Last night I dreamed I went to Murari Pukur again (that's so Rebecca-ish, I know). A luxury resort had been built and within the pond, right at the middle was an intricate swimming pool which had to be reached by arched foot bridges. There was another huge square pool on the other side, covered by a mosaic tiled canopy, it stood shimmering in the light. The house was back, only the front façade was covered in white and the current owner assured me that they were working on building ornate dining rooms out there. The rooms were cottages looking onto the pond, I asked the owner if I could swim in the pond and he was shocked that I wanted to, "it is so deep and such a long distance!" From memory I know that pond cannot have been more than 50 meters in length. At one time I could take a deep breath and dive in on one end and come out at the other, gasping and pretending I was some super sleuth in training. The lawns were neatly manicured and cut, plants carefully planted. None of those flowers and wild-grass jostling for space as I last remember it. Young Frangipani trees strategically added to the luxurious feel and I found myself marvelling at it all and wondering if the planner had imagined it a trifle better than I had. Yes, at one time, in my youth and brimming enthusiasm, I had told my father that what he should do is turn the place into a resort. He had sighed and turned away, smiling. I wonder if he knew, then, that Murari Pukur would be lost to me one day. Just as he would disentangle my fingers from the crook of his elbow and walk on ahead leaving me struggling to catch up….in more ways than one.
I think of the old days a lot, those warm sun-kissed days, those lazy unstructured evenings, those long nights of balmy silence interspersed by giggles and secrets shared between friends. Is it likely that my dream may have been triggered by the visit of two such sisters recently? Possible. They dropped by one day and we met after years. Years that melted away quicker than the ice-cubes in our glasses of orange squash from the summers of yore. They brought back memories not quite forgotten but hidden in recesses of my mind.
Or was the dream triggered by the fact that over the last two days I have packed up all of my late father-in-law's clothes into carton boxes that now sit in the living room waiting to be given away to charity? As I took out those suits and jackets I remembered laughing with him, visiting places together, holidays as a family and conversations that now echo only in my mind. That blue striped shirt he loved, that jacket we bought together, that sweater he said kept him as warm as a bear, that shawl we got him from Kashmir… it was all I could do to stop crying and carry on.
And at the end of the day, I think that's all we have. The warm snapshots faded at the edges of days gone by, of friends we laughed with, the joyous music lifting our spirits even when it is cold and the wind blows outside. Everything is magical: the scoldings from our elders, the lectures of that Uncle we all secretly despised, the histrionics of that fat aunty we all loved to hate and would imitate with a pillow stuffed down our front! The other day someone asked me what I wanted for myself for Christmas. I could not think of a thing; I am fortunate, I do not need any more clothes or sarees or shoes or even books. I'd rather spend money on an evening out with people I love than buy another handful of possessions I do not need. (Actually to be honest, the only thing I still like to buy are books, there are endless worlds awaiting and those fascinate me more than any new piece of clothing or accessory ever could!)
So what I am saying here is nothing I haven't said before and nothing new. Let's make memories. Let's just meet up, find friends we never stayed in touch with, catch up with people who have moved out of our lives, get closer to the people we care about and spend our energy on the things we want to do, not the ones we HAVE to. Memories are all we take with us when we go and all we really leave behind when we are gone. Because, you know, those clothes will fade and be given away, the jewelry will be stored away in bank lockers, all your possessions will gather dust somewhere, even the house you so lovingly built may lie vacant and locked… what you will leave is a smile at a shared memory, a laugh at a sudden thought, a spoken word about something you said or did and that is how you will stay alive, even after you are gone.
Life is too short and impetuous for much else.