One lost forever in your memory
One nagging my memory since
Displaced memories of a place once walked
Not rushed in train compartments
Long back, probably more green and little more lush
Dirty boots soaked in rain water
Sipping a water or two from the pouring rain
I lived a moment or two
Today, same place, compartments choked in haste
Pushed along by unknown faces,
I look at a face smiling at the book and
Realize, a moment or two smiled long back
Seeks to kindle through memories
Thanks ideasmithy for a lovely post on Andheri
Chemma thatha had a strange obsession (he had many, more on that later!).
He would collect items which otherwise would land in the dustbin. He was
almost like a savior of the discarded. Among the various items, which he
collected were tin boxes. Heavy ones, rusted ones, one's with designs of
ship, flower, goddess, a bird etc ., his trunk had everything.
Those days, not many travelled abroad and we had the vicarious pleasure of
travelling even if we bid adieu in the airport. Among the very few and
close NRI relatives who cared for Chemma Thatha, he would take the liberty
of requesting a Nivea cream. We never understood why he wanted Nivea
cream. Not that thatha was a person who cared for his health and skin may
be was never in his priority list. Even after retirement when people chose
to stay indoors during scorching Chennai summers, he would be in a public
transport bus, inventing some odd chore which would take him to AGS office
or Bank or some relatives place. I never saw him apply cream during these
visits. Even if he applied during mornings, especially during our imaginary
Chennai Marghazi winters, it was a frugal pinch (yeah even a pinch can be
frugal in Thatha's scheme of things). At regular intervals, he would open
the big trunk petti, which was with him since childhood and dump something
and close it back. This was his private world, where no one dared to
intrude. Occasionally if a grandchild tried to ask him about the trunk
petti, he would say I will bequeath the contents to the well behaved
grandchild. The trunk petti charm worked at times and when it waned away,
he would charm us with written assurances. Of course, the beneficiaries of
the written assurances would keep changing and when we grew up, the
interest in trunk petti rusted in some corner.
Then, beyond Nivea creams, occasionally we grandchildren would be gifted
chocolate boxes of various sizes and assortments. Once, a golden small
round box landed as my gift and more than the contents I was lured by the
box. Unlike the desi boxes, this seemed non rusty, subdued colours and did
not have a God Image. This was beyond the boring Nivea. Chemma thatha
waited patiently for days, till I devoured the contents and till my
interest diverted to something else. Then he placed a request, which soon
became barter and we agreed on some trade off. May be I exchanged the box
with some wooden pen which never wrote.
With time, souvenir's changed and soon the heavy boxes were replaced with
plastic. These were easy to carry and the NRI suitcases became more
manageable. So when Chemma Thatha was gifted his favourite Nivea cream in a
bottle by some nephew, he thanked him and told him about how he no longer
used Nivea. The chocolate boxes also came in neat plastic containers, which
became a storage space for earrings and our useless accessories. Thatha
never invaded or argued for a plastic box. Once or twice when offered a box
he would shrug with disinterest.
Before the world of gifts was fully inundated with plastics, Thatha passed
away bequeathing his favourite trunk petti to his grandchildren. By then,
the grown up grandchildren had lost interest and we decided to dispose of
the petti. It was too old for use and too rusted for an antique value. When
the househelp evinced interest in the trunk petti, we tried to moved it.
The heavy box refused to budge and the family gathered to throw away the
contents. The small lock was broken and when the trunk opened, the room
submerged in an assortment of smells, of cream, chocolate, dried flowers,
damp papers. Beneath the tattered bus tickets, tin boxes, was the Nivea
bottle which thatha never used.
This feels good, he said, allowing the flavours of spicy chutney, smooth butter and crispy dosa to sink in. They settled down in the vast area like fine mounds of aroma, taste, colours dancing in the stomach, with the aftertaste gushing in the food pipe. Eating with him was like experiencing the taste in every detail, letting the food talk to you. Before he could burp (well his niceties wouldn't allow him to!!!), I asked whether he wanted milkshake. Ah, he said let the flavours sink in more before I corrupt it with other tastes. Eh, but why milkshake he said. I tired of shakes, smoothies and phirangi stuff. Phirangi, did I hear that from a person who almost ran away from this country for greener pastures. I still remember him gleaming from other side of glass, holding his passport as though his life rested in there. Before we could bide a decent farewell, he rushed in, pushing the enormous luggage to security check. That was years back, when I still hoped he would come back, atleast for the elaborate lunches. Those were days, when amma's sambar rice would tickle his taste buds and he would push his purchased dhabha to my side and gorge on the sambar and vegetables. Does your mom still make gongura, avakai, puttu……he asked pushing me back to present. Well, yes. I will parcel some for you, to fit into your foreign suitcase. You know they parcel specially for foreign travels. Hmmm, he murmured before shouting for a coffee. Naraye decoction and konjum milk. Ah, ha black coffee, I smirked. So the phirangi aspect comes out, isn't it.
So, well, how come this trip. The silence was filled by the coffee slurps moving in annoying slow pace. With the conversation thread lost, I watched him gulp the last drop of coffee and pushing the dabara. There he said, looking at the brown sugar crystals settled down in the dabara, this is indulgence, loads of sugar, thick milk and thicker decoction. This is worth a lifetime of wait.
So, should there be a wait. By now, the aromas had sunk in and we were back to familiar after taste. He said, some more time. Outside, rain drops fell from the roof, like a lost conversation still trying to convince us. Before there was a question on how long could I wait, we paid the bill, and watched the rain drops from the roof get lost in the puddle. For now, I said lets head home before it pours. Before the deluge, we would have answers.