Sweet memories

What does one do with memories? Pack them up neatly in a box and keep them away? Dust the cobwebs and look at them one by one when you fancy? Or just linger a moment and let them flood your mind, sweeping you away in a wave of emotion?

The rusty old gates of ‘Arunoday’ creaked as I opened them. It was the first time that I was coming home after my parents had passed away. The etching of my father’s name on the gate was still intact, albeit a little weather-beaten, the black paint a little run down and the No 31 rusted and smudged. But my father’s name in all its glory, was there for everyone to see. A name which for me had given me an identity from the time I was born till way past 50, even after I had got married and become a mother.

I stepped inside the garden. The leaves of the neem tree swayed gently, fanning a cool breeze, its shade a balm to a tired body. How well I remembered amma’s authoritative voice ordering the servants to pluck the leaves to soak in water for a therapeutic bath. The jasmine tree exuded a smell so strong and unique.

Three steps and I was on the verandah — anna and amma’s favourite place. It was here that they had their morning cuppa and their afternoon tea, lounging on the easy chairs. Often a neighbour or relative would be sharing the tea with a few home-made snacks. Amma would shout out her orders to the cook, “Meera, a few more cups of tea and some more plates.” And so afternoon would turn to evening and evening to night and the tea sessions, accompanied by rounds of laughter and talk, would never end, even after the moon came out and played hide and seek with the trees, casting a silvery sheen to the scene below.

I went inside and the drawing room stood intact, just as it had been but dusty and unkempt. Amma would have looked on disapprovingly. The TV stood in the corner, mute now but at one time anna’s most faithful companion, blaring out the news hour after hour. Next came the puja room and arrayed on low stools were the idols of the different gods and goddesses, with photographs in the background.

The bedroom had all the familiar things in their places —the reading glasses, the dressing mirror with all the creams, powders and perfume bottles on them. It was as if time had stood still, save for the presence of my parents. I looked at the familiar things through the mist in my eyes. Would I ever be able to forget the past and wipe out the memories, I wondered. Just then my grandchild came crawling and tugged at my saree. I knew then that it was time to get back to the present. Yesterday could never be wiped out but tomorrow stood bright and beckoning. It was time for new beginnings.

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