Has it ever happened to you, that it was someone else’s album, a different time altogether and even the person captured is faintly familiar and yet the surroundings, the shadows trigger memories? If it had never happened earlier, then you are no doubt in a hurry and need to sit down and share your memories with your friends and families.
The shadows were never the same!
They sometimes diminished and at times elongated, expanded and kept on looming till they took over completely, like a big bang theory, slow, steady and yet somehow happened unnoticed!!
Right when the Grandfather clock, down the stairs, half hidden by the entrance door, made one gong, we knew it was the time for Bahadur to come up. We all called him ‘Bahadur’, just like ‘Kunjo Dida’. I, my dad, even Tupai who rolled half the day on the floor but could hardly manage to roll his tongue and kept on chanting, ‘Baladur… Baladur’.
‘Baladur’, more than happy with this new deformed pet name, dragged his slippers all the way up to the stairs to lock the cast iron gate between me, Pikuda and the wide open terrace, the promise of our abundant freedom from deadly afternoon naps.
And all the while in this daily brutal act of snapping the lock in place, ‘Baladur’ casually winked at Tupai, making a weird ‘tuk..tuk‘ sound with his tongue hitting the roof of his mouth.
‘He is not going to live long, right dadabhai?!’
I asked him hopefully, precariously balancing on the iron bars of the gate, once the chinky-eyed, moon face vanished from the corridor!
I turned to find the partner of my crime, sitting on the floor and busy twisting a hairpin. Thoughts twisted and rolled between my ears.
There was always a gate, rigid and stout standing between our ‘andar mahal’ and ‘bahir’, the secured and the unknown. Certain times of our life, there would always be someone wanting us to play safe and yet the call for the open roof is so heady and dangerous. I wanted to answer the call but it was dadabhai who had all the skills of a promising locksmith.
The entire afternoons, the kins, sticking our tongues would take turns to push, pull and tug our boundaries to flee away from the meaningless slumber. ‘Why do these old people love to sleep all the time, dada? Dadaaa?’
I had so many weird questions for the tiny dark head, who was hardly a year or two older than me. But he knew not to get diverted by clowns. As he desperately tried to free himself, in fact us…I asked myself this time.
‘Why do they want to sleep, when it isn’t even time! And even if they, why do they want to drag along those… who wants to be wide awake? Why?!’
The locks were stubborn and so were the knots that tangled my questions and as the open roof remained beyond reach, so were the answers!
(Photograph: Amitava Nag)
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