It’s often difficult to look back upon a certain fragment of your life. In the volatility of human emotion, a certain memory remains which exudes a nostalgia that is infectious and insurmountable. Often such memoirs are laboured to be forgotten because they pierce us like shards of glass. The blood that trickles out is translucent, opulent and gregariously mellow. People often touch us in ways that transcend the measurable depths of human interaction. Some make us, some break us, some raise us, some graze us, while some shape the shards of memories into a beautiful crystal reverie, the others form a fissure into layered shaded tiles of our existence. So, why tread into such painful territory? It’s because of the closure it brings us. Often the pain trickles away in tears and the memory is washed away as a figment of grief. The recollection of sadness restricts us from cherishing the beautiful moments associated with that memory itself. To relive those rainbow days of endless possibilities, now that such a thought is dismissed as the ramblings of an immature mind, is a pleasure and bliss. I am going to do so in a hope that my ramblings are validated with the shear amount of love that the people I am going to talk about exuberated and that memory prepares me for an imminent loss that I will face. My reminiscence is about my maternal great grandparents.
Of all the things in the world, what struck me most was the dull orange paint. It wasn’t orange to be specific; it was what my mother referred to in my childhood, as ‘skin coloured’. I wouldn’t use that exact annotation due to its racist undertone and would like to call it “dull orange”. The stoic similarities remained- the rustic metalwork on the window grill, the high spacious ceiling; the great big doors with painted glass; some discoloured, some not; a general sense of familiarity, which was all that I came for. It was a brownish-red house belonging to Ma’s grandparents, which she forced me to visit every time I visited my home town of Kolkata. Set in Barasat, a small town on the outskirts of Kolkata, the place was two hour drive, which was much too dreary for a dubiously lazy creature like a ten year old me. It’s been eight years since the house was sold for a flat in the city and since then things were different.
However, I wouldn’t extrapolate on their life afterwards; I wouldn’t want to do that. The memoirs of that ten year old paint a better picture than that of this twenty year old. The green marble floors and Didima (Ma’s grandmother) were all the reasons that I needed to be ecstatic and chirpy again after the lethargic trip. I knew my mother felt the same way. That green marble floor has etched many a memory in my ten year old presence but I believe that they had shaped many more for Ma. I believe that a child feels most influential when he is with his grandparents. Their house, their clothing, their scent and their food sketch an ethos of pure wonderment and for me that ethos was green and brownish-red. Dadu (Ma’s grand-father) was a stout, thin, cotton kurta-dhoti clad Bengali gentleman. Having catered to various grandees during his job as government employee, he was strong willed, articulate and witty. His dhandaas (riddles) were something I looked forward to every time and that followed by nimkees (kite shaped biscuits) and chaa (tea) made it even more special. The place was rural and regal, old-world and magical, rusty and reverential, ageless yet ageing. And then it was sold, to support a flat in the big old city, a city which had all the facilities in the world but never had the same heart.
With the old wall clock ticking away innumerably, it’s been ten years. Didima is well, their ten year old flat is well, this city is well, I am well too but Dadu isn’t. An incurable disease has numbered this 92 year Old’s life and his riddles have drowned in the rambles of a diseased old man. However within those ramblings are sparks of olden days, the days of the brown and green, the nimkees and chaas, the lush magical realism. Their back-dated old town residence was their home, while this quadrangular flat was their “flat”. And to get away from their flat, I went on a two hour road trip to the dusty town of Barasat, to a dull orange house with new residents but the same old semblance of two dignified old residents residing there and meeting their grand-daughter and great grand-son.
I crept up on a dream, I sketched that dream on paper,
I felt the outlines, they weren’t dark, they were a blur.
And so I got lost in it, for it was infinite,
It was smeared, uncomplicated, inviolate, desolate.
My existence melted, blended, blinded by blur,
I crept up on a dream, I sketched that dream on paper.
And my dream it is now, realism it was of the prior,
So, I reminisce in this haze of lingered desire.