Years ago, I was visiting my second cousin, Di, in another town, and, while we chatted, her little daughter, Mira, six, sat on my lap and absorbed our talk. When I told Di that I had to visit a friend in their town and would leave for a couple of hours but return in time for dinner, little Mira insisted that she would come with me. It was no problem, I thought, she could play with my friend’s children while we talked. Her mother agreed.
As our car emerged from the giant rinse and water dripped all over, I turned to see if Mira was frightened. Not at all. She was thrilled by the unexpected showering and clapped her hands. She said, “Wow!” Delight was written all over her tiny face. She was clearly thrilled.
I had slowed down and now I stopped entirely to talk to Mira. A wild idea had struck me.
I asked, “Mira, would you like me to do that again?”
Mira laughed and joyfully agreed, “Yes, please!”
I turned around, picked up speed and went through the big puddle once again. There was a second gigantic splash, perhaps a trifle bigger, and I could hear Mira laughing and clapping. She was deliriously happy. Once again, I slowed the car to let water slide off the car and to watch Mira’s happy reaction. She had a flushed face and she said, “That was great fun!”
Cousin Di kept in touch but I did not get to visit her again. I did not see Mira for a long time, as I went to live abroad.
During a visit to India, I attended a family wedding and met Mira after nearly thirty years. She was now married and sat at a table with her husband and two children. I sat next to her and looked at her pleasant round face, glistening in the candlelight. I said how happy I was to see her again and she should tell me all about herself.
Her bright eyes lit up as she looked directly at me and said, “Uncle, you remember that puddle you drove me through? Twice! It was such fun!”
Thirty years apparently hadn’t dimmed her recollection of the event. Seconds of fun had remained glitters of a merry souvenir.
A parallel souvenir comes to mind. My brother Ashis and his wife, Uma, stayed with me for a while and went out often to meet friends. Their daughter, Aditi, then six, stayed happily with me and I tried to think of ways to amuse her. I soon found that what she loved most in my home was the large bathtub. I would fill it with warm water and, once inside, Aditi, would hardly like to budge. Being a bachelor, I had no toys suitable for a child, but I dug out a plastic duck and some colored paper to make paper boats. For hours, the pretty child would float the boats and bathe the duck and simply decline to get out of the water. All the time she spoke to the duck and admonished the boats to stay afloat. At times she even crooned messages that I could not decipher but were possibly meant to encourage her fleet of boats and the solitary duck.
Aditi is no longer six – even her daughter has long passed that landmark – but that happy memory, of a child playing, crooning and enjoying herself in my home, remains a vibrant souvenir. It didn’t take much to make her happy besides a tubful of warm water and a watchful uncle who would supply another paper boat when one got thoroughly wet and sank. Years haven’t blurred the dulcet tune of a child’s melody that moved boats, inspired a duck and filled the heart of an unimaginative, inexperienced adult.
These are the memories that endure and do not fade. In life a thousand things go wrong, our work encounters a roadblock, our career takes a nosedive, our most trusted relations break, our children act with inhuman indifference, our closest persons hurt us mortally, and all our wounds fester and show no sign of abating. We need something to hold on to, something nobody can take away. Then, to our rescue, come our happy memories. The reminiscences that stay with us, give us sustenance on our darkest days and, on a bright beautiful day, suddenly and miraculously charge us with the joy of living that perhaps should be our title evermore.