A boy from Khanpur
Literature & Narrative

A Boy from Khanpur (Fiction-Short): Gaurav Monga.

He was born in this city a long time ago. The city had since then shifted. In his youth, Khanpur had been supposedly the ‘happening place’. His parents sent him to boarding school when he was very young, most likely because there were no real good English medium schools in the city or perhaps because he ran the risk of being molested by his maternal grandfather. After school, he returned home and would stay here forever.

He did not leave Khanpur much and even if he did, he would only venture to neighboring areas, Usmanpura, Shahpur, Navrangpura, Mithakhali.

The new city growing in the suburbs was for him another city, altogether, so much so that when he had to meet his clients there, he would devise ways in which he could catch them if they happened to be in his part of town, a part of town he knew exceedingly well.

For some reason, he never learned how to drive a car, not because of that botch-up surgery which would later result in impairing his left knee, but because it never happened the way it happens for most men.

Sheltered in a pastoral boarding school, he returned already past that age where boys like to play with cars, and he was never really interested in moving about, anyway.

After his father died, he continued to live with his mother and barely left his home; only on days when pending errands had piled up, would he plan a day out when he could run all these errands together, and then he would hibernate again for sometimes almost a month. It could be safely said that this man only left the confines of his home a few times a year.

To his friends, he said there was no need to make any plans to meet, that he was almost always home, so if one happened to be in the area where he lived, one could just give him a call; he did not like making plans because he wanted to be free.

It was bad enough that work required commitment; he never wanted his social life, of which there was hardly much, to be about appointments. This way, he could always resort to telling his friends that today just happened to be one of those days when he had to run his errands. As a result, very few people saw him and most of his college friends had grown old in the city without seeing him since his college days.  

One of the places he would frequent on his errand days was an old Parsi kitchen that was older than him, a kitchen that fed him even when he was a child visiting home on winter break from boarding school, for his mother was busy painting nails and applying make-up for brides during the wedding season, and though some of the older Parsi women who ran the kitchen had died, there were still some Parsis left in the city, and many of them met here, waiting for their food, making small talk. He  even used to joke by insisting that the Parsi kitchen had in fact improved after the Parsi cooks departed, that the Hindus were doing a better job in running the Parsi kitchen.

On such days, he would slip into his father’s shirts and trousers, for he believed that even after all these years of being washed, they still kept his odour, or perhaps because he liked the odour of death.

He lived largely on memory, could only remember old names and faces. It was almost as if he would forget the people he met a week ago, unlike the faces he knew during the time he was in boarding school and the years immediately following thereafter.

He would arrive in his regular Auto-rickshaw, which he used for all his errands and have it parked directly outside the Parsi kitchen. The man driving the rickshaw had known him since he was a child and had watched this young boy age at a rate even faster than his own. He always urged him to better comb his unkempt hair, to stop being an old boy and to buy new clothes, to leave the clothes of his dead father behind and become a man.

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