I wish I remembered the first day. I wish I kept it somewhere, somewhere in the billions of cells of my brain. How the first light hit me. How it felt. Who was the first face? I know everybody says its your mother, but it had to be the midwife. The first face, a woman who had no stake at my existence, yet I’m sure she held me remembering her own.
I wish I remembered…
The first touch. The first breeze. The first fear.
The first sound had to be my own. But that wasn’t out of fear, was it?
Memory is such an irreplaceable organ of existence. Yet we loose so much of it, to survive the things that were done to us, to escape the things we saw, and sometimes just to make room for the others to move in. What we remember and what we we forget is not always ours to choose either. Sometimes that decision is made in the internal meetings in our head that we weren’t invited to. Later we need therapists and concentrated efforts to unblock the official papers of those meetings. Also Memory can both burden and unburden us.
There are some memories that I carry like a burden. And I think there are some other memories loose in the wild that I have to find out to make those less…well, less threatening.
Pohela Boishakh, the first day of Bengali New Year, never came like this. No processions in the streets, no smell of new saree, no children catching up with the first light hoped up on sugar, no flutes or drums or songs to make the mundane of emotions hyped up!
I have this peaceful quiet memory of Pohela Boishakh with me. Ma cooked incensed-rice that looked like jasmine flowers, fried Hilsha fish with fried red chili and onion, and a dozen mashed vegetables and dried fish, Baba bought unwise amount of sugar, he came out of his hard shell and was telling stories of rivers and rapture, and we, giddy with joy, and me, wishing it would stay like that and never end…And it would always end with the anticipated Kal-boishakhi Jhor, the ominous Boishakhi storm. But, we the people of Bengal, have befriended Kal-Boishakhi long ago, we would wait even, on the first day of Bengali New Year, when our ominous yet jolly friend would come with the assurance that the world is on the right course. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Relying on a menacing storm to tell you that everything is okay and will be alright.
Today is the second of Boishakh. Our friend hasn’t visited us yet. Meanwhile other dark storms are brewing on the horizon, and they don’t share the same face of our Kal-Boishakhi.
The first day of the new year was spent in fearful alertness. Fear of the unknown. We don’t know yet what is to become of our home. Other than the collective existential crisis the whole race is facing, there is this more poignant dread that we, as a not so rich and lucky land, would have to face the worst of it.
Still, I brew tea in the afternoons, bring out old notebooks filled with leaves that were taken with consent, and Tagore fills the air with longing and love.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;…..