Saturday, October 21, 2006

And is this what you wanted, To live in a house that is haunted, By the ghost of you and me...

Do you think of your childhood often?

Every time I go home, to that four-storeyed non-descript apartment tucked away in a small lane, the smell of my childhood wafts across to me. There, in a room on the first floor, time stands still. There I am a month old baby lying nestled in the arms of my grandfather while my family rushes off to the airport to receive my aunt on her annual visit home from Riyadh. There I am a five year-old who cannot sleep till my grandmother comes to bed and tells her bedtime stories--not fables, but tales about her childhood, with her grandmother. I am 10 and I still sleep with my grandparents. I dream of being a swimmer and drag them off to my daily practice sessions. No rain or unexpected visitors can hold me back. I am 12. My father gets his first outstation posting. Ma tells me we might shift soon. I know what to do. I appeal to my guardian angels. My grandparents--the fulcrum of our joint family--delivers on my faith. I can stay back with them.

I am 16. Dad is finally back home. I don't know how to react. I am ill at ease. There's a huge flat waiting, which is being done up so that we can move in as quickly as possible. This time only Dadu backs me up valiantly. I shuttle between the two homes. When they are with us, I stay put. When they come home I follow suit.

And then somewhere in between I grew up. I think it was after Dadu passed away nine winters ago. Then in a span of a few hours I knew what it was to be on my own. Completely. It wasn't just his not being there. It was the sum total of all the small things that went awry, all the things that I never imagined could go wrong. Ever since I have always strived to be independent. To be capable by myself. And I almost managed. Except for that one old, indomitable woman, who knew she would always win. My grandmother. Every time I book my tickets home I know that amidst all the happy faces there will be one face which will wrinkle up in unadulterated joy. Who will ask me everytime I call home, "When are you coming back? Why do you have to work there?"

There are some people of whom you think age can't do much. Thamma's one of them. In our matriarchal family Thamma has always been the law. But there are things time can do. I can't recall perfectly when Thamma changed from being the head of the family to the frail, infirm woman restricted to the confines of the bed. I don't know when that smiling booming voice changed into a whisper--"I have a feeling I won't see you again." I laughed and told her it was nonsense. That my bags were packed and I would be home in no time. This time I won't hurry back because I had all the time in the world to be with her. She smiled.

Thamma passed away this Monday. Two weeks before my scheduled sabbatical. A month and a half ahead of one of the most important days of my life. Hers too. She had more dreams about it than even I dared to see. Now, with all the time in the world as I sit here doing nothing, I know I lost.

I think of my childhood often. What you risk shows what you cherish the most. But this is one gamble I know, even Thamma, wouldn't relish winning...

4 Comments:

Blogger spiderman! said...

possibly one of the best...if not the best u have written...i think the article in Voices abt ur grandfather could give this one a fight...

12:19 PM GMT+5:30  
Blogger nobody you know said...

i feel like lying beside you and sobbing...justfor all such losses in our lives....M

12:28 PM GMT+5:30  
Blogger jerry said...

A real nice read there. Very Shadow Lines, or so I felt. Childhood memories are important for a reason that they make you who you are. Everything from taste to fears start from there. My grandfather, I miss him a lot. I saw him few times after he passed away. It was like he had come back to talk me...don't know why I said all this. I really miss him, though its been a while...

2:49 PM GMT+5:30  
Blogger Fortunata said...

Spiderman, Nobody you know, Jerry,

Thanks all...I really don't know know what to say...life moves on and sometimes I am surprised how easily one can camouflage the pain, and Jerry, I think I know what you are talking of...it doesn't matter how long it's been...you still miss the person irrespective of the years in between...

11:59 AM GMT+5:30  

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