Friday, November 21, 2014

A man is but a sum total of his memories.

A childlike grin on his face. I imagined it quite well ... even though I couldn't see it. But, I know that look! That look of excitement and nostalgia. That look of suddenly remembering where you kept something… something you lost long back. 

I asked him again, do you remember how the house looked like? A long pause, and then he said, “Why wouldn't I remember? Of course I was only a boy, but things like these… you don’t really forget. There was a huge balcony. Actually two of them, a small kitchen where thakuma (grandmother) used to cook the most amazing begun pora; the smell mingling in the air… mesmerizing all those who passed by that busy lane. She was a woman like no other, the determination, the patience and oh the cooking! Do you know she used to make idols for puja on her own, what amazing craftsmanship. She collected my poems in secret, and published my first book .. I remember holding the book in my hand and thinking, how did she pull this off?!”

A couple of minutes later, and through all the childlike rambling, I finally managed to cut through the chatter again to ask, how is Kashi, why exactly did you do there? The thought that my extremely quirky and impatient father in his youth (arguably even more impatient) would laze around in a city like Varanasi, was rather odd to me.

He chuckled and said, "Bridge. I used to play Bridge”. Before I could ask him what bridge was he continued, “Our house was very close to Dashashwamedh ghat, one of the busiest ones in Kashi. On the second floor, right opposite Nishat Cinemas, do you think it’s still there? Look up Nishat Cinemas on Google Maps will you? Oh and there was Gopal Ghosh, he used to run an itar shop. He used to love me so much, I wonder if he is still there.”

Hold up right there! I jumped and said,  how the hell do you even remember his name? He smiled and said, “He used to give me small bottled perfumes for my girlfriend. Free of charge of course!”  But of course, I said (and went back to imagining the childlike grin on his face again.)

These late night telephonic conversations with my father  leave me puzzled, sometimes endeared, and sometimes question my perceptions about him. The rest of the midnight-conversation, with my 12 year old father, revealed his near perfect memory of every nook and corner of Kashi... how the ghats looked, how the sadhus sat around the edges, grandma’s cooking, his frequent trips to Ramnagar, on the west bank of the river, to fetch perfectly round and I quote “slightly greenish eggplants” which apparently led to some of the most unbelievable eggplant dishes, that my mother can’t seem to compete with (even to this day)!

And then I asked him, by the way what did you have for lunch today, and he paused and said, ‘mmm..I don’t remember, why?’

Later that night I  wrote this on a sticky pad-

A man is but a sum total of his memories,
The kites he flew and the cards he played.
The paths he crossed, & the footsteps in the alleys.
A man is but a sum total of his memories
The lives he touched, the strangers he crossed
The ones he shared, and the even the un-shared stories
A man is but a sum total of his memories.
The lovers that never happened
The familiar gazes, and even the unsolved mysteries.
A man is but a sum total of his memories.

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