When I was little, I would go to school in a rickshaw. Like many kids my age, I didn’t have the privilege of my parents dropping me off and picking me up.
But rickshaw was good, fun even. Our kaka was a caring fellow and would entertain us with stories. He was extremely particular with time. So ours was the first rickshaw in and the first rickshaw out.
It worked in our favour because we’d be home in time for lunch. Until one fateful day I missed the rickshaw because of some extra classes. Back then, there were no cellphones and I would hardly have any money to call from the PCO. So all I could think of was how to get home. To the 10 year old me, I had very little ideas. So I did what I thought was the best option.
I have been blessed with good memory so I knew the way back home. So I decided to set out on my very own adventure. I decided to walk home. The good part was, back then, Shastri Road and Sinhagad Road were covered with trees. So the sun could do no harm.
And so I set out. Bag to my back and water bottle in hand. As I started walking, all I was looking for were the landmarks that I knew. One after the other, the milestones kept coming, reassuring me that I was on the right track. Until the first obstacle came – road crossing. I had never crossed the road on my own. That too the Dandekar bridge circle. But I thought there is a first time to everything. Cautiously and carefully – after a full five minutes – I did manage to cross. First victory.
Once I hit Sinhagad Road, half of the battle was won. There were no more turns left. Just a straight road ahead. But my joy was short lived. Because hunger and the weight of the bag were starting to take a toll. I just kept reminding myself that a little more distance and I’d be home – safe.
When I did reach home, I felt like I had conquered the world and hunger had conquered me. By nightfall, my legs were starting to react. As I told Aai, she asked what did I do for my feet to hurt so bad. And so I narrated the entire story and ended it with the fear of getting yelled at. But by the time I was done, Aai was in tears. After all, her little girl had just walked a distance of 5 kms all by herself.
That night, I slept super peacefully to the calming sensation of Aai massaging my feet.
Since then, I have walked a lot in my school and college years. But that day was a walk to remember.