Monday, July 14

Children of this time

Then

In college, he was a voracious late-night reader, staying up till 3 and 4 am with books, the beloved desk lamp covered with a yellow dust cloth to dim the light to a soft glow. The strongest memory he has of those nights are trying and failing to stifle the helpless giggles he'd break into over lines and passages in '3 Men in a Boat'. He would read night after night, doze off and still make it in time for early morning Psych lectures at Fergusson.

He remembers the winter morning classes best, kick-starting the Kinetic and riding off into the cutting wind, enjoying the cold emptiness of Ganeshkhind Road, which was narrower then, with neem trees shading a whole lane that is now empty concrete. He deigned to wear a sweater because the cold made him feel alive. He has a permanent memory of riding past the Ambassador Hotel in Model Colony and marveling at how the black tar road changed from gold to silver as the sun rose higher and higher.

He remembers many things from college, but thinks more of returning home in the early afternoon and sharing quiet meals with his mother, facing each other across the table in the living room and talking of various things. Then, she'd take her afternoon nap while he'd shamelessly watch Scooby Doo Mysteries on Cartoon Network. Tea would be ready at 4 pm after which... there is a blank here. He played cricket with a college friend, but is unsure whether they did so every day.

He remembers 3 days of rain at the end of his 3rd year in college. It was an end in many ways.

He remembers his 2 years at Pune University very fondly, biking his way daily to the Anthropology department via the small access gate on Ganeshkhind Road, now forever walled up.

He remembers his time in the U.S, a churning melange of emotions and experiences, none of which bettered the leap of joy his heart experienced the first time he exited the subway, climbed the stairs and found himself in the heart of New York City, a city he instantly liked, without having any reasons to do so.

He remembers Cambodia. Sometimes, he marvels at the thought. At others, he visits Phnom Penh via Google Maps and is happy that the city stays clear in his mind. 

He remembers returning home and moving to Bombay.

Now

He sees a grandfather, once the brightest of men, now a pale imitation crippled by Alzheimer's disease; the cruel twist of fate that leaves him with a healthy body and almost no mind.

He sees a grandmother, who has confidently faced and carried an ocean of hardship and sorrow on her shoulders, begin to stumble and still, carry on walking... towards what, he wonders.  

He sees a father, the brilliant bridge-playing, IIT Bombay graduate, begin to repeat instructions and incidences during conversations. The man who raised his family from obscure poverty to upper middle-class comfort, now facing long, solitary evenings and the hesitant beginnings of a fading mind as he hovers on the cusp of old age.

He sees a sister, in his eyes always a baby, but in truth a strong, stylish, stubborn and yet, fragile young woman living in a misogynistic society.

He sees his friends, once instinctively rambunctious, carefree men and women, now juggling jobs, children and their own family crises and worries.

He feels the effect time has wrought within him. He can no longer read till 3 am. He can't enjoy the cold without at least a jumper. Meals are just breaks in his day where he sits by himself, inflicting food onto an indifferent palate. Even thought he still enjoys cricket, his body extracts a sore price from his muscles for a week. Work has truly become work.

He remembers, he sees and he feels. And still, time ticks on.

Song for the moment: Rafta, Rafta - Mehdi Hassan

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