Time Machine

img_2987“Hmm, so not even the children?” my maid asked, not caring to hide her disdain. “No, just us siblings; our parents will accompany us, though.” I replied without a shred of guilt.

I had been through this drill so many times, had been judged by so many people, that I didn’t care anymore. After all it was just a holiday, a 15-day break. It was a family vacation that we had been planning for a long time, and now that we were about to embark on this journey, we were letting the news out, slowly, and on a need-to-know basis. The problem was that the family was not a family anymore, not by legal definition anyway, and we were quickly realising, the trip didn’t have social sanction.

It was a very generous rakhi gift from my brother. A 15-day break from the present to dwell in the past. A vacation with the family I was born into. After four and a half decades we wanted to abandon (temporarily!) our spouses and offspring and travel back in time, to revisit our childhood. We felt that not having ‘the others’ around was necessary for the sanctity of the experience.

Surprisingly the children, themselves young adults, took the news pretty well. In fact they encouraged us to make the most of this ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’. and hoped to replicate it themselves in future. Our spouses were understandably less enthusiastic but agreed, albeit grudgingly. It was the rest of ‘our world’ who couldn’t see the need or relevance of such a trip.

We took the holiday nevertheless. Spent a week bonding in London before retracing our steps all the way to Canada. As I walked from one memory to the next, the line ‘there had been no years….’ from E.B White’s nostalgic gem, Once More to the Lake, kept playing in my mind. Just as he has described, the memories came rushing back, ones that I didn’t know existed. The scent of the wooden floor, the pattern of the wall tiles, the feel of the door knob, the green counter top in the kitchen, all triggered events of an era gone by.

Wandering through the past, I wondered about the future. What would my own children remember most about their home 40 years hence. With my son ready to take wing and daughter having a nest of her own I wish I had built more memories. I wish I had taken out the yellow picnic table more often and not complained about the pools of water they brought in after getting drenched in the rain.

I wish I had allowed messier marks on the growth chart, kept a pet earlier and adopted another one when it got lost. I wish I had snuggled with them instead of pulling them out of bed on Sunday mornings and had let the ‘inconsequential’ conversations flow beyond bed-time. I wish I had made ice lollies while they still cared and hadn’t forced aloo methi down their throats.

As they prepare to take flight I hope they remember the fragrance of flowers at the front door, the smoke rising from the barbecue and the warm sun on our backs on wintry afternoons. Sadly, we never spent much time on the terrace swing or got around to watch a storm from the gazebo in the garden. But I hope they’ll cherish memories of our bed, where hoisted on pillows we played cards amid accusations and counter-accusations of cheating. It is the place in the house where we have shared the most laughter per square inch.

I wish they forget the fights and the bickering, the sulks and the silences, and remember only the good times. As I despair at the time lost, time which could have been put to better use, my only consolation is that their most lasting memories will be the ones I can neither predict nor control. They will surface at the most unexpected moment. I can just hope that they will be happy ones.

( carried by the Hindu on 10/1/17 as ‘ A break and some thoughts ‘)

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37 thoughts on “Time Machine

  1. Anjali Bansal says:

    Beautiful write up Dr. Manju. Past present and future entwined so fluently and flawlessly. Kal, aaj aur kal

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Anjali for noticing the present in the tale of the past. Your appreciation means a lot

  2. Devender Rudola says:

    Dear Ma’am,

    Your beautiful article in today’s HINDU has forced me to write this mail. Though it has been a few times when an article stirred me to express my appreciation to the writer, I couldn’t actually bring myself to doing it considering it perhaps an intrusion on his/her time. But your article touched my own longings/thoughts so much that I thought ‘well, let me do it this one time’.

    Yes, I too have longed to revisit those places where my childhood was spent and I have already done so in case of 2 out of the 4 places where my childhood was spent. These two places I visited recently after a gap of 43/46 years. The remaining two places whose remembrance I still have when I was even younger would also be surely visited by me sooner rather than later.

    Oh, how the memories of those formative years haunt you! I still remember each and every stone laid out on our pathways, every plant/tree, the dew on grass leaves that used to shine at day break sometimes forming a tiny rainbow (in keeping with the VIBGYOR we were to study later in Physics), the river floating by making an incessant noise, the mountains which reverberated with whatever was spoken/sung by distant working men/women (because of the echo effect), the humdrum of school, the fun at whatever games/sports we played et al.

    The above are the memories that have stayed with me all these decades. But when I visited these places again after such a long interval, I was not a little disappointed. Our house that seemed to our small eyes big enough not only for us four brothers and parents but also had room to spare for guests now looked so tiny forcing me to wonder how we managed to live in it. The roads, the neighbourhood, the school… all had changed and not necessarily for the better, instead of a handful of small shops the town now has a bustling market place, our house at the second location though still standing, had huge cracks on the walls because of a devastating earthquake in early 90s while the houses of my friends unfortunately now lay in ruins…. It seems as if the romanticism and nostalgia of the past must necessarily give way to the realities of the present. Why does it have to be this way almost always?

    Fortunately, your post doesn’t reflect this confrontation with reality. Instead you wonder what memories your kids might like to retain with them as they grow older, whether they would really like to revisit the places of their childhood etc. Perhaps you found things almost exactly how they were when you lived there. I keep exhorting my wife to visit places of her childhood but either she doesn’t feel strongly enough on the matter or is unable to extricate herself out of her routine. I would actively encourage my kids should they wish to visit places where their childhood was spent. It would be so lovely to see the sparks in the eyes of my wife and kids and extra spring in their footsteps when they near an object fixed in their memories! I too would have liked to visit these places with my parents but alas, they are no more now. Going with my brothers and some childhood friend is now the only option left.

    Anyway, your post made it almost compulsory for me to share my thoughts with you and appreciate how much I liked it even if it means nothing to you and to the world. I would perfectly understand if you chose to ignore it in keeping with Ms Samantha Sharma’s post just above that of yours in today’s HINDU. But then there is another article just below that of yours again in today’s HINDU written by Ms Senjuti Mallick which might decide otherwise for you!

    Best regards,
    Devendra Rudola

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Dear sir,
      I don’t know about the world but your feedback meant a lot to me, more so because you are so eloquent. You paint a splendid picture of the place of your childhood. I could almost imagine the stone path, the dew on the grass with a river flowing by.
      I took this trip more than a year ago and it keeps coming up in my writings. It was such a momentous moment! Luckily, or probably because it was Montreal, i found the place well preserved just as we had left it. Everything had shrunk though( as you have also mentioned) I had written about this in an article which was carried by the Hindu last January. You could find it on my blog http://alifeextraordinarilyordinary.com/769/. You might find it intriguing that I used the same phrase ( spring in his step) to describe my father’s gait when we visited his alma mater.
      Yes, we live in difficult times and maybe I shouldn’t be communicating with strange men. But then probably I am like Ms Mallick
      ps I update my blog frequently and upload all my published stuff on it. Peruse at leisure. Your feedback would be invaluable.

      1. Dev Rudola says:

        Dear Ma’am,

        Sorry that it took me so long to go through your blog even though I had returned from the marriage a week back. I did so today and was it a beautiful experience!

        How well you write! It seems to be coming straight from the heart. And to top it, you must be a simple and noble soul believing in simplicity and devoid of any ostentations. These traits come out very clearly in your writings and that is probably why they touch a chord with readers. May your tribe increase.

        I liked all of them. Each one has some special sentiment/emotion and some nicely and simply worded truths of life. I also liked your flirting with Physics (relativity, parallel universe(the bellwether experiences)). The expressions ‘ still depend on them to break up our fights’, ‘ will Delhi stop by our bus’, ‘ not everything needs to be rubbed in’, ‘ is that the only difference he perceived between us’ making my day.

        My only request – keep writing. It will keep making so many readers’ days!

        Warm regards,
        dev rudola

  3. Ranjana Parihar says:

    Open page has always been my favourite. And today just now when I opened if after having lunch my eyes fell at central article and I started reading it and halfway I had this intuition that it’s by you and I checked the name… it’s Manju Gupta… loved it like rest of yours

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Ranjana for liking it and making the effort to write in. I am so happy that you could guess it was me. It is easy actually, i keep harping about the same things

  4. Mitra saxena says:

    Have read this one on your blog …
    As always …perfect

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      You are mistaken you didn’t read it on my blog. I had sent it to you for appraisal six months ago. I wasn’t very happy with the flow so had shelved it. Reworked and submitted it in December.
      As always….. thanks for your suggestions then…and appreciation now

  5. Ravi Shankar says:

    Read your article in the Hindu today. It is very well written. Congratulations and keep it up

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks sir for your appreciation.

  6. Dr Anita Jain says:

    Glad you had the trip and this beautiful write up we could read….truly ,agree with you , memoirs are far more cherished than material things. …and with such affectionate bonding ,it’s prize possession you carry with you as a being.cheers to that.keep sharing and encouraging us to collect such moments…

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Anita Jain for your kind words. Yes we should hit the repeat button more often

  7. Dr Ashok Dhawan says:

    It was a great idea Manju. Nice to see Dr Gupta, indeed all of you, in photos. Was thinking of him, last week only.

    And you write very well, keep up!

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks sir. Hope you are doing well. Dad and mum have fond memories of you. Appreciate your writing in.

  8. Dr Poonam Batra says:

    Very nice Manju. While reading it I felt so connected. Will try to make more memories for my boys.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Poonam. Its strange how hindsight is 6/6 and foresight…well i am blind as a bat!!

  9. Koundinya K says:

    Good one. Well scripted and sentiments which are easy to identify with

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks. I am glad you liked it

  10. Sanjay Bhatiya says:

    Mesmerizing indeed !!

    Wonder what our children will remember about our times with them.

    But one thing is sure you all have been a wonderful part of our lives …. our past, present and future.

    If nothing else, then Kanu & Narayani are surely going to cherish the memories created with you all in our gastronomical sojourns.

    Looking forward to an awesome celebration of this half century.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks sir. I definitely hope that our children will remember the good times we had together

  11. Kishan Patro says:

    Hi Manju,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your article in THE HINDU.Hope to see more in the coming days.

    Apart from this if you wish to write any book in near future, kindly inform me.

    Kishan Kumar Patro
    Application Developer-Web Service_SOA
    IBM India

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks sir for your generous offer. If i ever decide to write a book i will definitely get in touch with you. The Hindu has a ‘ cooling off’ period so you will not see me in the open page for the next six weeks. You can however visit my blog ALifeExrtraordinarilyOrdinary.com. It has all my published and unpublished work. Regards

  12. Naveen Goel says:

    Well written Dr Manju. Congratulations.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for appreciating

  13. Indrajit Majhi says:

    Your “A break and a journey back” took me back to my olden golden days which I still cherish.Thanks.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir. I am glad it hit a chord with you

  14. Anand S says:

    Great piece, Dr. ! So wistful & lingering. Very evocative…

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for liking it

  15. Anil says:

    Manju di,
    Awesome write up … turn back time touches a chord :)
    And I’m relishing the pics of my ‘nanna- munna’ friend :-)

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks. Yes the nunna munna friend was quite a handful back then. He turned out well though

  16. Indu Sharma says:

    I am happy that you wrote this n I read this not just once but thrice. Lessons given are so direct ,honest n significant..Love you for this

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Finally!! Have been waiting for your input…..thanks for finding time to read it thrice….i had tried to keep the message subtle, but then, I have always been loudmouthed!

  17. Sashikala says:

    Chanced upon your article today. Beautifully expressed. I could identify with your regret. Keep writing

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your kind feedback. Keep reading!

  18. Anantlakshmi says:

    Dear Mrs.Manju Gupta
    Loved the article.I have tears in my eyes.In the hurry burry life we forget the smallest happenings.thank you.I have the same regrets about my children s childhood.Keep writing.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you for writing in. I am glad you identified with it. Alas! It is the small things which matter and we realise this too late. I write quite often. You can read my musings on my blog ALifeExtraordinarilyOrdinary.com. All my published stuff is on it. Looking forward to your valuable critique.

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