Fane Road. Every time I mention the name to anyone it elicits the same nostalgic response: does so-and-so house still stand or so-and-so used to have a house there. Some remember the open grounds, while others ask of the huge safeda (eucalyptus) tree that stood just outside our house. None of it exists anymore.
What was once a nice open street is now a ‘gali’ with cars parked on either side, with little space to pass through. The open grounds are now towering plazas littered with signs announcing which lawyer has now made his den there. Every day now I wake up to a car honking, a man yelling at someone or simply spitting right outside my window — not pleasant sounds to wake up to.
I don’t remember exactly when the plazas and cars took over my street. It seemed to happen all at once. One day we were worried about how one plaza adjacent to our house would impact our privacy and before we knew it there were 10 of them, teeming with people. People who gawk at me when I decide to walk to the main road to get an Uber or rickshaw.
This is not the place I grew up in. There were no strangers here. My cousins used to live next door, in a house that is now vacant, and we spent the summers zooming on our bikes around the place. The road was barely that, more of a dirt track. The faces did change a little and as new neighbours built houses around us, we made sure to let the kids there know — this was our turf.
My window opened to a vacant field, wild weeds and grass growing inside with an occasional tree in the corner. Now it opens up onto a crowded street. I keep my curtains tightly shut even on the sunniest of days in winter. I would rather not see the man sitting in his car outside, blaring music as loud as his car stereo will go.
Where the safeda once stood, now stands an electricity pole holding up wires. The safeda died and had to be cut. Its trunk too heavy to move sat in the corner of the plot for over a year before someone finally figured out what to do with it.
The pole itself is an awkward ode to the place that used to exist. It stands at least a foot away from the corner of the street where it should be. It had to be placed there because for the longest time, the safeda had held up electricity wires and repositioning was impossible.
For most it is impossible to imagine that I grew up without a gate or a proper boundary wall. These all came later as strangers started to trickle in and as the safeda was cut down. It needed to be defined where our house ended and the next one started.
The lawyers, their cars, their titles and their buildings don’t understand that this. They don’t think of this as an invasion of my area and childhood. They don’t think of it all. They have commercialised the area, taken over, and I’m told this is a good thing — it increases property value. We should make a plaza and rent out or we should sell and move away but this is my home and since partition has been the house where family put down roots.
My father can tell you where the room he was born in stood, my mother can tell you which room she first came to when she was married and came to this house and I can tell you of the room where my grandfather breathed his last.
You don’t simply sell your home.
The Fane Road my dad grew up in you could hear the lion roar all the way from the Zoo, the Fane Road I grew up in you could still, early in the morning, hear the GPO’s bell ring and walk around freely — now all you hear is car horns and alarms.