The Old Dirt Road

Shaili Dutta, Class 8, Deens Academy Gunjur, Bengaluru

The mind has some strange ways. One of them, which is perhaps the most absurd, is how when something really matters, the mind connects everything around to it. Perhaps this is how memories are formed.

That thought struck me on a seemingly ordinary night. I was driving down the road, having lost my way. I anxiously checked my watch, but the darkening sky was enough to tell me how very late I was. That was when I saw it. It was caked in rust, and half the letters on its neon sign had fallen off, but I could still discern the entrance to the old sweet shop. The one on that left turn, which wound into the old dirt road. The road I used to take to school.

A wave of recollection possessed me. I recalled how, on this very road, I had belted out at-least 1000 film songs, even on the afternoons where I was too exhausted to blink. The road on which I would pass the kebab shops and Karachi Bakery, and time and again, I would beg my mother for a taste of those sweet, nutty biscuits. It would take nearly a month, but eventually she would give in, and we’d stock up on enough of those biscuits to last two months. I still remember the day the crumbs fell all over my school sweatshirt. When I press it to my nose, I still get traces of that fruity smell. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t washed it in years.

I still remembered the open fields. They were fenced by a tangle of drying ochre shrubbery, through which little wildflowers would push through, looking like a million little stars. I remember how the scents through the window would transform from the sugar of the jalebis to the perfume of little wildflowers. It was an odd transition, but I would breathe in every bit of it.

The memories came and went like a picturesque slideshow. I instinctively rolled down the windows, and the aroma of Jalebis wafted through the roaring winds of the car. Perhaps my biology teacher was right, and we do still have a bit of animal left in us. I know because it was purely animal instinct that urged me to veer the steering wheel to the left.

What surprised me the most was how I still remembered every detail. Every turn on that road. I recalled that in the old days, the road was peppered with potholes, which would turn into cavernous crevices upon the arrival of the monsoons. The road was now a smooth stretch of asphalt. My car felt like it was driving over honey. Yet, on that very spot, I could still feel the sway of the car over the potholes.
Involuntarily, I smiled. However big, however small, memories never really left, did they?


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