[Warning: This post is extremely boring and lengthy and thus has an acute anesthetic effect. If you have any satanic kids in your household whom you want to put to sleep instantly, this article is very much advised. Else, if you really intend to read through it then, stimulants like a couple of jugs of coffee is mandatory. ;-)]
Have you ever wondered what the very first image that has been imprinted in your mind would be? It maybe the feel of a mother’s warm hug… or the taste of cold ice cream melting in your mouth… or the sound of a shriek induced by a playful tickle…
Hold my hand and walk with me down my memory lane to my very first memory, which is the journey to India for my grandfather’s funeral.
I was three when my grandfather passed away. That was the age when you were allowed to freely walk around in nothing but your underwear and still manage to look incredibly adorable… the age when u could replicate one of Picasso’s paintings on your grandmother’s face and still smile innocently and get away with it.
My family was in ‘Gelf’, like all mallus who infested the place at that time. Well, even today most mallus, in their outrageously colored lungis, are either in Gelf or atop coconut trees (oops! I shouldn’t be forgetting the toddy shops). I was born in U.A.E and my family had not visited India in the time span between my birth and my grandfather’s death. In that three years time, my grandfather used to write letters to me, knowing very well that I was only capable of joyfully chewing the letters into an indecipherable pulp.
It was past midnight when my father woke up with a jolt from his sleep, sobbing and he just couldn’t stop. He had dreamt of his father dying. My mother tried to calm him. I had woken up by the sounds but pretended to be asleep. Only a few hours later we received a call from my hometown back in Kerala announcing my grandfather’s death. Amazing is the power of bonds and the instincts it evokes!!!
I didn’t understand the turn of events that had occurred. I was only excited about the trip to a place my parents called ‘home’. The next morning as my mother packed the stuff for our journey, I put on my best airport dress with a lot of frills and lace inspite of the fact that it itched so bad that I could get an entry into an Itch Guard ad. I grasped a bunch of my curly wild hair and tied them into a pony right at the top my head, and it was perched as though just about to take a suicidal dive from the top of my head.
But that morning, my father was unusually quite and preferred to sit by the window and stare into empty space. I ran to him, jumped onto his lap and gave him a bear-like hug. But that didn’t seem to pacify him. I felt like saying, “Dude… What could be more important in this world than getting my full attention?” Well, when you are a child life seems like a football match. Everybody seems to be madly running after the same ball. I mean it just didn’t make sense.
The Take Off…
After all the packing was done, my family proceeded to the airport. My uncle, who was also in U.A.E, was to accompany us. So, parking myself comfortably in my uncle’s arms in my itching dress and my suicidal pony, we entered the plane.
It was my very first flight. Excitedly, I sat at the seat next to the window (in years to come I ensured I did the same) and waited for the plane to take off. When the plane finally took off, it sent weird tremors at the bottom of my stomach as if invisible hands were tickling my belly (I love that feeling!!!). Eventually we were airborne with the plane’s wings outstretched and dashing into the clouds that adorned the sky. I remembered every bird that looked mocking at me as if to say “Can you do THIS?” before flying so high up in the sky and I silently replied, “Hey you funny feathers, even I am flying now.”
I slumped back in my seat ready to devour the delicacies that they served while I was flying in mid-air, or so I thought… The 40-something aunties with their bottoms filling up the entire space of the aisle put some mass in front of me expecting me to eat it. After close inspection I realized it they were the ghosts of once-upon-a-time robust eggs. I gulped them down hoping I wouldn’t puke. I couldn’t even fall asleep because of the fear that the hen that had lain those eggs would come in my nightmares demanding, “THAT!!!! U stole my unborn babies for THAT???”
After a while, the aunties distributed toys for the children to play with. One of them gave me a Barbie doll to play. I gave her an amused look as if to say “Do I look mentally retarded!!!” and demanded for a jig-saw puzzle. She gave me a cold stare that I thought I would turn into a ice sculpture with a thunder-struck expression, a fountain on its head and eggs in its mouth. I spend the remaining time staring at the clouds through my window waiting for them to part and reveal to me my first glimpse of home sweet home. Finally it did and I saw a wide expanse of greenery. Man… that was a lot of coconut trees!!!!
The First Step Home…
I stepped out into that Land of Coconuts. I didn’t feel any sense of euphoria or any lump in my throat. All I felt was a disturbance in my stomach and before I knew it, the nausea gripped me and I vomited the once-upon-a-time-robust-eggs all over my uncle. I was debating whose curses would have had a bigger effect on me – the aunties’ or the hens’. All the way from the airport to my father’s home, past the paddy fields, past the little houses with tiled roofed and past the narrow pathways, I was vomiting while in my uncle’s arms oblivious of the lush beauty around me.
All my relatives were eagerly waiting for us, mostly for me as they would be seeing me for the first time. There was a huge hue and cry for sometime when we made our grand entry and everyone for some time forgot that there was a funeral. Some of the relatives gathered around me to check me out. I don’t know what they expected. Did they think I would have wings and would flutter around, or that I would be trotting wagging my tail or that I would charge with my horns pointed at them? Some of them where pinching my chubby cheeks and were chattering on and on something to the effect “Ooooh… She looks like her father”, “Ooooh… She has the feet of her grandmother”, “Ooooh… She has the index finger of her great grand uncle’s cousin’s god-knows-who”.
But I was enjoying being the centre of attention, till my grandfather’s corpse arrived. All the relatives suddenly abandoned me, ran towards my grandfather and flocked around like ants in and around an anthill. They started beating their chests like a bunch of gorillas and wailed like inhabitants in one of Hitler’s torture chambers. I rolled my eyes thinking “Adults and their pretensions!!!”
Everybody sang songs that are commonly sung during funerals and I tried my hand at lip-singing and kept mumbling something or the other so that my sound merged with the sounds that the group was making. Then the priest gave a sermon (through which I slept peacefully) after which we said our prayers and my grandfather was taken away to be buried. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
We spend a couple of days more in Kerala and then returned to our home in U.A.E carrying with me the vision of a man in his coffin, a man I had only known through the letters he had sent me.
My father till today regrets the fact my grandfather never had a chance to meet me. I still have some of the letters he had sent me. At times I open them and that smell comes pouring out, that old paper smell. I would be struck by a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there… and above all the sense of having once lived in a man’s dreams…
This was the very first of my miscellany of memories – memories which entwined together like the notes that would form the beautiful melody of my life.
[Most of the incidents mentioned above are based on imagination and conjecture of what may have transpired at that time. But what I do remember are visions of waking up in the night to my father’s sobs, of vomiting all over my uncle during the journey and of seeing my grandfather in his coffin.]
Whats your very first memory?