Saturday, January 15, 2011

The wind in my face

I recently went on a recreational trip with my parents after a long time.The last time I went holidaying with them,  was way back in college when I was still living with them.
As we landed in Goa, my dad handed me this itinerary he had printed out(rather had had his secretary print it out for him).He told me since our train was late , we were running a little behind on the list, but that we should be able to catch up next day if we left by seven in the morning.As I exchanged looks of astonishment with my equally amused husband, I told myself this was not going to be the holiday I had wanted it to be.The picture I had in mind was all of us sitting by the beach ,sipping our drinks , enjoying the sun and sand engaged in the usual family banter.
Alas that did not seem to be on the list ! I was disappointed to say the least but as I tried to snap out of it,I could hear the driver answering my father's inquisitive questions.He drew our attention to these brightly coloured Portugese houses which lined up the winding roads.I listened with rapt attention as he unfolded the history of Goan architecture and the unique property laws of Goa.
Ideally I go on a holiday,equipped with all the local trivia via the internet.I have even carried print outs on some occasions.I am not the kind of person who talks to people on trains , flights or makes friends with complete strangers.Talking to the driver is also on that list.But by day two of our Goa trip, I had become very fond of the driver.I had learnt more things about Goa than any website can ever put up.We went to all the popular tourist destinations where I was overwhelmed by the hordes of people who had descended from Gujrat,Maharashtra,Bengal and the likes.I was taking it all in ,on the side, along with the Goan culture.As I bargained for curios at the local Bazaar, I discovered that there was so much more to Goa than the beaches and the firangs.We picked up yummy pastries at small shops around the corner and ate Kwality Ice cream by the beach.I also did the unthinkable and visited some of the local temples. I came back feeling spiritually uplifted.
In fact this was proving out to be quite the opposite of the exclusive getaway I had in mind.Despite that I was having a lot of fun though and by the time we left Goa , I felt like I was leaving a place I had grown quite fond of.
As I sat reminiscing about the good times in my AC compartment on our way back home,it dawned upon me that in our need for exclusivity we tend to limit our experiences.Also there is a growing need in us to live the good life,to announce to the world that we have arrived.This is probably the sign of changing times ( A good sign that too ) , but as I sit in the comforts of my AC compartment, I cannot help but miss the wind in my face.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Avantika Express

One of the most distinct sounds that is emblazoned in my memory, is the sound of an auto slowing down.
Back in the days when telephones were a luxury and the inland and postcard were the only mode of communication, there was a dread associated with that sound in my house.I remember vividly the anxious look on my mother's face, if one of those sounds halted in front of our gate,especially in the wee hours of the morning.This is when the Avantika express would arrive at platform number 3 on most days.
If we were lucky then a postcard would act as an harbinger to impending guests,with details of coach numbers and train arrival timings crammed along the sides.This would mean a trip to the railway station in our steadfast Maruti 800.As a kid I used to be excited about receiving guests at the station,most of whom arrived by the Avantika express.Avantika used to be the first train in the morning back then.I would love to go to the station in the wee hours of the morning , stepping carefully over people sleeping on the platform.It used to be enchanting  to watch the chaos unfold at the platform as the sun would begin to rise above the over bridge.Before I knew the station would be abuzz with life and people lining up at the water booth with toothbrushes and Dabur dant manjan.
I also remember that although the excitement in me was palpable but was not so discernible in the other members of the receiving party.Nobody else would be jumping around with joy for sure.One of the miseries of being an only child is that you never fit in.I always felt overshadowed by the five adults who surrounded me.You tend to be the odd man out all the time.
Coming back to platform No 3 , I remember my father being quite irked by my jumpiness and would try very hard to not to let it distract him from his daily crossword.
There would be the occasional confusion when due to oversight, the coach number would have been incorrectly mentioned in the postcard.This is when my father would send me running off in one direction and my uncle in another ,while he would stand at the main gate, sifting through the crowd for familiar faces.The confusion would mostly climax into a happy union and pleasantries would be exchanged.I was always greeted with  "Oh look how much you have grown.Last time we saw you , you were this small."Complete with gestures and all. One would think though, that considering the frequency of their visits, they had been privy to my growth as much as the chaiwala on platform number 3.
The pleasantries at the station, would then be followed by an elaborate session at home, where my grandparents would fill the newly arrived guests in, with all the minute details of their actual and imaginary ailments.I remember the contrast in ecstatic look on my grandparents face on the arrival of a guest and the edgy look on my parents face.
I have witnessed guests to stay for almost a month with my father or uncle making frequent trips to the reservation centre.These prolonged departures were always followed by a little treat at a place called Manohar's near the railway station, where all the ordeal of the last few weeks was quickly forgotten over delectable Chole Bhaturas and mastani Lassi.

But only a few weeks would pass and after the postman had made his daily visit,the jubilant shouts of my grandmother would inform us of another impending visit.These letters would be sometimes be as vague as "We are considering visiting you this summer".It would be after the arrival of one such postcard that my mother would dread the sound of a slowing auto.

Alas that was the golden era of my life but even today the sound of an auto in the wee hours of a cold winter morning, fills my heart with joy and floods my mind with all those wonderful memories.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Room

If you were to believe me (unlike my mother), my oldest memory goes as far back, as when I was only a few months old. This memory of mine must have lied there gathering dust in the corners of my mind for millions of moments. Today I can’t recollect which one brought it back. But it came to me like a long lost friend, on a warm sunny day, claiming it’s due.
At first the memory was dark and rusty, with time though, it became brighter, just like the days I must have spent in “The room”. What I remember, is like a scene from one of those black and white movies where everything seems to be happening in slow motion. The way I see it or maybe the way I want to see it, is the view as can be seen from a cradle. I see a small dark room, small because I can see a door that encloses the room only a few meters away. I also can almost see the faces which peep through the door every once in a while. I can feel the sunlight coming through the small window, right behind me. I do not remember the sounds that float in through it, but even today on one of those December days, they sometimes seem to come back to me. Sounds which make little sense to me but fill my heart with joy.
I also remember how quiet it was otherwise in my room, almost surreal .I also vaguely remember a toy hanging just above my cradle keeping me preoccupied; On other times, the familiar faces, which ever ,smiled so lovingly.I remember the polka dot frock and my favourite bunny.
My mom is adamant in not letting me own this vision of my childhood. She tells me it is not for real and that even if most of those details fall in place, it is highly unlikely that they are from a memory. Her explanation for it is that it was all planted, that I collected all those details through the stories that were told. I probably constructed the whole image on my own and I have been going over and over in my mind for so many times that it rings true.
She could be right but  the romantic in me would like to believe that the memory is for real, and I hold it very close to my heart.