The renovated building, the illuminated balconies and various new tweaks to the structure are never going to bring back the liveliness that once used to be, back when we existed.
The world I once belonged to.
The feeling that hurts the most when you revisit the neighbourhood where you spent all your childhood, is when you find out that things are not the same anymore. Almost all the people you knew have moved out; some have left Pakistan forever, others have been replaced. This is how life works after all; one keeps getting replaced.
“So what do you guys do all day long?” I asked the remaining three of my childhood friends who still hadn’t moved out.
“We stay at home,” replied Hash. “We rarely see each other now.”
This was heartbreaking. There was a time when we never liked to stay at home, unless we had exams. We always had something to keep us entertained. (And by ‘we’, I mean almost a couple dozen of kids.) The bond between us was unbreakable. Flying kites on Basant, racing each other with our roller-skates, playing badminton outdoors, playing cricket on overcast mornings, getting into fights while playing football and not speaking to each other for days, playing hide and seek around the entire neighbourhood especially when the nights were dark, riding bicycles without holding their handles, getting our parents’ rebuke for staying out of home all day long, etc. was our normal routine. When we felt immensely bored and had nothing to do, we rang random doorbells and ran away. Sometimes we got caught but mostly, we got away.
What is more heartbreaking is that Hash just recently moved out of there, and he didn’t even let me know, and still hasn’t spoken to me. We always used to host farewell parties for people who moved out of the neighbourhood, but Hash didn’t even attend his farewell party. (The fact that I was not informed about the party itself is another story.)
I have always been unwelcoming to the changes in life, especially when they’re about the things that I truly adore. I truly adored the days when our clan was the gem of the neighbourhood, when our birthday parties were not just cake-cutting ceremonies but much more, when Dark Room was the scariest game to be played, when Brian Lara ’99 was our favourite PC game, and when the one with most number of toys was considered the coolest.
I miss the tourist buses that passed through Jail Road, which mostly included international cricket teams heading for Gaddafi Stadium. I miss how the road was blocked only because of Pervez Musharraf and foreign diplomats, not to forget how the road’s lane-markings were repainted only to give a good impression to the diplomats. I miss standing on the building’s rooftop and searching for Lahore’s famous buildings; Gaddafi Stadium’s floodlights and Wapda House were the easiest to find. I miss the time, back when we existed.