I don’t know much about nostalgia. The fact that I don’t have too many memories of that period of my past, worth reliving or otherwise, doesn’t help matters either. However there are moments when things from my past come to haunt me. They come and hover in my dreams; they tease and taunt as if to say to me that you too, like everybody else, have a past.
I do have a past; that much is not too hard to accept but the realisation of that past, the memories of it, are hard to swallow. I remember my father and mother looking over the grammatical errors I had made in my Hindi assignments, and my mother scrutinizing my Maths assignments for any algebraic mistakes and boy, there used to be plenty of those.
It was only a few short months after that, where I remember seeing my little brother, 6 years old, dressed in white, tears taking a stroll down his cheeks, standing beside me (I was maybe 11) right next to two pyres. I remember the smoke that rose in a towering spiral, white, black and gray. I am told that it was a vibrant evening and yet I remember everything only in shades of gray. There was the smoke, gray-ish, with white patches and black patches and others that were in-between. I remember the white kurtas and sarees everywhere and the white-gray-black heads of hair all around. There was no other colour. And I remember feeling sad, but that too, is hazy.
This was 20 years ago, give or take a couple months. That image flashed in front of me as my brother stood next to me with his bride, God bless them both. What should such thoughts come to mind at such a moment? You are marring off your brother, what emotions do you feel? Joy? Sorrow? Or satisfaction? I felt not one of those emotions. I only felt a roaring emptiness as I stood there, smiling. I smiled and waved and shook a thousand hands and all the while my mind wandered to the hands of my mother in front of me, pointing at the cross, where there should’ve been a plus sign, saying, “Here. Don’t multiply these, you have to add them!”
The next day, I sat sipping a cup of tea on the veranda, dressed in white kurta and paijama, my daily garb. We, my brother and I live in the same bungalow our parents left us. We went to our grandparents while we grew up and came back to the city once I had a job here. Things were quite well. I got married, despite some opposition, to a girl I liked, who went to the same college as I did and then yesterday my brother had gotten married too. These were happy times. Yet, I was not particularly joyful. It could be because I’ve always been, as far as anyone can remember, the no nonsense type, where happiness is just another unnecessary emotion, just like joy or anger. But I do not think so, not today anyway, because last night, the hands, the smoke from the pyre came back to me, yet again.
“Listen, aren’t you pleased with the marriage? Is everything alright? She’s good for Raju, you know.”, my wife said out of the blue. She had a knack for such displays of her insight into my thoughts.
“Yes, I know”, I said, “I just have my mind on other things.”
My wife muttered something and went back to her novel. It was Jeffery Archer’s ‘First Among Equals’, a bit too late in life to be reading it in my opinion, but well, better late than never.
“Do you think people can reminisce sad moments of their life to the point of being nostalgic? Or is it because they’re stuck there?”
“You’re thinking about your parents again aren’t you? I know you are. Stop that! Move on, Girish, don’t you think it’s been long enough?”
“Yes and yes, I don’t seem to be able to move on thought, hardly my fault.”
“I know, but you’ll have to try again.”
I smiled and nodded my head. She patted my head and ruffled my hair, knowing full well how I hated the latter. I gave her an angry look and she went inside, smiling. I smiled too but I hadn’t stopped thinking.
Later that day, I drove to the ground where my parent’s were cremated. I stood there and saw these small yellow flowers, not far from the spot they had last laid, I saw small shoots of piercing green grass and a few cows, some brown, others a patchwork of white and black, idling around, munching on the grass. I can see colours now. The memories aren’t gone, they’re still there and I have a feeling they’ll always be there, but at least today, I can see the colours all around me, just as I remember their faces, smiling at me.