I. The spasmodic cough of father’s old scooter bellowing, “Leave me leaning by the Banyan tree, under its shade I shall remain for years hence.”
II. The hinge of the door that demands to squeak regardless of the oil it is fed during long winter months, often nagging as a toddler would.
III. Mother’s whispers that slither through the tiny hallway dangerously balancing on the winding stairs and leaping across father’s room and make their way to me & announce the morning.
IV. The squeal of summer as it forces out of pickle jars and mango crates on late April evenings, leaving fragrances as it leaps out of the window into the humid night. The sky is strewn with stars, and on long summer nights, one can wallow in the pleasure of counting them.
V. The ghosts of grandfathers and their fathers walking through the earth, chanting ancient songs in unison, carrying on their bare backs the grief of their sons and daughters, sporadically stopping by the house to fetch a glass of water. Sometimes, a tired man will sit on the reclining chair and dream of his previous life and contemplate.
VI. The ringing of bells in the temple allows the evening to slowly occupy the vast expanses of the sky. As if evening were waiting behind a veil ready to spring to action. Oh, how impatient the dark is, it pounces on home bound birds and children finishing their game of hide-and-seek. Mothers call out for children in shrill voices; they do not trust their children in the arms of the night.
VII. The last day of school carries the rustle of question papers, the fervent children announcing their plans of vacation, the thud of footsteps nearing the school gate and then the silence in the aftermath that washes over the tiny building and sits there on the lonely swings, sliding down the long slide, hanging by small branches of the tree, settling on abandoned ice cream stalls, watching the summer pass by.
VIII. The thunderous march of the rain, the city swelled with croaks of frogs, chirping of crickets, cries of urchins, the disapproval of men under a shed half soaked in rain, the frying of Pakodas in the dimly lit kitchen, wavery voices of a father in the verandah complaining of sewage & politics, muffled whimpering of children after every time the world outside lights up ( they have learned to identify what follows ) which is then subdued by soft voices of mothers.
IX. The horn of the train announcing its departure from a deserted station. The small boy in the tea stall would grow of age and move to a city in a few years but for now his shrill voice carries itself along the entire length of the train. He pesters a random passenger to quickly buy a cup of tea, but in vain.
If there’s anything that you must hold on to for dear life, it is your memory. It is a reminder of a life lived, albeit etched with suffering and hardships. Here is a song by Evelyn Stein and Fredrik Håkan Boström that evoked in me an ache to return to the past; to a foreign land that was once home.