Memories Spent and Memories Lost
Melancholy of a rainy day
The river has a soul.
In the summer it cuts through the land
like a torrent of grief. Sometimes,
sometimes, I think it holds its breath
seeking a land of fish and stars
— Small Towns and the River by Mamang Dai
If I stand in the balcony of our old house, I can still see the empty swing swinging slightly in the breeze. If I close my eyes, I can see a grandfather sitting in the swing, his grandchild squeezed behind him, pretending to be the master of the boat guiding it through tumultuous waters.
Oh, how much I wish the child knew their way now!
Evening falls, the blowing of a conch shell is heard. Warm air with a hint of burning incense stick wafts up to my nose. It’s the time I await eagerly, to talk to the grandmother next door while she washes the clothes.
But she doesn’t come. Not anymore.
Now she’s in her room, locked in a place unreachable to man, staring at the buzzing tv with a faraway look, waiting for the day to join her already dead son.
The sky darkens, and I think I can see the familiar white hair blowing in the wind, the all-too-known toothless smile.
Until I blink.
And she’s gone.
The road buzzes with people, children crowd to the phuchka vendor. The radio in the laundry shop across the street cackles and plays an old Bollywood song. Sound of chow mein sizzling on the pan.
Everything is the same. And everything isn’t.
The damp smell of the earth warns of impending rain.
People hurry for shelter. But I welcome it. I wonder if it smelled the same back in Bangladesh, back when Dadai used to go to school on rainy days in a boat. Did he ever look up at the rain falling down from the sky and think of the people in his life? Look back at moments spent?
I accompany Dadai on his evening walk when he comes to visit us. He points out to me the houses of people he knew. People who were his people from home. I look at the dark shacks, the people living there mostly gone. I see his eyes dreaming of days past, of memories spent and memories lost.
I stop in front of a pond. The black water stands still, like time. Two coconut trees stand at the edge of the water, their leaves brushing each other as they lean down to the surface — two friends watching the play of time.
The wind is quiet, unlike my mind which is rushing, roaring like moving waters today. It is taking me to places, memories I wanted to forget. Pain — the pain of losing people stings at the back of my mind like saltwater on a wound.
A lump forms in my throat. My chest burns with the memory of my loved ones, of people met and people lost. I wonder if the river feels the same?
Meeting friends, changing forms, only to leave them and move along —
I close my eyes. The cloud rumbles overhead. The river in me longs to take its form and flow, flow like unrestrained waters from the hills like it’s meant to be —
It’s drizzling now, the cold raindrops kissing my face like the warmth of my long-gone friends.
I walk up to the last step of the ghat and kneel to the water level. Carefully taking out a paper boat from my pocket, I caress it, remembering the times I used to sail paper boats in the rain, before floating it in the water.
The tiny boat flutters and shakes, the wind taking it away from me.
Dedicated to my Grandpa Jimo.