Monday, May 16, 2011

A Romantic Affair with memories

I heard Joan Baez sing away the other day, memories bring diamond and rust, I have no old lover, nor a romantic affair that can bring back its memories, but I do have romantic affair with old memories themselves. Memories that peep out of old dusty cartons, throwing up flashes from the distant past that have been long forgotten and got over with. I have a romantic affair with all these memoirs from a past life which has been left behind.  An old dress that you no longer fit into because you have grown older, the old notebooks where you scribbled nonchalantly and had silly remarks made by friends on the pages that have now turned yellow. Photographs do rekindle moments and memories but only of the time when the picture was clicked or of the people in the picture generally. However, what lingers on as definite etches in the mind are these mementos from a life that appears almost a light year away now.

Being in a transferrable job, my father often makes us move from one house to another, sometimes even to different cities. In this flux what is retained with us of each house, each city and each neighbourhood is these random items we might have collected over years.  So yet again these old boxes have come out to haunt me. I have never regretted moving to so many places, it is difficult initially and to be honest we crib a lot for the initial few days, but it has taught me to learn to make homes out of all these houses that we have moved into, making them our own for the brief period that we get to stay here.

An old school t-shirt where people wrote how they are going to miss you and that you have been special, an old scrap book where you and your friends have scribbled the silliest of things and now get too embarrassed when you mention it; the yellowed and dusty school photograph in which once you could tell the names, surnames and even roll numbers of most of your friends, a pack of crayon colours your mother got to keep you busy in the summer break, the jumbo colour book where some pages are beautifully and sincerely painted and others are left in a lazy give away and half hearted way-I found these and a lot more in my old boxes. Add to these countless copies of tinkle magazines, tinkle digests, old borrowed Archies comics, reader’s digests and several other magazines collected over summer vacations and at other times of the year. Greeting cards bought and received on birthdays, anniversaries and father-mother-son-daughter and all other concocted days. My father asks me what should be done with these, there’s a suggestion that since I don’t need most of these there should be a way to do away with them. But even if I part with these assorted items that I have collected over years, will I ever get over the memories they entail. Good or bad, they are a part of me and define who I am today. In fact I am quite glad we move so often how else would I get a chance to revisit my childhood and recollect moments from school and my homes that have not only taught me how to live life but also to cherish it.

My mother takes out a small teddy bear and tells me how I had thrown tantrums to get it, as I dig further I find my old Barbie’s, if you ask me I can give you several reasons why I hate the idea of the Barbie now, but at that age it was every girl’s fascination and each Barbie had a story of how and when I procured it. As soft toys and Barbies kept appearing from the cartons so did my childhood, and with it the stories that my mother had to tell. Some were got by my father for he went on long tours outside the city, some by my mother to award the successful completion of an academic year and some others on special occasions like birthdays or Diwali. I never played with them as such except for the Barbie, cause Barbie actually made you believe you could be anything in life :P but they still were my possessions that had to be preserved and also guarded when raided by rowdy grizzly cousins.

Then there are the shells that we collected from the beaches of Goa, and even though they are broken and of no aesthetic or other value, they are still carefully carried from one house to another for they are souvenirs of the amazing trip we had there and the fun we had while collecting them. There were books too, lots of them, books that I read and loved, books I bought and never read and books that I had exhausted and could still read one more time.

Finding certain things, that you had momentarily forgotten or had regressed in the memory, gives you a sense of pleasure that is unmatched and irreplaceable. The romantic idea of living on the move, out of the suitcase, life being a journey and we being voyagers and the motif of constant flux then seem more enigmatic than the boring monotony of everyday life and may cause you either to philosophise or otherwise inspire enough to share it with others like I am doing now. The fact is that I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience, of realising the fact that my stay at my current residence is another stage another epoch in my diasporic life that I couldn’t resist talking about it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Exam-Summery

So after more than a month of sabbatical I return to my blog, and I must say I really missed blogging. In these days when I could not blog, sometimes due to a wrecked laptop charger or at other times, due to overload of work (you can’t expect yourself nor bring yourself to write just anything after keying in close to 30,000 words for your term papers). But it feels good to be back and I have promised myself that I will not take such long breaks unless necessitated by exams or ill-health or other electronic glitches which have become a commonplace for my laptop.

Anyway, as the sultry scorching heat of May approaches and threatens to dry up my thoughts along with my cognitive potential, blogging is one respite that salvages by giving me a chance to exercise my brain that is shrinking every minute. Sometimes I wonder if this lethargy of mind is because of lethargy of the body or vice versa, well either way, it is obviously not helping and definitely not desired. A few days before one of my friends complained about every corner of her house feeling like a blast furnace, and I couldn’t agree more. And much worse in such situations is to write exams, straining every grey cell and each muscle of your body to keep on moving despite the sweltering heat threatening to take charge over you, so that you want to throw away your pen, pour that water bottle over your head and declare in a shrill shriek, “I can take no more, I know what to write so could you mark me on my knowledge?” If you are in an approved degree college, however, this doesn’t work. You still have to sit through and rummage your brains to complete the rest of the paper somehow. I wish Einstein had tested his relativity theory on the hapless exam takers who have to go through this torture in the months of unexceptional heat and sweat. I am sure he’d have answers that would have corresponded to his theory to the wee bit. Every minute counts, and so does every word even if it slithers across the sheet as the invigilator is pulling the sheet away from you.

 I have always wondered how some people manage to finish the paper before time. However, after much contemplation I came to the conclusion, that these early birds who finish the paper while others still have their noses buried in their papers are generally of two kinds, one are those, who know exactly what to write and how much of it and so do just that and finish on time. The others, after having spent enough time roving their eyes here and there, observing people, after several failed frantic and desperate attempts at using vile means, having exhausted their capacity to use other means to while time, or have just laid their weapons because of the futility of trying out any foul means in the presence of the invigilator. Examinations are a part of the conspiracy of a defeatist world, where the paper setter invariably knows what you left for studying, what was the question you prepared on the first day of the 4 day break and the answer you just saw before entering the exam hall and now despite innumerable frustrating and self defeating attempts you can’t seem to remember. In fact I often feel exams are a way to test how you can still manage to survive three hours of this gruesome mental crusade and are able to retain your sanity and good belief amidst such debilitating and overwhelming circumstances that incessantly go against you by the cruel work of fate.

The worse being, you look up having given up all hopes of ‘passing with flying colours’( or any colour for that matter except obviously the ‘red’) and look around trying to find a camaraderie, a companionship in your suffering and sadly find almost everybody else writing so feverishly as if earning extra life points with every written word. And as you skim through the classroom searching for a soul-mate whose condition is as dreary as your own, you find in the other corner of the room some other cheeky lost soul whose also looking up and running his eyes across the room, but before you can meet his eyes and exchange a mental hi5, the kid gets himself busy again, leaving you alone to resume your penury. Finally, it dawns upon you that you have come to write an exam and not a thesis on the report of human behaviour in examination halls. You grip the pen firmly determined to get a go at the last answer you know, but don’t want to write for some no god forsaken reason. However, as soon as you get at it, the invigilator announces in her shrill voice that only about 5 minutes are left.

The world comes crashing down, the illusions of time are shattered, the relative theory requires to be turned around its head, and in what seems like a race against time, you wonder if the limits of 5 minutes can be stretched. Suddenly, everything starts running in your mind, but alas all in a haphazard manner in random order of importance and priority. You begin eating up words, believe that you have already written something when you have not, and the conclusion is never out of the mind, because the teacher taught, never leave the answer without concluding it, you may fudge the other portions, but conclude!

And after all the tussle against time, escaping the hawk eyes of the invigilator to catch that one word from a friend that reminded you of a whole answer, and through the several bouts of water gulps between answers to give yourself time to recollect and reassure yourself that all’s not lost, you somehow finish your paper, with random scribbling across the question paper, with doodles, remarks about how you don’t get a word and random calculations of the anticipated marks taking up the entire body of the blank space on the paper.

But what pervades all these dismal details, is the joy and the exhilaration of getting free, rather getting rid of an exam, a subject, of something that wouldn’t haunt you for some time at least. As opposed to some people, I never relook at the paper, what’s done is done and now will R.I.P. I can’t fight the determinism and fatalism that is entailed in exam giving, and so I submit almost unquestioningly to this barter of knowledge for marks.