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.