If we were having coffee together... 3

If we were having coffee together dear friend, I’d have lots to talk about because my once-in-a-year trip home makes me garrulous. And if you’d raise your eyebrows at the word ‘home’ I’d reiterate that no matter where I go or how many houses I buy or live in, home will always be my hometown. That’s the city I grew up in, the city my parents still live in, the city where I, quite unrealistically,  expect to bump into a familiar face at each turn.

If we were having coffee together....
I’d tell you how I squeak like an over excited child each time I spot a sign of development here. ‘Ah the university got a makeover’, ‘Wow a new flyover’, ‘Ooh an authentic Italian joint, a yoghurt parlour’, ‘My goodness how many coffee shops are there?’

And yet, I’d tell you how I look out for the well-loved and the unchanged bits even more eagerly - the chikan shops, the gorgeous monuments that dot the city that I barely noticed when I lived here, a favourite kadamb tree, the gulmohur lined avenues, the thandai, mithai, chaat and biryani.

Most of all I’d tell you about the people. People, who are bound to me with nothing but simple bonds of love. I’d tell you about the chachaji at the paan shop who continues to give me free meethi saunf just as he used to when I was a toddler, or the thandai wale chacha who refuses to charge us if he spots me. ‘Ghar ki beti hai,’ he says, ‘paise kaise le skate hain hum?’

I’d tell you about the people here, who still exude an old world charm... the time my mother-in-law and I were arguing over who would pay for the vegetables and the vendor calmly took it from my MIL saying, “Betiyan toh mehman hoti hain’. It sounded incongruous - a guest in my own home? How exasperatingly old-fashioned! Yet I could argue no further.

Then there was the time we got stuck at a narrow curve on the road. ‘Peechhe lo’ said the driver of the oncoming car. ‘Lo nahin lijiye hota hai', admonished my sister as she reversed the car. I cringed waiting for the angry, impatient rebuttal but the driver, a barely literate stranger, gave her a sheepish apologetic smile as he drove away.

If we were having coffee together.... 
I’d tell you how it warms my heart to see these tiny courtesies thriving here, how I cannot but smile when I hear the aap and the ama floating on the breeze, even as ‘dudes’ and the ‘bros’ make space in its vocabulary.

Yeah my city is changing, becoming more like a metro with all modern conveniences even as it loses some of its character. That is bound to happen, and that’s good, that’s progress, I tell myself. And yet when the old-world ways show up unexpectedly, as they are wont to do for they are part of its personality, they are ever more quaint and comforting.

If we were having coffee together....
I’d invite you over to this city known for its relaxed evenings, I’d invite you to come experience a sham-e-awadh.

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