’91, when I had just started Class 4. I remember, with alarming clarity, the day we were loading our belongings into a truck, leaving the place that had been home for a little more than 2 years. We had family friends who were seeing us off (The Saxenas if I am not wrong), whose kids we were friends with. Except that their son bit me on my hand one time in the midst of a fight (which was more name calling than anything) because I called him an ‘Ullu ka pattha‘. While he had called me a lot of bad things before, apparently this warranted a bit because I was calling his Dad an owl. Fair enough.
Anyway, this family was also moving to another house in a colony called ‘Govindpuram’ and they thought the name of the colony we were moving to (Pallavpuram), was so so funny, they couldn’t stop laughing. And I also remember trying to say their colony’s name was as funny, but it didn’t work at all, because it was not. Anyhow, we left the city in that very truck and reached the city which would be pretty much my entire childhood.
I remember only happy times in Meerut. You can attribute to childhood, because it all seems very rosy and shiny when I look back. The typical town with glimpses of the city, just because it was close to the capital; but a town nevertheless. The row houses, the big park with the Peepal tree that were apparently 80 years old, the shared autos we called ‘tempos’ or ‘Vikrams’, everything on hindsight seems as quaint as it can get. While I did move away in 9 years, the parents stayed on. That ensured there were visits, that started with a frequency of ‘whenever you have some time off’ to ‘college vacations’ to ‘festivals’ to annual visits during Diwali.
Fortunately for me, I ensured that every time I visited, I did the ritual of things I associated Meerut with. The walk down Sadar Bazaar, the pit stop at the chaat waala we always frequented, the shopping for ‘dress material’ in the shops of Abulane, then going to ‘Punjab tailors’ for getting them stitched, and picking up the coconut macaroons from King Bakers. I even ensured that The Dude visited an old favorite, Dilli Chole Bhature, and savored the amazing chole bhature in the place just like we did when younger. During Diwali, we ensured we visited the market areas to see the ‘lighting’ and listen to the speakers blare the deals of the day. I would bump into classmates, make plans to meet friends, and neighbors who had known us forever would drop by.
When the parents decided to move closer to us 2 years, while a part of me rejoiced at the thought of being able to see them whenever possible, a part of me was sad, because that would severe the last few ties I had with the place I grown up at. Our home was sold off just around Zo was born, so I made one visit with her to the place, so that she could experience it too, so what if she was a month and half old? And I am glad she did, because I would have hated for her to have never stepped into the place I associated my entire childhood with.
Which is why M is for Meerut. My hometown. That’s how I like to think of it, and though it’s no longer the city I have lived for the longest in, it’s still the place I have the most beautiful memories of.