Wednesday 17 October 2012

A trot down the memory lane

Illustration: Bharati Varrier

Bright clasp of her whole hand around my finger,
My daughter, as we walk together now.
All my life I’ll feel a ring invisibly
Circle this bone with shining: when she is grown
Far from today as her eyes are far already.

-         Stephen Spender (“To My Daughter”)

I read for the umpteenth time the above poem - my most favourite. I have always loved these lines right from when I first read it, going back to reading them over and over again through the years, and I continue to love the poem even now when I have two daughters, one in her teens and the other in her ty’s. Today when I read it, my thoughts rush back to those days when I had walked (with my whole hand around my father’s little finger for a while and later trotting around just as kids do) along the country road from the banks of a gurgling river to my paternal home.

It was a large house standing majestically at the heart of a large areca estate. The road was rough terrain in itself – untarred, untamed and unspoilt. There were loose rocks and stones, and the journey was long. It was impossible to walk without sandals because it hurt and it was difficult to walk with them as they slipped off my feet at every step. But walking was still fun and this yearly trip was one I always looked forward to. I loved watching the flowers and the butterflies in all hues and shapes and sizes. The tiniest of the tiny flowers that grew on the wayside shrubs grabbed my attention the most, for, it was a constant surprise to me (it still is) that such tiny flowers existed…and so pretty too!

It was a long walk, or maybe it was just so from a child’s point of view, for that road and the walk were lost to me in my teens. The river that we ferried across before setting out on this wonderful ramble was also very long, flowing past our courtyard all the way down to greet us from where we boarded the ferry, and we enjoyed glimpses of it as we wound our way up home. As I grew up, of course, my hand encircled my father’s finger no more, but the scenery still continued to amaze me, and my feelings too varied in hue keeping up with the flowers and the ’flies.

I began this post to describe that long journey but felt reliving the same as a kid would be best. Reflections is a poem I wrote years, rather decades, ago which mirrors the haphazard, yet beautiful, memories of a walk that a kid loved and treasured through her life. I thought of rewriting the poem, but by doing so I would be unfair to the kid, spoiling her side of the story. So I have left the poem unprocessed and the memories it carries remain raw and rustic like the countryside it portrays.


Memories retreat        
to a lost childhood,
to a remote village,
to a far-away home
and a dancing ferry
which moves in a ballet
to the rhythms of joy
on the waves of a river
that flows shallow
in the heat of summer
and heaves a panting bosom
in the throes of monsoon,
to alight on a shore
and a long-winding trail,
never-ending, tiresome
and yet so peaceful.

The way is craggy,
dark with shadows
and so crudely bare
to the passions of weather.
It often disappears
into cool green thickets
to (alas!) arrive at
the ancient mansion of a home
that appears tiny
at the heart of a compound
vast, its boundaries
lost in the rows and rows
of areca palms,
jack and coconut trees.

As homeward I near
on springing feet
treading ever so softly
over the touch-me-nots,
and the fallen buttercups
in a charming confusion,
my heart surges in joy.
I am eager to lose
myself in the wonder
of a calm enchanting world,
where the soft sweet gurgle
of a beautiful river
would soothe my afternoons
in the sprawling backyard,
where I’d lie still and awake
to the squabble of crickets
in the stillness of nights
into the chilling wee hours,
where I can quietly run away
into the labyrinth of trees
and happily lose my way
in my fancy dreams.

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