Just imagine a scenario. You are about to visit a family after decades. As you board the train/plane which is to take you to a place not visited for years, your mind runs and re-runs through a plethora of past memories that you have treasured. You remember the trivialities of childhood, the fun games of school and the twists and turns of early friendship. You are just reaching the place. As you get nearer you find your heart beating faster, your eyes moistening and a nostalgic emotion overpowering you. You are expecting to see things just the way you left them when you left the place way back. But, you are in for a rude shock! Things have changed. And the family is no longer there!
I am standing before my old house – the house I had grown up from a little baby to a skinny teenager, from complete innocence to an adolescent. My house stands as it is (thankfully!!) in this age of demolition and reconstruction. Nothing is changed here. Those windows from where I peeped still stand there having got used to new hands that open and close them everyday. The little gate stands there too. I dare not touch it for fear of hearing a strange sound as it swings open (the old rattling sound is a part of my memory that I do not want to change, ever).
The old winding staircase stands still as if waiting for me to run up its stairs once again. I just watch it nostalgically remembering my mother wait for me everyday as I came from school. I know now that if I walk up the stairs she will not be there. The natural waves of time have taken her way in their grasp never to return. So, I just stare and watch. My eyes begin to moisten. Then, I see my neighbour. She is surprised to see me with husband and son in tow.
“What is this Shail?” she asks of me. “Why do you breeze in like this?”
I try justifying how I came to attend a wedding and have to rush back home as my son has his exams starting at the end of the month.
“Oh! You are talking just like your mother,” she says. “She too used to run after you during exams.”
I reconnect with my mother once again.
Somewhere else, I see a friend who tells me that my looks have undergone a drastic transformation. I, who looked more like my father as a child and teenager look just like my mother now. I hoped my mother was listening.
‘Mummy, people are remembering you through me’ I want to tell her.
I want to show my old school to my son. Those castle like buildings in the convent looked as mysterious and awe-inspiring as before but before I can swerve into the school I find that the road that I used everyday for so many years is a ‘one way’ route now. I take the back entrance. There too I am prevented from getting in. ‘One way’ you see.
“Never mind beta,” I tell my son. “ Mama will show you her school some other day.”
“But you promised Mama” my son protests.
But, we have a wedding reception to attend and we move away from that past memory to return sometime in the near future maybe. Everywhere I go I encounter tall buildings blocking my sight from the landmarks that I knew so well. IT companies tower over us. Roads and shortcuts that I frequented so often have now been usurped by dominating flyovers. Huge buses block my vision and the driver of the taxi I am travelling in does not know where to turn (he is from Salem).
“What Madam?” he asks of me. “You told me that you had lived here for so many years and now every turn you tell me is taking us in the wrong direction.”
“What to do Jaffer?” I tell him. “That was way back. Now almost everything has changed.”
The traffic is terrible. We inch along. That’s the bookshop I purchased books from. That’s the ice-cream parlour. I keep pointing out places like an enthusiastic teenager. I become the little girl in Bangalore once again. My son and husband are amused.
My aged father who is accompanying us and for whom this trip means the most is drawn in the current of the past as he hugs his old friends. They are pages that are getting read again now after years of dust having gathered on them. As I see my father interact with his friends I can see the delight in his eyes. I can see his eyes tell me, “ The pages of my book have just got dog-eared. I am here to fold them back.” I know he is re-connecting with the past once again. I wish my mother were here sharing all this with us. Maybe, she was.
We reach the place of the wedding reception after getting lost in the crowded city for god-knows-how-many-times. I see my childhood friend and his cute bride. Memories from the past come gushing in as I see several others at the reception, each person sharing a part of my memorable past. Some were plain acquaintances then but today as I see them grown into adults something tugs deep inside. I see uncles and aunts delighted to see their little girl again. More than that, they are happy to get introduced to the extended family of my husband and son. Some have seen us last at the wedding while some go way back in my history of events. There is music being played at the wedding. People are celebrating. I am too moved to feel anything but plain nostalgia. Somebody calls upon me to join the fun in the wedding celebration. I shake a leg or two. My son and husband are amused but realize that shaking a leg is better than having a misty-eyed woman amidst them. They join in the fun too. We all are celebrating.
I am back home now. Oh the joy and pain that old memories give! Bangalore may have become a concrete jungle from the garden city that I knew but the spirit of the past still lingers on.
Memories on Mondays