A month later, as I write, the first recollection I have is of stepping on the platform at Jasidih Junction. I step on solid ground but the rhythmic movement of the locomotive persists in my body. I feel as if the earth is in frenzy of my visit after a gap of twenty long years. At night from Jasidih to Deoghar leads a deserted path. The road is like an ill-lit coelom in the body of darkness. The persistence of memory urges the mind to imagine shapes – the Trikuti hills, the Nandan hills – in the distance, beyond the darkness. I wake up at dawn winking, squinting, and twinkling my eyes at the soothing rays of the sun. To get relief from the unpredictability of power failure, I had escaped up to the terrace to sleep. I had slept under the night sky, in the cool breeze, listening to the sweet melody of the wind among the leaves. I wake up with the song of the birds.
In my morning walk I turn from Jalshar road to Shyamganj road. Something has changed here and yet everything remains recognizable. The houses on both sides of the road have predictably aged. The ox on the road is still there as if waiting for me all these years. But a little ahead I find the grotesque chicken coops of the roadside vendors who sell the slaughtered birds. I am taken aback at the sight of this new addition to the old road. I realize that something that has changed has not changed for the better. I take another turn, now towards the Tower. I buy newspaper only to find the news a bit stale, being grown on reading late-city editions in Kolkata.
At the marriage function I meet many people. I draw acquaintanceship from the well of my reminiscences and succumb to nostalgia. For some, who are old enough, I have escaped out of their long drawn memory into existence. For some, who are quite young, I have leapt out of often seen photo albums. They all redraw the new impressions of me in the palimpsest of their minds. I also refresh the images in my brain. And some get registered newly for an uncertain length of time.
I ride on a cycle-rickshaw after a long time and look for a brick road in William’s Town. But all the roads are now metalled. The open drains, covered with concrete slabs at the gates of houses, still line the road. As I enter one such house I am momentarily overcome by a vision of remembrances. I come out of my reverie seeing the contorted house ravaged by the partition wall. The patch of land where plantain and sugarcane once grew is now bare. Only the mango tree is there, towering as a mute witness to the vagaries of human ambition. I leave Hanuman Tikri and go to Baidnathdham temple. I have little memory of my previous visits here. Perhaps for the first time I visit a temple just for the sake of it, without the archaeological purpose of sightseeing or the religious purpose of worshiping. I find the visit enriching as I watch the bare-foot pilgrims walk in adoration at the shrine.
The Deoghar railway station enquiry office confirms that Poorva Superfast Express is late. Still I decide to go to Jasidih and linger in the waiting room. I take an auto-rickshaw and this time I observe the arid landscape under the heat of the sun. I observe the leveed rail tracks of the local train that runs between Deoghar and Jasidih. I also see the faint ridges of hills – perhaps Nandan or Trikuti – in the distance. At the waiting room I watch a different sort of life in contrast to the one seen at the temple. When the train arrives, in the rush of boarding it, my nostalgia recedes in the recess of my mind. And soon the landscape also starts to recede.