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A memoir of memories...

Deep within the hard shell of bones, amidst the million cells, hiding in some imaginary compartment, some memories sleep cozily. Years and years of grey cells may have accumulated onto them, forming cobwebs of memories all over again and yet, these lie intact.

Today I read a friend’s post on childhood nostalgia. Memories, some so precious that simple things easily remind us of them, leaving behind a warm fuzzy feeling in the tummy. Childhood brings back memories of aloo bhaja-dal-bhath, afternoon story sessions, cheede bhaja and so much more. All those animated conversation, the aekanodos, the lies that were caught instantly etc. Yes, a myriad of memories.

When I think of these, I am quickly taken into a flashback much like an Eastman colored film, a montage of shots, seemingly unconnected yet making complete sense. One of my most fond memories is that of crying over spectacles. In my time, kids rarely got specs or maybe I did not know many who did. My older brother had one and so did my aunts. My grand dad’s specs were thick, black rimmed and heavy. Soon as no one was looking, I would put on the specs and try to walk around.

Once I even walked out of the house wearing dadu’s specs. Perched on my nose, those heavy glasses were huge for my face. The thick lens blurred my vision and soon I was caught by my grandma, who by the way dragged me home, grumbling and cursing my antiques. According to her, I could have walked into an open ditch or worse, crashed into a speeding car or a scooter. Bah. In the meantime, dadu, missing his specs, came out of his room at the ruckus and managed…to laugh out loud. This irked my grandma as usual.

But specs continued to enchant me for a very long time. To me wearing specs meant a sign of intelligence. I used to watch my grandpa read and write the whole day long. Lost in thought, he always had a pencil in hand, scribbling something in some diary. His room was out of bounds for us. Smelling of old books, paper and dust, his room was another world.

A world I discovered much later after he was gone - a world of stories, tales, and folklore; a world of books. His first love was his books. Then, I did not know he was writing a draft of his novels, anticipating a rejection letter from the many publishing houses he had sent his manuscript to. It took years for the final draft of the novel to come through and many years later, when a big publishing house accepted his book, his life was slowly fading.

As a child I had no clue of these things and his serious demeanor kept me away from him all the time. Yet, there were Kismi toffee bars, evening walks and rare story sessions that we shared. From time to time I peeped into his room, watching him in amusement as he talked to himself, probably a conversation he was going to write for his characters. His specs lay still on the old writing desk, near the typewriter. No one else seemed to be interested in his book apart from my eldest aunt to whom, editing the book seemed like a forced chore.

Only Sudhakar, the typist was allowed to sit next to him while he dictated and typed. They discussed, laughed, and shared jokes etc. for hours when the young typist was around. Yet, I was never to know what it was all about.

Years later when I showed an interest in books, he offered me some from his own collection. But because I did not feel very close to him, partly because I was frightened of him, I barely read the books. He still wore the same specs with thick glasses. They did not interest me anymore as I had given up trying to acquire specs of my own.

He died 12 years ago. His book was published but only a handful of copies were printed because then we did not have the money nor did anyone have the time to follow up. I own two copies today and have read the book quite a few times. He had four other manuscripts which I was told were disposed of by my oldest aunt as no one had shown any interest to them in the last ten years.

To the many family members, it was only a loss of life but to me, a legacy is lost. His specs lie guarded in my sister’s cupboard today.


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