Thanks for the Memories

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In three days, I will be done with my end semester exams and will become a college graduate. And there are only two things that I shall be taking along with me from there:

  1. A document pronouncing me as a graduate
  2. Memories

The first one undoubtedly is important because it will help me in whichever career path I chose in the near future, but the latter is paramount.

It is this wealth of memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and on dark, gloomy days of montony and amidst strangers in a foreign land, the wisps of days gone by will make me smile.

It is a difficult realization: my friends and I, after spending a few years together and aiding each other in the painful process of growing up, shall now part ways. Of course we shall promise to keep in touch, but promises slowly fade away.

Some of us will become famous, and we one fine day, we shall see them on the TV and with a start cry out, “Oh! I knew her!”, and stare at the screen, mentally comparing the gawky teenager we knew to the well-groomed celebrity on screen.

News of some will filter to us through other acquaintainces, and we shall delight or rue their truimphs and defeats vicariously. (In our hearts, we shall long for those days when we were the ones they confided all their news to first).

Some we shall meet, suddenly, in markets and at the bus stop.

“How have you been?”

“Good. Can’t complain, and you?”

“Just doing fine”.

At this point his bus arrives, and we both move on with our lives, and maybe later that night reminisce about the’good old days’.

Maybe right now I am being cynical but change is scary. And yet part we must for whatever next adventure life takes to.

There’s only one thing that can be said…Thanks for the memories!

 

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“Anything Else, ma’am?”

I was on my way home from college, when my mother texted me and asked me to pick up some groceries from the local kirana store.

I listed out all that I needed to the shopkeeper, more interested to the songs on my mp3 player, tapping my fingers in rhythm and impatience.  It had been a long day, and I wanted to go home. After fetching the items, he asked courteously, “Anything else, ma’am?”

I froze.

Ever since we moved to this neighbourhood ten years ago, this is the shop we visited most often for grocery shopping. I have tagged here along with my mother, peering excitedly at the glass bottles of candy, displayed prominently to entice kids like me. I have come here, a warm coin curled up in my fist – that week’s pocket money – and spent a long time wrestling with the conundrum of which chocolate to buy.

I have visited this shop often during the summer vacations to buy zillions of ice-creams and at Christmas, dragged my father here, to buy chocolates and plum cakes. I have come here with my playmates, when some magnanimous parent or other had handed one of us a currency note and said, “Go buy some sweets and share them with your friends”. I have stood behind, giggling and prodding each other, daring them to go talk to the shopkeeper. It was a daunting task back then.

I have heard the same shopkeeper (minus the silver streaks in his hair) tease me and address me, while I shyly hid behind my mother’s pallu. When I couldn’t reach a packet of crisps, he has many-a-time come to my aid.

I don’t know when I transcended into this new category of customers — customers who were not to be teased, but spoken to courteously. I don’t know if it is a welcome change.

*

I was sitting at my desk, next to the window, studying for my upcoming psychology exams. Now and then excited giggles and laughter from the kids playing below would reach my ears.

Suddenly someone shouted — “Priyanka Didi!

I recognized both the person being called and the caller. Priyanka was the youngest girl in our group of playmates. The one we never took seriously, the one to be picked last since she was always thought of as a liability to the team than an asset. I was the eldest, and animously called by all those in our neighborhood playgroup, Didi. To think that someday my title would pass on to Priyanka was surreal, but it had, and somehow till that afternoon I had never realized it.

As for the caller, I was already a teenager by the time she was born. I have seen her take her first steps, played ‘peek-a-boo’ with her and pulled her cheeks.

She had grown up in front of my eyes, but somehow I never realized that so had I.

*

Jolly Didi was my grandmother’s aide and companion. She had always been there, as far as my childhood memory stretches back to, and whenever we visited my grandmother, she would play with me and my sister. She would tell us jokes, teach us new games and narrate funny anecdotes from her village. My sister and I would follow her all around the house while she did her chores, constantly chatting.

She was a constant at my grandmother’s house for most of my early childhood, until she left to get married. Soon after that we moved to Mumbai, and all she became was the vestige of a childhood memory.

I never spared her much thought, until last year when we were visiting my grandmother, and she came for a visit with her son.

I don’t really know what I expected would happen. Maybe I wanted to relive the camaraderie we had shared when I was a child. I would love it if she became her previous self, tell us jokes and play hide-and-seek with us in the garden. But it was not to be.

Clad in a simple orange cotton sari, her head bowed and eyes downcast, she was not the playmate I remembered. Her behaviour towards me was courteous, bordering on reverence. I vaguely remembered her treating my mother and aunts with similar politesse, but I couldn’t fathom why she would treat me in the same way.

A particularly disconcerting moment was when she tried to sit down on the floor, near my feet. I jumped up, shocked, and asked her to sit next to me on the bed. She obeyed me but with a timidness in her behaviour that frustrated me and left me bemused. I wanted to but didn’t know how to dissipate the awkwardness in our relationship.

When her son poked me in jest, she immediately chided him, and begged my pardon. I wanted to scream that I had behaved similarly with her, when I was a child. She instructed her son to touch my feet and when he ran away shyly, she repeatedly begged pardon for his discourteous behaviour. I told her it didn’t matter, that he was just a child, and I didn’t mind – but the words sounded hollow and patronizing, even to my ears.

I was dying to relive, for even one moment, our earlier companionship and comfortable ease. But it was a thing of the past, and I didn’t know how to bring it back it back to life.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “All Grown Up.”

Growth Pangs: Flash Fiction

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Meg looked around the apparel store in dismay. Her mother tapped her foot impatiently, “Are you done deciding what you want?”

Yes that frilly pink dress from the kids section that is a size too small for me, and the light blue shirt from the ladies section that reaches my knee.

Her mother made a clicking noise and noticeably checked her watch. “Nothing here is to my style” Meg said, and marched out of the shop. Her mother followed her with a bewildered silence.

*

“Touching a boy can get your pregnant”, Elsa said confidentially.

“Nonsense”. Helen rolled her eyes.  Her confident proclamation followed: “It only happens when you kiss!”

*

In the family function Meg sat in a corner listening to the grown-ups talk. “Come play with us”, her cousins begged.

“You go. I will come in a minute” she shooed them away.

Her parents were talking about the war. “Why don’t the two presidents just shake hands and apologize?” Meg asked. It seemed like a sensible question.

The ladies tittered. “Why don’t you go out and play with your cousins?” her mother suggested.

Meg felt her cheeks redden. A surge of fury and humiliation coursed through her veins — “You never understand me!”

“Young lady, is that the way you talk to your elders?” her father’s voice was taut. “Go up to your room”.

As she stormed out, she heard her mother mutter to Aunt Rosa, “I really don’t know what’s come into her nowadays…”

She slammed the door of her room. Her eyes burning with unshed tears, she looked out from the window into the twilight yard where her young cousins played the childish games that no longer afforded her any joy.

*

My Dream World

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There was this little world I had made,

In my childhood days.

I had woven it with care.

Nurtured it with love, and to me it was dear.

Small and bright,

Clean and white.

Located in a fairy castle on a hilltop highimages (2)

Up amongst the clouds, in the sky

Full of fairies, kings and queens

A child’s dream, a child’s fantasy

Many a playtime I spent here;

Many adventures I had there;

All my dreams came true here;

My wishes were fulfilled there;

It was a child’s dream, a child’s fantasy. images (3)

But one day, I heard this shout,

Calling me to the world out

I poked my head out and saw,

And, Oh!  How lovely the things seemed to be,

“Come out, and play”, they called to me.

I left my little world and came

But, Alas! Everything was not the same,

As they had before seemed to be

Oh, how true the old sayings are,

Grass always looks greener from far.

This world is full of deceit and lies.

Betrayals, broken promises and painful cries

Terrorism, Corruption, Pollution

Is there an end or a solution?

My little world was still there,

Free from such worldly affairs.

Unpolluted from all these worldly pains

Unaffected by the troubles of men

But I couldn’t enter it again

Not now, never again.

It was a child’s dream, a child’s fantasy

And I had grown up.

I wrote this poem, nearly six or seven years ago, when I was 13 years old. It lay forgotten in some dusty folder on my computer, stored along with other childish scribbles. I hadn’t thought about it in all these years, till I saw the weekly prompt by Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. 

This poem was, according to me, my best work in verse when I was thirteen, and probably for quite some time afterwards. And hence, I had never shown it to anybody, lest, somebody make fun of me, or the poem. It was a little too close to my heart back then. More than half a decade later, I am willing to unveil it to the eyes of the world. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated 🙂 

Talking about the Future on the School Bus

10320348_757120340986332_8630196627970622781_nHave you ever wondered why we only remember snippets of our memories? Like one precious moment in time we managed to catch just before it slipped away, and stored it in the treasure chest of our minds. It might be a little dusty with time, but the essence remains pure.

This is one such memory carefully preserved in my memory box – the details are a little dusty, but it is still cherished.

What do you want to be when you grow up? – the favourite question of every adult whom you met. Today we had just written a paragraph in class on what we wanted to be when we grew up, and the topic was still fresh in our minds. By we, I mean me and my two best friends – who for the sake of anonymity, I am calling S and M. 

“So” I asked, looking out of the school bus window, at the receding building, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“You tell, first”, M demands, testing the waters, testing if it is a trick question.  We were only 4 years old. 

“I wanna be a doctor” I replied proudly. “Like my uncle. He stays in London”. I never knew which held more fascination for me – the profession or the distant land, synonymous with all the magical places I read about in books (maybe that is why when I finally visited the city, a few years ago I was vaguely a little disappointed). Whatever the case, that was the only career path I knew of and deemed fitting back then. 

Now, S followed, a little tentatively, “I wanna be a teacher”. We turn up our noses. Being a teacher is the worst thing you could want to be at that age. A teacher was a wooden ruler wielding monster back then, who mercilessly gave homework to students. “Not any teacher”, she is quick to defend. “A good one, like Rina Miss. I will help students. I will be kind and never shout at them”. This was, still understandable. Rina Miss was all of our favourite teacher. She was kind, and always took extra interest in the underdogs – those who were bullied in the playground, those who didn’t seem to have friends, those who had problems at home. She would call them and talk to them at length. Sometimes she would give us chocolates and small gifts like pencils or ball-point pens (a rare privilege allowed to kids). She would take interest in what books we read and what films we saw, and when another teacher scolded us, it was to she who wiped our tears. 

Now it was M’s turn. She proudly puffed up her chest – “I want to be a wife!” We broke into peals of laughter. Marriage only had two meanings for us – 

  1. A game to play with when we were playing with our dolls.
  2. An occasion where we had to go dressed up and would be served tasty food, and would have our cheeks pulled by a dozen people we never remembered meeting. 

Once we managed to resume seriousness, we gave some serious thought to the question. “You will have to leave your parents”, I said gravely. As a girl, that was the biggest obstacle to marriage, in my opinion.

“I won’t”, M said, confidently. “I will make my husband leave his house, and come to live with my parents. My mother said that long ago that is how it happened. Men left their houses after marriage to come, stay with their wives”. (I have thought of this strange piece of knowledge for long. I guess my friend had misunderstood, or maybe her mother was talking about matriarchal societies)

“That is such a nice tradition!” I said. “Why did they change it? Why did our mothers shift residence after marriage?” 

For a moment we ponder this incomprehensible question. This ridiculousness of our mothers. “My father has a nice house” S said, almost defensively. We all were quiet. We couldn’t really debate this topic, without debasing either one of our parents, so we left it.

“When we get married, we won’t be like our mothers” I decide. “We will bring our husbands to our home. I will never leave my family!” images (1)

More than fifteen years has passed since this conversation took place. None of us are married….yet. I am pursuing a journalism career. M is pursuing English majors, and S just cleared high school. Very little remains of that ignorance and confidence now. Back then, all insurmountable problems had a simple solution. Sometimes I wish I could view life as simplistically now too.

(This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Futures Past)

 

 

 

Writing A Blog….

writing-centerI will Write! I decided, and with great determination opened my computer. The ‘new post’ page loads and there is no sound in the room except the whirring of the ceiling fan, and the soft crackle of the newspapers in the wind – no sound, NONE – not even the fantastic one of brain gears clicking and churning to produce an idea, that blossoms into a story.

‘Text’ I click on the dialogue box, and a sterile white box opens – waiting, waiting for my words…..as I wait for them to come, to descend like invisible moths into my brain, and help me write. For I want to Write. But nothing comes, and in desperation I open up the daily prompt ‘Shake it Up‘ write about your birthday from when you were 12. Ah! what a nice idea! I will write on this.

I re-open the page. The white box stares at me expectantly. When I was 12 years old….nothing comes to mind, except the image of my mother, my mother in the kitchen cooking for us, my mother waking me up with kisses – my mother who is right now at a hospital, battling for life from hyperglycemia.

mother-and-daughter-1Writing for me is therapy, and so I want to Write, but nothing really comes to my mind. When I think of my 12th birthday, at present it is only my mother who comes to my mind, saturating all my memories, with a heavy sweetness. My taste buds yearn for the taste of the dishes she cooked for me on my birthday, all my birthdays – pulav, prawn curry and chilli chicken. And for desert – caramel pudding and rice kheer. Always! At every birthday, she would be the first person to get up and visit the temple to thank God and pray for my health. Then come back, wrap up my presents – and wake me up to her own rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’. The whole day she would be busy in the kitchen, in the dreadful heat, cooking up dishes whose fragrance dragged me and my sister to the kitchen door, where we would linger, watching her work. My nostrils ache for that fragrance now. In the evening we would go to my grandmother’s house for dinner, and it would be late by the time we returned. I remember how on our way back I would put my head in her lap, drowsy and half nodding off, and watch from this position the vast blue sky above with twinkling stars, interspersed by tree leaves and street lamps, while she gently patted me to Dreamland – this image always evokes in my mind a sense of safety and security that I cannot find now. I long for it now. I long for the comfort of her hug, the warmth of her arms, the promise of hope and security in her kiss, that could in an instant cure anything – from bruises to heartbreaks. I remember her pushing me on the creaky old iron swing in the park, I remember her holding my hand tight in the crowded roads, I remember her patting me to sleep, and I remember her hugging me tight when I woke up in tears after a nightmare; and later when these nightmares became real in the form of school bullies and cruel taunts.

I want to write, but it is only my teardrops that fall on the keyboard – and they craft their own song of nostalgia, of undying love and of Hope.

Daily Prompt: Shake it Up

Turning 18

ImageSo two days ago was my eighteenth birthday, and just like that I crossed over the threshold of childhood to adulthood. And now, two days into my life as an adult I still don’t know how and when time passed. As a child like most of my peers, the only thing I wanted was to grow up – to be an adult, independent to take my own decisions. There were so many things I dreamed of doing ten years ago at this time – cook like my mother, use a knife to cut vegetables, learn to light a match, go to the shops on my own, go to college, stay up late – small dreams of the forbidden. Now that I finally am an adult why doesn’t it feel so? I haven’t yet had any over-night epiphanies nor have I realized the deep philosophy of Life. I don’t feel grown-up and not at all matured or wise, yet I am supposed to be so, am I not ?

There were no fanfares and trumpets to welcome me into the world of grown-ups. Nothing around me seems any different than two days ago, except small things here and there. No longer do I have to climb a chair to reach the top rack in the kitchen. In that one moment when I look around myself from the eyes of an eight-year old me, I feel like Alice felt when she ate the cake that made her taller. I remember looking up at my teachers, my parents, now I stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and yet I am not half as wise as they are. The old picture books in my bookshelf have been replaced by huge, drab volumes that contain hardly any pictures. My old soft toys and worn out barbies are arranged neatly on shelves, no longer gateways of my imagination. Nowadays, sometimes it is almost unthinkable to me that once upon a time I considered these plastic figures with glassy buttons for eyes to be my playmates, my friends, that I kissed them goodnight, and wished them good morning. The eccentricities of a child!

When I look at old photos I get a brief glimpse of how much things have changed. My parents’ faces have become more lined, parts of their hair have become grey. I don’t fit in my mother’s lap anymore, and it often seems fantastical that I ever did. My father doesn’t lift me up in the air now, and the one-sided acquiescence both reluctant and otherwise I was used to as a child, has now transformed into lengthy debates and discussions between me and my parents. My country now deems me responsible and mature enough to decide to a certain extent its future, to elect a leader worthy enough of leading my country, but politics is still as confusing to me as trigonometry was only a few years back.

Of course there are certain things to look forward to, but adult life comes with such huge responsibilities that I am not sure I can handle, and sometimes all I want is to run back down the time line to my carefree past. I feel like I am standing upon a cliff, where behind me lies my past and all that I have experienced, while in front of me lies the murky depths of an unknown future. And I don’t know whether what I am feeling is apprehension or anticipation.