Selecting A Memento Of Days Bygone
Selecting A Memento Of Days Bygone7 mins 21.9K 7 mins 21.9K
A few days back I received my posting-order from our headquarter implying my transfer to a new town. I, as a medium rung Public Servant, was not exactly sad but only feeling a pang of impending detachment from the place where I have been living for last four years. In these four years spent here I had become accustomed to my colleagues, local residents, the climate and life style here. But now, I have to pack up my things and go to a new place where I have to tune up strings of the guitar of my life once again from the very beginning.
In the silent ambience, standing on the veranda of my residential quarter I look at long & limp branches of the small weeping-willow tree swinging with the wind, jesting with each other. Nearby it is a dwarf shrub called Silver-pine oscillating like a man gone to sleep sitting up on his seat with folded hands in a bus. Beside it, on right side of the veranda on a wooden rack are seasonal flowers akin to those friends, who shows up for a short phase in our life and then fades away. And on the left side, in clay-pots, are some of my favourite plants.
Thinking about the compulsion to part with all these plants my heart goes sore. Then I resolve to take along at least one plant from here as a memento. So I begin to choose one from my favourites. At first, my eyes go to a local species of Orchid called ‘fish-spiky.’ Can’t say, whether by its beauty or by its prickly name, whenever I see it, Neelima Agrawal – one time classmate of my High School days in flares up in my mind. She was the first centre of appeal for my eyes, cause of the first fancy of love in my heart and ripple of the first tidal waves of my youthful aspiration. But the paradox of my love – it was a one sided affair.
Till now life pains me remembering the day Neelima & her elder sister had come to my house and displayed to my parents the love-letter I had written to her. Thus, being hurt in my first experience with love I had taken a vow not to see her again. So I had left the town and came to live with my aunt & uncle.
The painful memories make me take a decision, “I won’t take this Orchid with me as a memento. The place I have to go lies on low lying foothills and the warm weather there will not suit this plant which shuns warmth & prefers coldness.”
My eyes then go to the next pot with a Black Rose, a rare species, blooming profusely. Looking at its black flowers and its green leaves I come to remember Jareena Hasan, a girl from Muslim community, who mostly used to wear green salwar-kameez with black ‘chuneri’. Scenes from a misty morning she had come to my room in that green & black dress, flashes in my mind. She, pulling in the window panes of my room finding the gushes of fog coming inside, had said, “Arun, It seems my ammi has been noticing us for some time? She was asking me yesterday – why do you need to go to college always with that Hindu boy?”
“Then better you go ahead,” I had said, “today onwards we shall walk separately.”
“Stop play-acting and move on now, we are almost late.” She had said and taking advantage of the foggy weather had walked more closely clasping my arm, all the way to college that day. But thereafter, the dense fog of religious propriety began to swarm all over the path of our lives too. Without any inkling of when, deviating from the path we shared, we lost each other in the fogs. By the time dense fogs dispersed and weather became clear on the hillock of our lives we had drifted very far away from each other - couldn’t dare to overcome the gap.
With an overcast heart after a sojourn with the past I decide, “I won’t take along this Black Rose either. Of course, it’s a rare species but its thorns are pointy and poisonous.”
I throw my glances further on. A small cactus named Escobaria minima comes to my view. They say that on top of its stem it will bloom with pink petals – but I haven’t seen it blooming so far. This plant was a gift to me from Pritika Sinha, a teacher in the Public School in lieu of a favour done to the school by me. Handing over it she had said, “Mr Gupta, this cactus is a late bloomer but once it blooms it will hang about for long – you have to wait patiently.”
While recalling my days spent with Pritika, always before everything else, memories of an unforgettable day becomes vivid. The day was a Sunday. She had come straight to my quarter with Seema & Shristhi, her young orphaned nieces left to her charge. Their plan was to take a stroll around seeing places to spend the holiday. They were ready with snacks in a hot-case and tea in a flask. I had to give my consent only. Walking along the ridge of the wonderful hillside we had come to a serene place where the day was spent gazing at the beauty of nature, eating, drinking and talking. At the afternoon on our way back home suddenly it had started to rain heavily. We had no umbrella with us. So, till it stopped to rain we had to wait taking shelter under a big Oak tree.
Now, remembering the long-drawn-out wait of that day, I feel like scores of ants running on my back. I resolve not to take the cactus with me. I ponder, “Waiting for that cactus to bloom pink, I might have my hair grown all white.”
Now a pot placed next to the cactus draws my attention, in which a dwarf Azalea is blooming white. This delicate plant needs regular mulching & care. Yamuna, the beautiful younger sister of my colleague Dinesh Sharma has her heart on this small hybrid plant. Perhaps, in its fleshy leaves she finds reflection of her youthfulness and in its white flowers she finds emptiness of her widowhood. Her husband had died in a car accident the same year of their marriage.
Yamuna and I at that time were addicted to reading novels. Every time she used to come to my quarter to exchange novels she used to caress this Azalea and remove all the rotten petals from its branches.
Novels had brought Yamuna close to me but I could not dare to initiate a story of our own like the protagonist of those novels. So I maintained only mundane friendship with her.
Thinking about Yamuna in proximity of that Azalea, I recall my senior colleague & a widower, Kishan Yadav. He too was enamoured with this Azalea. Once he had even requested me to gift it to him. But I had refused on some pretext. It might have saddened him. Then I decide that before my departure tomorrow I shall leave back a note for him, ‘Kishanji, I am leaving the white Azalea there for you on my rack. Take it away as soon as you can, lest anyone steal it.”
Despite all my efforts when I find myself incapable of selecting a mere plant to take along as a memento I feel disgusted. Giving up the idea I enter into the house and switch on the light. In the bright light I see the pot with an indoor plant which I had placed on a stool near the window. This climber plant stretching upward entwining on a stick fixed in the pot was sent to me by my father. It is called ‘Money-Plant’ as the belief has it that it brings home money & prosperity. That belief might be the reason why my father took trouble to send it.
Beside his trade and money the only other subject my father was interested in was my marriage. Every time he called me he never forgot to pester me saying, “Son, now move ahead and be a householder. Find your bride yourself otherwise I shall arrange for a bride ready with a huge lot of dowry and get you married.”
Stretching over my bed I begin to contemplate, “This climber plant I shall take along with me. It can survive both hot & cold weather, it has no thorns on it and I need not wait to see it in bloom as it never flowers. Regular care & concern too is not required for it. It can be placed somewhere and forget all about it and expending love on it also won’t be necessary.”
I try to be confident of my decision then pretend to be confident and finally I betray myself to be confident.