Writing Flash Fiction after a long long time.
The dry leaves had not been trodden for years. The ground kept giving birth to more and moreover the years. It was like a population explosion. No one would sweep them off the grass anymore. Wild shrubs, creeper hanging over the golden Amaltas trees, which stubbornly stood ground and every summer replaced the dried leaves with golden droopings like an unkempt maiden once in a while shows of her makeup shades.
“Ten, no twelve years have passed since you last visited,” said a crumpled but familiar voice. I turned around and saw him standing near the rusted iron-gate, I had just jumped over. He was wrinkled, drooping, and time trod much like the old park. The long garden broom in his hand had given way to a walking stick. He drooped like the creepers uncannily balancing over it.
“The city has changed quite a bit.” I tried to make an uncomfortable conversation.
He nodded. “It like a graveyard of old bungalows and parks now covered with concrete structures. This one remained because your family owned it.”
I wondered if he knew I was here to wrap up everything. There was no way I could fit into an old city like Lucknow anymore, no matter how many modern structures come up. The very fabric of this city will not accept me.
“Yes, but it is not like earlier days. It is in a sorry state.”
“There is a sorrow that lingers in old parks,” the old man said looking wistfully. His presence made me uncomfortable.
I had never met him face to face after that incident. I had never even heard him being mentioned ever in my house which once echoed with his name.
“Budhan” the name was like a morning alarm in my home and Budhan would always be found holding the long garden broom clearing the dried leaves from the grass when he was not running errands for my parents. Father had erected a bamboo hut for him to rest during the sultry Lucknow Summers. I had played in it for many years. It was my secret den as much as it was Budhan’s.
For sixteen years I had seen Budhan as a part of the family property until that day when I was caught pants down in Budhan’s shed. He was the only one who had seen Lalaji’s son run away. But everyone else had seen him with a half-naked teen.
Budhan was beaten black and blue with his garden broom.
Father was the only one who looked at me with piercing eyes. I was packed off to Delhi. Mother had died shortly after. I think Father told her the truth and she could not bear it.
And like my relationship with father, the park crumbled away.
For a long time, I accused Budhan of it. He should not have walked into the shed when I was with Lalaji’s son.
He wasn’t there when I looked up again. Only the garden broom stood against the fence.