“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” is a thought that sounds rather clichéd but sure is submerged in profound reality. When a trip to go home and spend time with family does not materialize, the only solution to lighten the heart is to bask in memories of the past.
At the fag end of a rather unusual December afternoon with surprisingly warm temperatures, I rewind and look back in retrospect at the bygone year. After a refreshing vacation in pleasantly warm Florida, days of holiday shopping, a magical Christmas party, and an equally fun-filled New Year’s Eve get-together, it was time to get back to the grind. The winter holidays had just ended, and the regular work schedule had just begun. A fortnight into 2015, the sudden, unexpected death of an uncle expedited an earlier decision to go home and see my parents 10,000 miles away. It was a trip spanning exactly 3 weeks. I carried back with me a bag of mixed feelings and mental snapshots of some entirely run-of-the-mill scenes that I reflected on later. I don’t know if I returned older and wiser, but it definitely opened the window for realizations that made me ponder.
Despite being in the senior citizens club, my parents are young in spirit. The zest and vivacity are more pronounced in the company of their grandchildren. So it had never crossed my mind that every time I wished them on their birthdays, they had grown a year older. On one of those very rare occasions, when I stepped into the kitchen to make a special dish, I found that a whole range of exotic spices were missing from my mother’s pantry. They were no longer used because my parents these days preferred a simple, bland diet, and unless guests were invited, my mother never prepared those fancy entrées. A small incident, but nevertheless, it struck me that they have aged, and things are changing.
I met with friends that I have known for over three decades now. Having left home 23 years ago and settled abroad, we have missed out on a lot in each other’s lives in spite of my yearly visits. And yet, whenever we meet, we comfortably start off from the point we left off the last time. I never have to think twice before I speak. They are words that come straight from the heart, and I have no fear of being judged. This meeting was no different from other years. We have bridged the physical distance and traversed the path of friendship by being there for each other on sunny and cloudy days. For me it was a moment of silent reflection: to celebrate a genuine bond that has stood the test of time and space.
A visit to my alma mater took me on an emotional excursion to the carefree days of my childhood years. It was the recess hour. The little kindergarteners and first graders in their gray pinafores and maroon sweaters ran around in plentiful joy. They were totally lost in their own little, happy universe. Unscathed by life’s bitterness, with smiles beaming from ear-to-ear, they definitely had no worries of unfulfilled dreams or unaccomplished goals. It’s a state of innocence, so calm and pure. I was totally overwhelmed; an unparalleled happiness engulfed me as I ruminated that once upon a time, I too had been a part of that idyllic paradise.
Technology, gizmos and gadgets have literally come to govern our lives. The postman, who in the past had carried our personal letters, now only delivers bills and official or business documents. Friends and relatives who wrote those long notes now either prefer to call or e-mail. The neighborhood kids were rarely seen playing outside because a far better attraction for them was a television program or the most recently purchased video game.
It sure did tickle a funny bone to see a meeting point of the modern and the old fashioned. I had sent my shirts to be ironed at a store where sans the dry clean option, clothes were washed and ironed. The owner did not own a washing machine, so he hand washed all clothes that were dropped off by his customers. Despite having electricity, he pressed his clothes with a charcoal iron. Smoldering coal from a fireplace is placed in the hollow interior of the iron to keep it hot. A man miles away from modern advances, he however had his cell phone buzzing continuously with customers enquiring if their clothes were ready for pick-up. He preferred that they called before they came to get their stuff. Well, technology has made its way in his business that is still run the way his ancestors did!
I anticipate that my future trips will introduce me again to the microcosm and the macrocosm of facts and situations that I had overlooked earlier. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, they will definitely broaden my vision of those shades and colors that weave the tapestry of our mundane lives.