Hyperlinking memories

My daughter is on a cleaning spree. She declutters, files, staples, sorts, reorganizes and decorates her room. Later, she invites all of us to take a look. We cheer her and tell her that the room is unrecognizable.

My daughter then says, ‘Amma, look at what I found’. It is a small card that my Dad had attached to one of his letters to me, when I was in college. The card was a handwritten one, wishing me luck for my final exams before graduation. I had gifted it to my daughter a few years ago, when she took her board exams for the first time.

We smile when we read the small verse my Dad has composed. One of the lines reads “As you appear for your exams, may your memory remain as fresh as the jasmine flowers that grow in our garden.”

I remember how happy and comforted I felt when I received the card. Seeing my Dad’s writing, and his loving words, had reassured me. As I turn the card to study the small sketch my Dad had included on the card, lots of memories come rushing in.

Memories are everywhere, and they appear the moment you recall even something simple from the past. These will then bring with them other allied memories, which in turn come with their own hyperlinks. And the moment one is in the happy throes of a past memory, all one needs to do is to mentally press the hyperlinks, and then recall the simple times, the silly times, the times with Dad, the fun time with friends, the not so good times and the times that can never come back.

And that is the beauty of a memory. It can sneak-in when you least expect it – lurking in the fragrance of a small flower or in the smile of a complete stranger, entwined in a melody that the wind carries or ensconced in the creamy layers of a yummy cake, woven into the complex patterns of a dress or in the scrawly scratches of a handwritten note.

I close my eyes. I am back in my childhood home. Time stands still in the present, as I walk down the alleys of the past, inhaling deeply the fragrant memories of my childhood.


Fragrant connections

One of my dear friends has invited me over to to her house to celebrate Sankranti, the Indian harvest festival. As part of the rituals, my friend dabs a little perfume on the back of my palms. The perfume is of the champak flower. I inhale deeply, the perfume is fresh and fragrant.

The fragrance transports me to my husband’s childhood home, where his parents had planted two champak trees, when they started construction of their home after marriage. The trees are more than fifty years old now, and form a fragrant archway at the entrance to our home. Both trees are still flowering.

When he was still with us, it was my dad-in-law’s job to collect the champak flowers from both trees. Since the trees straddle three floors, one has to go up to the terrace on the third floor to pick the flowers. A specially designed long stick, with a small hook at one end, was the tool of choice to gently nudge the fragrant flowers from their branches. The flowers were collected in an orange bag (a wire bag made at home by my husband’s mom). The beautiful creamy yellow of the champak flowers beautifully contrasted with the orange of the bag. Once he was done, my dad-in-law would leave it in the living room. My mom-in-law would retain a few flowers for herself, to offer at the altar during prayers. The rest were for neighbours, who would drop-in at various times to take the champak flowers. Some would call from the gate, and my mom-in-law would pass it to them after a quick chit chat. Some neighbours would come home and stay for a cup of coffee and exchange local news.

By noon, the orange bag would be empty and go back to its rack in the store room, till the next time. In the evenings, when the sun would go down in the sky, and a gentle, cool breeze would blow, the delightful and invigorating fragrance of the champak flowers would waft in the air. We would usually stand at the entrance and close our eyes in bliss.

All the nostalgic memories come back to me now, as I bid bye to my friend and thank her for her hospitality. Beautiful champak flowers, fragrant memories and deep friendships. I sigh in pure contentment.