Whenever I drive past the place where my parents lived I look out for landmarks and buildings from their time: the blue building, the rain tree at the street corner, the little shop that sold almost everything from grocery to vegetables to stationery items for my school. Many of these landmarks are disappearing, the locality that is mapped in my memory does not match what I see around.
Today a friend with whom I went to college called me on the phone. We had lost touch soon after we completed college and when I heard her voice on the phone after twenty years I felt connected with a part of me that was gathereing dust if not disappearing. We lived in the same locality and we recalled all that we did together – we went to college by the public transport, walked on the Mount Road to visit libraries and she added that I ran for her quickly before the exams, the novels prescribed for study. She recalled that I narrated the story of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ during the brief walk from the bus stop to college, and that I went on to elaborate on the metaphors used in the novel.
My parents knew my friend very well. With their passing away I have no one to share my excitement of meeting this dear friend. After the conversation with my friend I remained in the mood to recollect events from the past and extended it to search for objects that I have with me from that time.
I was shocked that, after hours of scouring through the house, other than my wedding saree there were only books from those years. I have given away the rest of the things during the years of accumulating newer possessions. And I was lamenting how Chennai and the neighbourhood I grew up in was heartlessly burying the past. Have I not been doing the same?
These two books are from my school and college days and there are many more that I still have, lugged through the cities and towns that I lived. The pages of the books have gone crumbly and have faded brown through the years. One is Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ (The hard bound classic from the Modern Library Series was published by the Random House), and the other is the paperback edition of Irving Stone’s ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’.