Tag Archives: memories

A ‘grand’ personality…

01 October 2016.

It was a night like no other. Eerie silence pervaded throughout the house. Light sobs broke out occasionally. All the lights in the house were on. Our house was filled with people. Everyone was gathered around, trying to find comfort in each other’s company. It was the first time I had encountered such a situation. And there I was, peeping at it all from the gap between the stairs.

I had been studying for my SSC prelims in my room, when the doorbell suddenly rang. I was startled, and looked up to check the time. It was past 10, on a Sunday night. ‘Why would someone come home right now?’ I couldn’t help but wonder, as I quietly crept downstairs. There was something weird about the whispers that were flitting through the house. The door was ajar, but I couldn’t see anyone around. ‘Where was everyone?’ I shrugged, but thoughts of Geometry occupied my mind and I ran back upstairs. I sat down, got back to struggling with the theorems….tensed about the prelims which were to start in 2 days. Yet again, I heard someone enter the house, the whispers getting louder. I tried to concentrate but curiosity got the better off me. So I was back to creeping downstairs, when suddenly my grandfather’s brother intercepted me. “Shivani…” His voice broke into a sob. A chill ran down my spine as I looked at him with a questioning glance. “Half an hour ago…” He couldn’t go on; instead he just silently lead me down. Into the room where my grandfather had taken residence almost 3 months ago. There he was, sleeping peacefully. Finally at peace. Having left behind all his pains. And us.

It was the first time I encountered Death at such close quarters. I gasped and ran from the room. I looked around for my grandmother and there she was….sitting in a corner, lost to the world. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes had a vacant look. My mother was in another corner, just staring at the floor. My father was near the telephone, informing the rest of the family. My aunts were there with their families; my cousins looking at me. People just kept coming into our house, but I had stopped registering their faces. Someone hugged me; someone else patted me on the back. Someone tried to console me by saying ‘Everything will be alright’, but my mind was in utter shock. How could he leave? How could the most stubborn man I’ve ever known, give up his fight so easily? How could the head of the family walk away, without a Goodbye?

wp-1475316714415.jpgHe was overjoyed the day I was born. My uncle tells me how my grandfather couldn’t wait even a second to see the newly born me. And the moment he saw me, he fell in love. He was a strict man, but always lenient with me. He let me sleep in long hours, he let me get away with my mischief around the house. He laughed at my attempts to speak, and he lovingly nurtured my love for reading. Each birthday and achievement earned a book and my language flourished over the years. The first time I actually tried my hand at expressing my thoughts, ironically, was the night he died.

I thought back to all the memories with him, and the words flowed that night. I kept writing at a furious pace, hoping that the void filled itself up. Ten years later, I am still writing at a furious pace, knowing well that the void will always remain so.

A void that I call ‘Nana’. A man who built some famous bridges across the city; and also built relationships who outlived him. I was often asked by complete strangers if I was Narayan kaka’s granddaughter, and my heart always filled with pride as I nodded my head. There was a news article about him a few days after he passed away. I had read it hungrily, and was shocked to realise I knew so little about him. And perhaps, that was his biggest achievement.

That he never flaunted, never bragged. He was a family person, who cared and looked after his loved ones. He helped me with my homework, played cards with me, sat himself in a discreet corner of the audience when I faced the stage for the first time. He was proud, and yet he never let on. He encouraged us to be better, he made sure we never backed down. He was his own man, never dependent on anyone.

So perhaps it was no surprise that when an illness left him bedridden and dependent on others for every little thing, he preferred to die. We saw him sink and heard the doctors tell us ‘It is only a matter of time.

wp-1475316726327.jpgHe used to always sit across me, at the dinner table, looking over at me slowly eat my food. He was always the first to finish, I was always the last. He always asked for my help while changing the bed sheets, and till date I feel him tugging them from the other end. Looking back, I don’t remember ever directly joking around with him. I was in awe of him and even today, I wonder if he approves of my life decisions ever since. He wasn’t there when I passed my SSC and HSC exams; he wasn’t there when I chose English as my major subject for graduation. He wasn’t there when I flew to the UK for my Masters and he was missing from my wedding. So many milestones in these ten years, and each witnessed only by the photograph hanging on the wall. What would he say, had he been there?

I think I know. Because although that night, he physically left us, he still lives on in various ways. My father has his eyes, my cousin has his hair. His grand children have his stubbornness. And the entire family has memories, some exclusive and some shared.

With this ‘grand’ personality who once lived.

My grandfather.

 

True Love… is just You.

14 February, 2016.
The memories force me to look back. I remember that bandana on your head, the t-shirt you were flaunting, the shorts you were wearing. I remember hearing your name; I remember seeing your face. But there is one thing I have long since forgotten…the way we met.That first look we shared.

Awkward, shy and almost non-existent was I. But you walked in and threw colour into a bleak life. Sometimes, late at night, I sit and wonder…were you sent in my Life for a reason? May be to make me smile, may be to teach me to love. Love myself and embrace the world. Looking up to you (and literally!) I stood up on my own feet and actually bore my own weight. It was a young age, the age of infatuations.

And I was deeply infatuated.

I was convinced my heart was lost forever. Never would I find it back, although I knew who it had crossed over to. You spent ages convincing me to take it back, but stubbornness is a trait synonymous to me. I was determined to make this crush last as long as I could, try your advice on yourself. ‘Love yourself and the world will love you too…!”

For me, the world was You.

….I still remember that day you invited me home. After a million ‘Oops I forgot to introduce you to my mom’ meetings, there arose a day when your mom opened the door for me. A door into your house, and into her heart. A random opportunity of entering your house, and I seized at it shamelessly.

Never have I stopped ever since.

….I still remember that moment when you drew me close and told me you loved me. If there is a Heaven we can experience while on Earth, for me it was that very moment. It was my moment of success, of having proved you wrong. It wasn’t an infatuation. It was Love. But above all, that moment was our moment of happiness.

The first of so many more to come.

In the days that followed, there began a mad rush to know each other. As friends, there are some boundaries you never cross but as lovers, there hardly remain any. You drew lines, I walked over them. I insisted, you gave in. There was every possible way of communication used, because any amount of time spent together was too less. I wish there was some way of ‘saving’ your touch because every other interaction between us could be archived.

You left me hungry, desperate for you any time of the day.

…I still remember looking at you across the hall and feeling your eyes find me amidst that crowd. The smile we shared then and so many more times later. A world of our own amidst the bustling crowd. Your searching eyes when I walked out of sight, my lost gaze when I didn’t see you around and the almost instant ‘Where are you?’ messages that followed. The walk you led me on through a million lanes, watching from a distance and enjoying my desperateness. And then that moment of relief when I finally saw you…!

When Joy knew no bounds.

…I still remember those moments of pure jealousy I went through on various occasions, because I was so sure you had lost all interest in me. All throughout, my failure to notice that your eyes were still on me, your thoughts still revolving around me. But the arrow that pierced through me each time a girl walked too close to you. It killed me and it healed me at the same time. I knew your worth better than before and I held you closer. You reacted, you walked off and then came laughing back on my possessiveness. I relished those moments but until then, my mind went through gruesome turmoil. Each time I made a new mistake and each time you forgave me, with varying bouts of silence.

That silence kills.

…Your eyes flashing with anger and your voice struggling to stay calm, it is one of the serious fights we have occasionally. These moments are far and few but they are always true. When two strong characters collide, there is bound to be noise and chaos. Emotions flying in the air and words hiding behind silences, we have always preferred to keep quiet rather than give vent to that rage. Thinking of each other even in those times though the arguments would never support this claim! Complaining about each other yet holding fast. Threats of ending the relation but never really gathering the courage to walk away.

Maybe because there isn’t any other place we’d rather be.

We fall, we hurt and we cry. Sometimes we ignore each other’s pleas for help and sometimes we are the first ones to wipe the tears. People worry about us, people warn us but we have never listened to people. For in our world, there is no space for people. Admirers walk in and out, jealousies soar and subside; the love still holds strong.

Maybe it is Destiny; that you walked up to say Hello…

I take a moment here and break the spell. So many memories later, it seems a lifetime with you already. The rush of memories has not lessened its intensity but the mind needs to take a break. The heart forces it too. The love that has surfaced, the sudden urge we have always joked about…it is threatening to spill over. And I am trying to fill a glass that is already full. All around, I see and hear so many bad things…upheaval in the world, resulting in frustrations abound; and for a minute I steal myself a prayer. I am thankful for my piece of Heaven amidst this chaos.

I am glad every once a while you slip on the garb of Prince Charming and make me live a Fairytale…

…I still don’t remember when I realized You were the one, or when you figured me out to be your lifetime choice. But I do remember every single time I looked at you and my heart did a somersault. I do remember wondering every single time what was it that made me drool over you so much. And I also remember every single time you questioned me over the same. I don’t think I have found the answer yet.

In fact, I have stopped looking for the answer.

All I know is that for me, True Love lies in your smile. I find it every single time you yell at me or ignore me. I see it when you look at me and talk to me. I hear it when you answer the phone and crib about being woken up. For me, True Love is in all the moments spent with you and in your absence, thinking of you…

For me, True Love is just You.

Meghalaya ki ‘khasi’yat…

3 – 10 September 2015.

Madness. Chaos. Work pressures. A super – early flight. Rubbing the sleep out of eyes. Collecting friends en route the airport. Backpacks dumped, one upon the other. Pune – Delhi – Guwahati. A flurry of activities all around. Whew!

Fresh air. Good roads. Grey clouds clamouring in the sky. A light drizzle staining the car windows. A sense of peace slowly pervading through. Relaxing each inch of the body. Phew!

Such a massive transition. Within less than 12 hours, we had travelled from the noisy streets of Pune to the serene winding roads of Meghalaya. The mind was slow to catch up, where the body had already reached. It is amazing, what technological progress can do to mankind. How we had crossed the breadth of the country within such a short span of time. How we had gone from honking horns to dreamy valleys. Welcomed with an Assamese “gamcha” at the Guwahati airport by our local help for the next 8 days, our journey finally kicked off, in the true sense.

It was an idea floated rather casually within friends a few months ago. The idea of exploring the North – east. An area that quite a number of people are unaware of. We were bombarded with questions like “Are you done with your visa?” “What are you going to do for 8 long days there?” “Wouldn’t you be better off visiting some tourist- friendly place instead?” It surprised us, it baffled us…..that the people around us were that ignorant about such a beautiful part of our own country.

It helps to have a husband who works in the travel and tourism industry. It helps even more to have travel companions with the same goals and objectives of the trip. And thus, the four of us booked early-bird (and dirt cheap!) tickets to Meghalaya. And that is where our planning began and ended! It was going to be a spontaneous trip, with our feet, hearts and stomachs guiding us.

After the months of anticipation, failed attempts at planning a basic itinerary and random coffee meets instead, there we all were….sleepy-eyed but excited, with lighter hearts and even lighter backpacks. We were headed to the Abode of Clouds, to bring back the rains, wrapped in sheets of memories…

IMG_8836 (Medium)

Our first stop was Shillong. A city not too different from Pune. Traffic jams met us at every nook and corner. But what surprised us was the discipline imbibed within the Shillong traffic. Cars lined up silently one after the other. Drivers switched off the ignitions and waited patiently for the roads to clear up. Hill-stations are often sleepy towns, we had heard but this was a level of patience we were not prepared for. Especially since we came from a city where every vehicle is in a state of constant competition with each other. But then we discovered the secret behind this discipline that prevailed through Shillong. At every possible juncture, boards reading “No overtaking. Fine Rs.500/-“, “No Parking. Fine Rs. 500/-” and other such threats were put up. And why not? The threats worked! There were traffic jams but none where cars were stuck for ages. Our journey was slow, but steady. As the sun set on our first day in Meghalaya, we reached the Assam Guest House, our home for the next 2 days. Economical and a luxury, the rooms were a treat to our sore backs. A quick stroll through the city, dinner at Cafe Shillong and we had hit our beds. The next day was spent in exploring Shillong. A rather typical tourist city, we visited the Elephant Falls and got a bird’s-eye view of Shillong from the Shillong peak. We spent hours admiring the work and history of Don Bosco at the Don Bosco Museum, enjoyed a sky walk amidst a beautiful drizzle and gaped at the enormous and private collection of butterflies from all over the world.

IMG-20150907-WA0013A bustling city, Shillong was beautiful….and yet the travellers within us were restless. Where were the clouds lying low over the mountains? Where was the dense greenery? Where was the crisp air? 2 days later, our luggage was back in the hired car and off we headed, toward Cherapunjee. A name straight out of Geography textbooks. The place of highest rainfall. And there we were, visiting it in the monsoon. Our main objective here was trekking down to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. A UNESCO site, this bridge is a tangle of massive roots…strong enough to hold people and carry them back and forth. [A separate blog dedicated to this wonder coming up soon!]

IMG-20150907-WA0012We also visited the Nohkalikai Falls near Cherapunjee, known to be the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Beyond this noteworthy statistical information, witnessing the waterfall was an entirely different story altogether. Imagine this : You are standing atop a mountain. Looking down. A waterfall, highlighted by a sliver of sunshine. Sparkling bright. Crashing down into the depths of the valley and yet flowing smooth as silk.

Heading on to Mawlynnong – the cleanest village in Asia – we gorged on local food and visited the single living root bridge there. Then off to Mawsynram, the place that now holds the record for the highest rainfall. Back to Shillong. On to Guwahati. Our plans were guided by the weather. The rains and floods tried to ruin our plans, we were one step ahead by embracing whatever was possible.

We made our way through clouds, we struggled with language barriers, we faced disappointments, we had minor disagreements. And yet, we greedily devoured fresh pineapples being sold by the IMG-20150907-WA0011roadside; we participated (and even won!) at ‘legalised’ archery gambling; we walked down the starlit streets of Shillong; we warmed ourselves at the fireplace of Cherapunjee; we walked along the Dawki river and peeked over into Bangladesh; we argued over who last had the deck of cards; we also cruised the mighty Brahmaputra to hungrily gape at the 5 captive Golden Langurs upon the Umanand island….

We loved and lived each inch of Meghalaya that was available to us. We yearned and wished for the rest of the North – eastern states. We came back from a vacation but with lingering memories. Our bodies are back but our souls left behind a promise. That we would be back. And soon. To explore the nooks and crannies of the diversity even a few states put together can offer. To taste the variety of cuisine these states offer. To soak in the multiple languages and dialects being spoken here. To just breathe in that pollution-free air.

We spent 8 long days there, and yet so much remains unexplored. A beauty that keeps tempting you back, that is the ‘Khasi’yat of Meghalaya…

IMG_9330 (Medium)

The Echoing Walls.

31 August 2013.

It is past midnight and I am standing in front of a plain soft board, trailing my finger aimlessly on the rim of the shelf just above eye-level. In my mind, I had visualised this moment a hundred times already. From the 1st day of August, a weird fluttering in my heart kept making me conscious of the time ticking by. The month of many lasts. The beginning of the end!

A glorious picture had formed itself in my imaginings. A silent goodbye to the room that’s always made me feel safe, a quick (hope no one’s looking!) kiss on the door of House 34, as it shuts behind me. Shutting me out forever. A certain romanticism in the mere idea of a farewell…and yet nothing had really prepared me for this. This unnatural numbness I feel as I strip the room bare of everything, leaving it stark naked.

Just like the first day I entered it, almost a year ago. A new campus, a new experience…this house was an introduction to so much. Adapting to strangers and accepting their whims and fancies, living with their flaws and weaknesses. The door to my new room opened up so many possibilities on that very first day. As the days slipped into months, the room developed a character similar to mine. I love sitting by the window, so a chair adorned that corner and photographs from so many wonderful moments with friends quietly climbed on the walls and created a home for themselves. I am no interior designer and yet steadily I could see the room moulding itself to adapt me, to let me be.

Here I have spent many a mornings lazing around, aware that no one was there to coax me out of bed and such a blissful feeling that! Here I have sat and cursed those birds which decided to wake up even before it was time for me to sleep. Here is where I have learnt to take care of myself and here is also where secrets, confessions and midnight gossip sessions have taken refuge. This is where it began, and today here is where it ends.

Because the house is no longer filled and the room will no longer remain mine in a few more hours’ time. So just for tonight, I take a moment and relive everything. The scary creaks at midnight, the loud late night phone calls from the floor above. The gushing water waking me up each time someone used the bathroom and the freaky taps on the window a random Sunday morning. I sit here and wonder how the year just flew away. In between settling in and getting ready to move out, somewhere the coin dropped.

Perhaps it was habit, perhaps it were the moments spent in here…but an attachment developed. With something as inanimate as a house, and yet with something as real as a home. Where strangers from different ethnicities realised heart breaks are universal. Where single children learned to share space. Where one’s ego took a break. And where experiments in the kitchen improved not just digestion skills but also our confidences. Because these four walls have given us not just shelter from the rain, but also laughter despite the pain. From handling unruly flatmates to cleaning up toilets after each other, there is perhaps nothing I haven’t learnt to deal with in the past year.

There is just one grudge I would always hold against House No.34.

The house that gave me so much, never taught me how to say Goodbye…

IMG_8906 (Medium)