Tag Archives: memories

Of Childhood and Notebooks

I remember a time, back when I was barely twelve, and we lived in a small house with breaking mosaic patterned tiles, Mom never bought us those ruled notebooks. Instead, she’d buy us sheets of plain, white paper and stitch them up to make it look like a notebook.

I was always fascinated with those hardbound or paperback notebooks, though, for they had pictures of superheroes and superstars and unicorns on them. But Mom never bought us those. All I had were sheets of bright, crisp paper divided into two halves, with a taut white string holding the pages together.

With time, I learnt to make it look better. I’d paste little stickers on it or cut out pictures from magazines and old newspapers and decorate the front page with them. But no matter how much I tried, the cover page of my notebook was never as glossy or gorgeous as the ones they sold in shops. But I never gave up. I started sketching and drawing on the front page to make it look the way I wanted it to be. Often, somebody in school would stop by, steal a glance at my weird, little notebook and ask me if I had designed it. A part of me would be scared to answer because there’d always be this lingering fear in my mind whether it’d be laughed upon or appreciated. My friends would compliment me and shove their notebooks into my hand and ask me to design one for them.

Over the years, plain notebooks without factory-made cover pages didn’t bother me anymore.

Even when I had a chance to buy myself those notebooks I had once envied, it didn’t feel that great as it was supposed to. Rather, the notebooks felt too ordinary when I pulled them out from my bag and saw the rest of the class of forty students pull out the same kind of notebook too. That is when I realized how beautiful those barren, plain notebooks that Mom brought for us, were. My designs on it were unique. Yes, there was no cellophane covering on it, so whenever it rained, I had to go back home, tear away the cover page and make another one, but it was all worth. For they stood out. Stood out from the rest.

Over the years, many other things changed too. Mom stopped buying us those sheets of paper and instead bought us those hardbound, ruled notebooks. I didn’t draw on them. They looked too perfect already. The cover pages were waterproof. So I didn’t have to bother when it rained. In fact, I never bothered at all. I let them lie on the study table, collecting dust. The other notebooks carried a piece of me in them. I’d keep them locked up in cupboards like they were some hidden treasure. And my heart would swell in pride every time somebody would praise them.

I don’t know why I suddenly remembered about them. The thought arrived like a little flash of memory, bringing along with, a fountain of nostalgia.

Years have gone by. I’ve moved on from those “weird”, little notebooks to factory-made, custom designed notebooks to spiral bound ones and more. But I haven’t moved on from those memories. Be it the awkward squirming on seeing a friend pull out a proper notebook to waiting for the class to look at the teacher so that I could pull out my notebook without becoming a laughing stock to garnering appreciation for the same doodles, it’s been a crazy little ride.

A part of me wants to go back in time and find my treasure cove. I want to call Mom up and ask her if they sell those loose sheets of paper anymore. But I know the answer, they don’t. Just like me, they’ve moved on to better technology and better ways. Mom probably wouldn’t make me those notebooks if I asked her to. She is too busy. Yet, a part of me wants that and only that.

It makes me wonder of how we remember so much about the things we shouldn’t have bothered to remember. Perhaps, it is because though the moment had seemed very insignificant once upon a time, it made us into the person we are today. The miles we’ve come; the miles we’ve yet to conquer, we owe it to these tiny, beautiful memories.

Of Once-Upon-A-Times

She was elated that day. Happy, cheerful with an infectious mirth plastered over her face. She skipped down the stairs, swinging her arms; twirled around on the road, laughing really hard. Nothing could spoil her mood that day, she knew. She couldn’t wait to get back home and pick up her phone and tell people about how happy she was.

She was sad. Utterly, painfully sad. Only barely she kept herself from breaking down in front of the class of sixty students that sat in the little room. Her eyes welled up and her hands shook every time the lump in her throat became too hard to swallow. She couldn’t wait to get back home and find a shoulder to cry on.

She reached home and plopped herself back on her bed, still smiling and picked up her phone. Scrolling through the contacts, she bit her lips as she wondered who to call to. Sure she had a lot of friends in her list. But she wanted to call a particular someone and tell her how happy she was. Her fingers hovered a while above the one name she had tried to forget for the past few months and her lips twisted into a frown. Suddenly, she was no longer happy. An almost sheering pain jolted through her body as the painful realization dawned upon her that she couldn’t call that person up. While one part of her desperately wanted to give it a try and see if things worked out fine, the other part of her was scared. Scared that she would end up as a blocked contact. So, silently wiping the little tear that trickled down her cheek, she put away her phone and sighed.

She reached home and gasped for air. Never in her life had she felt so broken and so disastrous. There was only one person who knew how to calm her down and how to give her the courage to face another dawn. But, were they even talking anymore? Clutching the armrest of her leather couch, she coughed and broke down. A part of her wanted to leave her a message. Just to know if she cared enough to reply back. But what if she didn’t? She didn’t think she could take that kind of pain again, anymore.

Both of them cried to sleep that night, each thinking about the other. They missed the times they laughed over the phone; and ate till they choked. They remembered the times they promised each other how they’d forgive no matter what and how they’ll be friends forever. And oh, how they cried when they realized forever had just been a sincere lie.

Each one of them made a silent wish before they drifted to sleep…to go back to best friends they had once been.

Once upon a time.

Of Tomorrows And Todays And Golden Yesterdays

“I’ll be gone,” I tell him. “In less than a month or two, I’ll be packing my stuff and leaving.”

I watch a slow frown draw itself on his face as he hears me intently. His eyes blink slowly and from the heaps of books spread out in front of him, he looks up and meets my gaze.

“You’ll leave forever?” he asks.

Shrugging, I flip a page of the ruled notebook that lies in front of me and put my pen there. Closing it, I sit back on the chair and sigh.

“Not really,” I tell myself that it is the truth, but deep inside, something hurts. “I mean I’ll return twice or maybe thrice in a year. It’s not like I’m leaving forever.”

He nods his head carefully and looks down at the fluttering pages in front of him.

“Things are happening so fast!” I exclaim. “I remember waking up to August afternoons and cribbing. I wanted to leave sooner. The boredom was killing me. Each day, I’d put my books aside and tell myself that there’s still so much time! But look, it’s nearing April already! It seems like it was just yesterday when I was waking up to late mornings, lazily sipping on a mug of coffee and whiling away my day.”

His eyes are focused on the page but he nods slightly.

“Only four years to this date, you’d be thinking about this too. You’ll be done with your school and preparing for college already.”

“Right, four years,” he mumbles. “It’s all happening too quickly.”

I nod in agreement.

Leaning further back into my chair, I think of the glorious days of the year I had spent with my family. Each night, we’d sit at the dining table and hear Mom and Dad’s events in the office. Each morning, we’d wake up amidst hesitation and grogginess, wishing the darn alarm would let us sleep for five long minutes only. Each afternoon, we’d make ourselves steaming bowls of noodles and settle in front of the TV to watch a movie.

But all that is about to change. In a few months, I’ll be far away from this home. And it filled me with utter sorrow.

“And after college, you’ll return back?” he asks.

I shake my head slowly.

“It scares me,” I tell him. “After this, home is a far away thing. You have to stand up on your own, get yourself a job, live on your own, cook your food, wash your clothes. From this point on, I’ll be so far away.”

“It sure is happening too quickly,” he remarks.

“Every tomorrow that dawns, I want to go back. I really want the clock to stop. I want time to pause. Right now, it’s running too fast and I have yet to slowly lose myself in every moment. I want to touch everything and imprint its every crevice in my brain. I want to smell that musk of the attic and trap the scents in my brain. I want to make lasting memories so that I won’t miss all this so much.”

“I’ll miss you,” he says.

My lips quiver. My eyes feel heavy. And my heart holds a profound pain.

In that one moment that is weighing me down, I can only think of a dialogue from a favourite show of mine:

It is the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today and that someday is yesterday and this is your life.”(One Tree Hill)

Silently, wiping the slight trail of a tear that had managed to escape, I turn around and look down at my books again.

“It’s late. Let’s study,” I say.

“One last question though,” my brother interrupts. “Is it really happening so quickly?”

I wish I could tell him otherwise.

Of The Boy In The Corner Of The Class

I’d like to say that it started just like that, but then we’d all know that I’m lying. Nothing ever happens just like that. I believe it began when I was the shy, last bench girl who sat in a corner, hiding away from the rest of the class… and he was anything but a stereotype.

Often, he’d lean back in his chair and throw a glance at my direction while I’d be hiding my face behind the stray strands of my hair, tucking the hem of my skirt under my knees and biting my lips in random intervals. When I’d look up, often, I’d catch him staring at me, a pencil or pen poking out of his mouth and his eyes twinkling. Those would be awkward moments and I would be lying if I tell you that it was okay for me to catch a boy staring at me, especially when the boy was him – an enigma of his own.

With a mop of dark hair, curling against his nape, a few strands plastered to his forehead, and gleaming charcoal eyes, he was the kind of boy you found between the pages of some kindergarten sweetheart novel. His lips would curl into a smile whenever he spoke to anyone and I would find a slight grin force itself on my face as well when I saw him smile. When he would climb up the top of his desk and sit there, talking aloud to his friends and clapping them on their backs, I would find my eyes follow his every move.

Even during the most boring lessons of History, I’d find myself leaning back and forth to catch a glimpse of him four rows to my front. He was the only person in the class of forty who acknowledged my presence. Growing up, I had always been an awkward kid, finding it hard to pick up conversations. I was self-conscious, nervous and a lot more, like people had often pointed out, but he saw through that. He looked at me like he knew me forever. And I looked at him like I could never figure out what went through beneath his smile.

Each day, I would pass by his seat and wish he would say something. Only, he wouldn’t. Instead, his eyes would follow me as I would fumble with the books in my hand, breathing heavily, almost melting under his gaze. But never did we, for the first six months of the semester, pick up the courage to utter a word to each other.

However, one day, he did.

In the lunch break one day, when the class was empty and the corridors were abuzz, I found him walking inside the class. His hair was messed up and his shirt stuck against his lanky frame as he nearly staggered against his desk. Almost immediately, I gasped and his eyes wandered down the rows of benches and landed on me. They held something… not pain, not sorrow, but indescribable confusion, as if something was killing him inside, yet he was helpless. I expected him to turn away; instead, he smiled.

“Hi,” he mumbled.

That was how it began – a friendship. A friendship between two individuals who had so many stories to share.

Each lunch break, I would find him in the cafeteria, sitting in the middle of the room with his friends. When he would see me, he would lift his hand slowly and smile. Amidst the loud howls from the bunch of boys and his deeper voice, I spent the best few months of my school life.

Sometimes, when I’d have forgotten to bring some money in my bag, he’d push his tray towards me. Everything with him was like a script from a slow, black and white movie.

“Hey?” Sometimes, he’d put his hand on my shoulder and stare down into my eyes. Time stopped at that moment, for I found myself lost in the utter sincerity his eyes held. They held so much pain as well, but I was too young to dig deeper.

When I’d frown and grumble at something, he would turn and ask me if I was okay. Nobody did that. He would sit beside me for long, until I would tell him what’s wrong. He was the type of boy everyone wanted as a friend. When happy, he would have instant jokes up his sleeve. When sad, he would never tell anyone. And that was what I forgot. He never told anything, so I never asked. Or perhaps, I had been too occupied basking under the sunshine that I forgot to ask him at times, if he was okay.

With him, I was not the shy, quiet girl at the back of the class and he was not the quiet, serious, popular boy. We were so much more than that, with so many infinite stories to tell.

And one fine winter morning, with one incident, instead of our stories intertwining, we wrote different tales.

“Why wouldn’t you tell me what’s wrong?” I had told him that day. Frustrated with his lack of response and careless behavior, I had stomped out of the class, balling my fists and fighting tears. He had arrived late to the class with a slight sore on his chin and bruises on his face. I had been too angry because he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong.

That day, he didn’t look at me. His eyes didn’t glimmer like they did always. His face was cold. His eyes were dark. Something about him, scared me that day. And it was perhaps why I never walked back.

“Really?” I heard a group of girls talking in high-pitched tones. In fact, the whole cafeteria talked loudly about something… about someone. There were so many people talking at once, that I couldn’t catch the train of words – of where what began and what came to an end.

“He starves himself?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“But he’s a boy… anorexia? I mean I have heard girls do so, but he?”

“That is so awkward! He always seemed so strange to me!”

“Who? He caught him in the washroom, puking?”

“You are kidding me! I don’t believe this!”

“Seriously?”

“And what?”

“He was beaten up?”

“Seniors… I don’t understand.”

I didn’t keep a track of time of how long I sat in the sweaty cafeteria, hearing loud noises all around me. I knew who they were talking about, but a part of me refused to believe. A part of me was adamant and held on to the fact that it was just a rumour, but when things started getting clearer and details appeared, I couldn’t help but storm out of the cafeteria and run to him.

“Why?” I almost cried, but not because I was sad for him, but I wanted to know why he didn’t tell me.

“As if you could make things fine,” he retorted.

“B-But-” I struggled to say something, but words caught up in my throat.

We sat in silence. He played with the edges of his shirt while I sat, motionless and cold. In a mirror world, it was seen as if our roles were reversed. He was no longer that easy-going popular boy who had a solution to everything. And I was no longer the quiet girl. Staying in his company had given me an ounce of confidence. I had made many friends by then, but he remained in my books.

But that one day, I felt confused. I felt like every bit of energy had been soaked out of my body, leaving me with an empty feeling.

“Why do you do this?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders before leaning back against the chair and pulling out something from his back pocket.

“This,” he muttered, passing me an old photograph. There stood a little, chubby boy smiling giddily at the camera.

“That was me at some point,” he continued. “I was fat. I was ugly. The kids in the neighbourhood wouldn’t play with me. So, I wanted to become someone who would be loved. Someone people would admire.”

“You are!”

“Because I am this now,” he pointed at himself.

When I looked at him that day, I didn’t fail to notice how his shirt pressed against his flat chest and the way his collar bones stood out against his collar. That day, I didn’t fail to notice the many things that hid beneath his smile. Inside, he was hurting. Yet, he put on his best face, just to impress the world.

“It’s so embarrassing,” he said. “I thought nobody would ever find out.”

All those summers and springs melted in the pain that his eyes held. I felt betrayed. I felt almost useless, because even though I was so close to him, I could do nothing.

My lips quivered when he spoke the next words.

“I’ll leave.”

And just like that, he left.

No one saw him at school after that. But people talked about him. They said rude things. They told how pathetic it was.

And it was too much for me to hear.

So that one art class, when the teacher had not yet arrived, I screamed against the hushed whispers.

“He is not pathetic!” I cried. A string of gasps followed pin-drop silence. “It could happen to anyone! Anyone can feel bad about how they look. It’s only human! But when they feel low, when people around us feel low, isn’t it us who should pick them up and provide them strength? Why do you think it’s embarrassing? When girls starve themselves, we say it’s normal. But heck, boys want to look perfect too. Each one of us wants to lose a few pounds so that we can fit into out favourite dresses. Each one of us wants to be in perfect shape so that others won’t make fun of us. So, it isn’t awkward. It isn’t embarrassing. It is just that when a friend was hurting, we couldn’t help him. And now that he’s gone, instead of feeling guilty or sad, you speak so dirty things about him? It is you who is pathetic! Not he! He was perfect!”

When I sat down with a thud, I was crying. Tears ran down my cheeks and no matter how much I wiped them off, they were not stopping.

My eyes wandered over the desk and I found several drawings on them. He had a strange habit of scratching the tip of his pen against the furnished ply of the desk and make small, little pictures. Every time that I passed by his desk, I had a strong urge to run my hand over them, but the ink seemed so fresh, I was sure that it would only end of messing the pictures and making my hands dirty. But that day, I did.

With wet palms, sticky with the tears, I ran my quivering fingers over the drawings. I wanted them to fade away. I wanted all this to be a bad dream. But they didn’t smear. The ink didn’t smear. It had dried up. And they stared right at me, telling tall tales.

When the class was empty and people had left for their homes, I stayed behind. Pulling open a pen out of my bag, next to the stuff he had drawn,

I wrote:

In a race to fit in someone else’s books,

In a race to look finer,

Did we forget that we looked so much better just the way we are?

Did we forget to love ourselves first?

And when the school year finally came to an end, I prayed that someday, he would see this and smile to himself.

To this day, when I’m feeling low and down, I think of the wonderful memories we had and of the many more stories we could have had.

Of Things That Change

I must have been seven or eight at that time. Or probably nine. While I don’t clearly remember how old was I, I do remember I had a pink dress with crimson roses embroidered near the waist. I do remember that when people saw me in that dress with my father, they would bend down and give me their biggest smile or ruffle my hair or pinch my cheeks – things, I was surprised, they didn’t do to the elders. Perhaps, it would have been pretty weird if the chubby man, who lived next to our house, pinched my father’s cheeks. I would have been furious.

Though my father was a busy man, somehow, he managed to make out some time to take me to the bookstore on weekends.

Back then, the bookstore seemed like a clip from a sepia-toned movie – with sienna-washed pages of The Economic Times, hanging near the door, with a couple of other newspapers. Magazines – new and old, with fading letters and missing pages – were stacked into a huge pile near the entrance of the clumsy, old room that smelled of wet asphalt. If you stood on the other side of the road and watched past the speeding scooters, at the bookstore, you’d realize that it lacked colour. Though the books it had, had paint splashed on all their pages, somehow the picture in my mind is devoid of colours.

It was an important landmark in my life – the bookstore.

In there, hid a wonderland, probably as beautiful and mysterious as Alice’s.

Each time we would walk into the single room, the owner would greet us with a happy smile and pat me on the head. While my father would stand in a corner, flipping through the pages of some newspaper, I would look around in awe at the never ending stacks of books around me.

I had this strange habit of picking up a book and smelling it first. The smells enticed me – the smell of the old pages of a magazine or the smell of crisp, freshly-printed pages of a children’s book. It was a smell, so faint, yet so tantalizing, it was like breathing in the strong aroma of hot chicken soup on the coldest winter night. Each book had a distinct smell that haunted its every page. They were never the same. Musty, of drying grass and ink, it smelled of untold stories growing old.

Often, somebody would stop by the store to use the xerox machine. Against the grunt of rusting screws and slapping of pages on the slider, I would read the book aloud, marvelling at the scenes it created in my head.

A lot of things have changed since then.

The bookstore has been renovated, its walls painted a dark white and the marble floor shines when the tube light on the adjacent wall flickers to life. Instead of the single room, they have two floors now. Each book is arranged majestically in large cup-boards and it feels like a new place.

The owner doesn’t greet me, now; not even when I’m wearing another pink dress. No one pats me on the head or stops awhile to pinch my cheeks.

The sepia-toned movie has rolled into a feature film with too many colours.

I don’t know if the change makes me happy.

Any day, I would prefer the old, clumsy, humid bookstore.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is that the books still smell the same.

Of Scars That Remain Behind

People are always looking for ways to get rid of scars. Who wants to carry a bundle of sad memories anyway?!

They try the best creams, visit a doctor, obsess too much over the broken skin. I really don’t understand why everyone needs to have flawless skin.

Perhaps the creams might heal the skin and a few tablets and a dash of make-up may get rid of the slight bump, but there’ll always be the ghost of a wound there. The wounds heal but they never go away completely.

The scars hold the stories. Just like a person’s eyes gives away a lot about how they are feeling, scars are like secret road maps, holding painful histories.

The scars remain behind for a good reason, though. To remind. Maybe the skin pulls up a new face with each passing year, but we still remember our scars and everything that has ever hurt us.

When we are down and the sky is dark, the scars remind us that we can live through that, for there have been darker days. They tell us to hold on, for light awaits us.

The scars remind us to have strength in our darkest hour.

They sketch blurred vignettes of our life. The painful ones. We remember where exactly it hurt and why.

And how it healed.