The pain and bliss of nostalgia

Spending your childhood in Mumbai has a charm of its own. Where people complained of traffic and rush, I was too young to understand any of it. For me, that was the only way of living.

Places changed, people changed, situations changed through my stay of nine years, but one thing which never changed for me were the monsoons of Mumbai. It is of the monsoons which I hold the fondest recollections.

Today, I stand on the balcony and watch the young Ronaldo’s in the rain. I look up to the clouds, which celebrate the happiness below with their applause of incessant rain. It is as if the majestic black clouds notice only the vast fields, sprinkled with merry children, turning a blind eye to the narrow alley of the slum, which fills like the bucket under a tap. I watch the raindrops under the orange light of the lamp-post- my personal rain gauge and anemometer. I mockingly advise the scampering walker-by huddling under the umbrella to enjoy the rain while I stand under the shed. “Oh! This is Delhi”, I think, “People here can never enjoy the rain as us Mumbaikars.”

The dark of the day, the smell of earth and the waving glistening leaves leave me at the gates of childhood. The yarn of childhood reminiscences then unfolds itself as I look through the windows of past. Playing football with my brother under the rain, taking a dip in the pond by the house, waiting for the school to flood and the announcement of a day’s holiday….I feel happy to have lived those moments. I feel fortunate to have been a part of nature’s bounty and beauty. Sitting by the window and watching memories unroll. The bliss of nostalgia.

The pain sets in as the rain dies down. The dismay at my inability to recreate those moments in reality. The dismay that life shall continue as it is. My refuge of memories cast away.

I am happy to surrender my emotions over to nature. Whom else can you? The surrender, devoid of anger and vengeance.  The surrender is a reminder of my place in the grand scheme of things. It sows the seeds of humility and gratitude. Humility, which I must subject myself to, shall allow me to behold the beauty of the natural around me.

My tryst with greeting cards

I was waiting impatiently for the birthday boy. I am too punctual even for birthday parties. My friends consider this to be my fondness for free lunches. I could not disagree more. Walking through the branded shops, contemplating on the revenue and fate of the sprawling new mall, my gaze caught sight of the white in the red background displaying Archies.

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The calm, the sweet chime at the entrances and the neat stacked display of emotions had always attracted me towards a card shop. Cards themselves never fascinated me. Since childhood, I had seen cards as ‘stuff’ handed out during birthdays and anniversaries. Our school even held a card-making competition. With every art and craft competition, it was time to get sick.

The interior of the showroom was similar to the other franchisees I had visited. Wooden boards decked with cards with little plaques over them. The middle row consisting another of those stands and the corners of the rectangular shop adorned by shining glass showcases. My childhood memories came alive as I walked through the aisles. When was the last time I walked through these rows, adoring the neatly displayed cards? The arrangement evoked the last memory I had of walking in Archies. It was with my brother. We were looking for a card on our father’s birthday. It was then when I stumbled upon the Farewell section that I changed my perspective about cards and art. A card depicted a group of penguins waving goodbye to their leader, who with wide moist eyes waves back, floating away into the ocean on another ice block. I still remember delicately holding the card, scanning the picture to secure a place for it in the special album at the back of my head. I had never seen such a simple picture represent such strong emotions. I exclaimed to my brother, “Here “. He too was moved by the picture and explained with great pride, “See Shubhu, do you know who creates these greeting cards. You see it is not easy making them. Archies hires only highly creative and imaginative people of the industry. They brainstorm every day to bring out different cards on the same topic, no two cards being the same.” The image of creative young men and women on circular desks working in teams of four and five, perfecting the exact mix of art and words, floated through my mind. It was my first tryst with these soothing, silent, little works of art around me. Walking out of the shop, I felt I had unlocked another key to understanding the world. I had learnt to appreciate the work of a professional card designer.

From that day onwards cards have carried a special meaning to me. My notion of cards being just another formal routine to wish had been swept away. Admiration for designers and creative artists had taken its place. Today at the card shop I relived that experience with my brother and all those ‘other’ experiences which I had taken for granted while scanning for my friends’ birthdays.

The stream of thoughts abated as I felt the card in my hands. ‘What is so significant about the sensation of touch? Why is a hug more peaceful than words?’ I asked myself. As I write this, I feel cards exemplify the importance of touch. They serve as something in this abstract nothingness of human emotions.  They serve as the medium of communicating emotions, a conveyor of assurance that we are not alone. The adorned cardboard is worth a hundred digital template wishes.