Sunday, 5 May 2013

My growing up years in Calcutta and all that it entailed is a thing I rarely talk about, which is probably a good idea. I wouldn't know how to edit. I would start at the middle, proceed haphazardly in either direction, elaborate the inconsequential and race through narrative hooks. I would either over-modulate, or drone on, flinch at imagined boredom, and ignore actual restlessness. I might just become the kind of person people avoid, for fear of being latched on to and sermoned at.

When I am alone though, I give in to a sort of focused reminiscing. 

I pick an incident - a summer evening when I was 14, say. I was at home, working on my English homework in what we called the drawing room. A table had been dragged from the bedroom I shared with my mother, and I sat at it, legs crossed, on a rather hard divan. The windows behind me were open, and the room was awash with the smell from an orphan madhobilata downstairs. 

I had shut the door in order to concentrate, but I could still hear my Grandmother singing the alaap of what I knew was raag malkosh as she chopped and prepped for dinner. She did that everytime she cooked, and sometimes, she would proceed from the alaap to the taan, and I would walk in on her waving a knife in the air as, eyes closed, she dwelled on a particularly satisfying bit of music. 

Also, with the scent of the flowers, and louder than Amma's song, I could hear our elderly neighbour practising her sitar downstairs. To her face, my mother and grandmother called her Mashima and Mrs Shome respectively, and Shome ginni behind her back: in my mind, I called her that as well. She was decently talented,  and as she played the same tune over and over again, I thought it sounded quite similar to the only Sitar music I knew - Ravi Shankar for Pather Panchali.

I have recollected this particular evening so very many times, in as much detail as I possibly can, that I am now able to call upon precise moments of it at will.
Which is what I do. Every now and then.

What I find most interesting however,  is that I had paused then in the middle of my work and thought: I will remember this when I grow older, and think back and feel something - not sure exactly what - about it.