July 21. I turn 43.

Today is July 21. I turn 43!

Sitting by the Minor Canal in Layyah as I dip my feet in the water, the arrow of time suddenly stops and then starts flying in the reverse direction.

I am only six years old and spinning a tricycle along this canal as if trying to break the escape velocity. The next moment, I am rolling a motorcycle tyre in this place and getting chased down by a swarm of bees who sting me on every part of the body. As I grow up fast, the canal watches me ride a bicycle here every day. It is here I swim for the first time in my life. In hot days, I swim in these waters for hours. My skin becomes so dark that my mom calls me “Kaalu” (black).

In this canal, I wash old tyres from the shop, and dad happily rewards me with some extra rupees.

I have different dreams. I want to become so many different things—a pilot, an astronaut, an engineer, a physicist, a painter, and a librarian, all at the same time.

Little do I know when pedalling a bicycle along this canal, that after thirty or more years, I would become nothing in life. All I would be left with would be a bicycle.

Today, I am feeling this water after about 25 years.

“Where is this canal going?” I ask myself. Does it know its path? They say all the rivers end up in the ocean, but what about this canal? Maybe there is no place where it ends. It just disappears in so many places.

Maybe, I am like a canal because I also took too many paths. As it disappears mile after mile, I too disappear in time. One day, I will be gone, but the canal would be still here, flowing silently, nurturing this land.

Will it still remember the kid who used to spend his days along its bank? And will it also remember all his dreams?