“Have you watched Mirzapur? The violence portrayed in the show is the reality of the city I call my hometown,” says Udit Yadav, about Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh. He was 11 when he was packed off to nearby Firozabad, which had better schools. However, it was in Delhi — his “pehla ishq (first love)” — that he found a home. He moved in 2013 to study at Delhi University and joined Asmita Theatre Group soon after. This is where he discovered art, literature, poetry and Urdu. He is also learning Dastangoi, a traditional form of storytelling that flourished in the old city.
Yadav was at his sister’s place in Gurugram, Haryana, when the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24. Months later, when he went to his flat near the Qutub Minar, he found that about a dozen pigeons had made themselves at home. He finally returned to Mainpuri when news of his grandfather’s death arrived.
“I have been a stranger to Mainpuri all my life,” says Yadav, 25. The first thing he did to make himself feel at home was to do up his room to resemble his Delhi flat. He also wanted to familiarise himself with Mainpuri’s geography. His daily errands often take him to the town’s outskirts where he walks among open fields, making videos documenting his slow life.
Going home has also given Yadav a chance to bond with his parents. “I’ve lived away from them for 12 years, because of which the emotional connection was missing. We understand each other better now,” he says. The void that his grandfather left is being filled by Yadav. “Nowadays, I spend a lot of time in his room, which gives my parents a lot of relief — they don’t feel the emptiness,” he says.
As he awaits his return to Delhi, he is grateful for one thing. “Iss saal Diwali ke waqt seene mein dard nahi hoga (this year, during Diwali, there will be no chest pain),” he laughs, enjoying the respite from the city’s polluted air.