I stood looking at it. It stood looking at me. Neither of us was going to be the same. But the loss was mine. Turning my back on its crème coloured uneven walls, saying my goodbyes to those who once occupied it, I have a vague feeling that the back of my hand is gesturing a goodbye of its own. They might as well have bundled up the house and put it atop the taxi that was taking my grandparents and cousin away. As my grandmother rolls the glass window down, and waves her goodbyes, another vague feeling washes over me, the goodbye seemed to pass through me to the house that watched over my back. From the wet eyes and the quiver in her voice its clear my grandmother never meant it to be this way. A fact she made clear when the shifting from their Delhi home to Bangalore was being contemplated. But then here she is now, and here I am, biting back some of my own raindrops.
Ever since they moved to Delhi decades ago, home had always meant C4F- 245. It was also the address of the place that is my mother’s maternal home or simply ‘nani ka ghar’. It was modest, but then it didn’t have to be otherwise. The gate reminded one of a fortress entrance, however the MCD drain (thankfully covered) didn’t have the makings of a moat. Now, less than a fortress entrance it looks like an anchor to me, a purpose it truly served. Somewhere it dawns upon me that Delhi was never home because of my own house being here, I have shifted frequently enough not to owe allegiance to any place which happens to be my current address. My nani’s place is different, it has always been. Always been here, in Delhi. From being one of the many relative’s places, it has dwindled down to being one of the few left. A decade ago, almost all of my mother’s and father’s close relatives resided in Delhi. The nuclear bomb exploded long back, but the fission-ed pieces were still found in the Delhi. Now my family has been nationalized. We, the remaining ones are not refugees here in Delhi. We are orphans. My grandparents moving away only brought this home (pun intended). It’s just me and another cousin now.
The gradualness of the process has lent it an air of inevitability. I of course didn’t have much of a say or choice. But then loss is never a choice anyway. Death is over rated, it’s the loss you have to live through, and revisit again and again. There are times when you lose, and there are times when you suffer a loss. English may not tell you or even recognize the difference but experience will. In losing you have the satisfaction of having tried, of having fought, but loss is inflicted upon you. An irrevertible fact of life. Time may heal, change, restore, but it’s not the same. Loss is not just inevitable and inescapable, it is also important. An intense but unique humane experience. For sadness there is joy, for failure there is success, but what’s for loss? Gain? Do we really gain anything in life? Except maybe experience… the comb life gives you when you are bald!
Some may say it’s a cruel play of fate. But if its destiny, it’s a common destiny. We inherit loss. Loss, first of our childhood, then youth, and then comes the loss of hair, teeth and sanity. Like a snake shedding its skin we shed that which was once a part of our life, was our life, almost naturally. But unlike the snake, for us humans the past is not dead skin, we come back to it and seek the comfort and warmth of the old skin. Nostalgia. A reminiscence of loss. I was first struck by it in school watching the younger ones in the playground, then leaving school, then … all the nows that will one day become then. I wonder which part of my life is next. The excitement, and anticipation of the new remains, but so does the clinging on to what was. Irreplaceable is now a word in the dictionary of my life.
I am standing in the street. And I know I shall again. Like my parents had returned to the place they had once called home. As I had passed the place by, they passed through their time. I am beginning to understand the feeling, the conciliation they were making with their memories, with what they had lost to time. The house is my memory, a part of a black and white past. Like the sea bottle, with three generations worth of memories bottled in it, it bobs up and down in the ocean of my thought. I know now that it’s not the time but the memories with which you age. And as the taxi turns around the corner, I feel a thousand memories old.