I have spent so many quiet hours picking pebbles. Every morning after tea and oranges, I put on my sun hat, bend over the flowerbeds, and move the earth with my fingers.
I mostly find amoeba-shaped pebbles and rocks that I toss in the small pot I carry about. Sometimes, I find bits of plastic wraps and wonder how they ended up in the garden. Twice, or at most thrice, I have found stone beads perhaps from some jewellery or other. And once, I unearthed a coin that I covered with soil again.
For company, I have mother watering the plants, spring birds now returned from their winter sojourn, and occasionally a neighbourhood cat, Manoli.
There’s a constant ache in my chest. But I’m forgetting again and again what’s causing it. I ask myself, “Why do I feel so?” Then I remember.
And I remember her golden coat so shiny under the sun’s light as she sprang about the neighbourhood. And her soft eyes as she looked up every time I called out, “Hi girl,” from the balcony. And her haughty airs as she perched atop her throne of sawdust, paying no heed to the food that was laid out for her.
Sweety was everyone’s and no one’s. She was free. But she was so proud. She reminded me sometimes of the Little Prince’s Rose. Perhaps she had reasons enough for her pride. She was young and beautiful and feminine in her graces. She was the darling of the neighbourhood.
How she tested mumma’s patience every time she brought her food. Mumma would wait, call out her name again and again, and at last leave the warm food down below to turn cold. Sweety would still feign indifference, her nose pointing towards the heavens. But let another dog so much as sniff at her food and how she would growl.
I didn’t care much about Sweety. I had known her only two years. I had touched her only once, her soft forehead. I didn’t care much about her, at least not as much as mumma and Kriti did. Mumma composed a song for her that she sang all day, all night. And Kriti said Sweety was her own. But I didn’t care much about her. Perhaps because she didn’t care about me at all. A Rose, a Rose!
I feel so much like a planet,
like a body made
of the matter of the universe
rotating round my axis
through time and dark space.
It’s the same, everything,
day follows night follows day
word follows word follows word
and the same pattern is as though
written into infinity.
This train of thought began with a crashing sound. I looked down and saw my ceramic coaster in five broken pieces. How many cups of tea it had borne the heat of, how many dark round stains it had endured while I was busy poetry writing…
It happened in the early hours of the morning. I was dusting the room when my careless hand swept over the coaster and it slid off the table and onto the marble floor. Mother in the kitchen thought the monkeys had attacked us again. I told her it was only a coaster and she let out a sigh.
I picked the pieces and left them on my table. I made the bed, wiped the mirror and the windowsill, and opened the window for fresh air before returning to the coaster pieces. I would have thrown them, why certainly I would have, and I almost did. But they didn’t look beyond repair.
For the past many months, I had been searching for a jewellery box.
My search began because of a present. For my 24th birthday in February, my parents gifted me a dainty, darling diamond ring. I wore it at all times during the day, and even slept wearing it a few nights.
But every time I took it off, I would have no choice but to abandon it to the cold and impersonal jeweller’s box it came in.
And so, for the past few months, I found myself strolling the online marketplaces, looking for the perfect box to safeguard my ring.
There was a glass box with a tiny clasp I liked, but its fragile transparency stopped me from getting it. Another was a velvet box with floral prints, but it seemed too rectangular for my round ring. I may have liked a wooden box, too, but was put off by the reviews. And thus was my hunt for the perfect jewellery box on until…
The other day I was cleaning some old and forgotten drawers with my mother. That’s when I first saw it. It was a box of the perfect everything—colour, shape, size, and even touch.
I’m remembering so much of the past these days. Perhaps because there’s time enough for recollection. Or perhaps because I feel far removed from it, as though I’m only recollecting a story that is someone else’s.
I’m remembering my younger days in a cardboard box. And the years I lived in the city studying literature. I’m sometimes also remembering a lover from yesteryear and inevitably remembering a part of myself I had begun to forget.
And today, I’m remembering an old Uncle Graham.
I did not consciously choose to remember him, as though it’s in our power to choose who or what we remember.
Uncle Graham was a silver-haired Englishman I met on a vacation. The year was 2008 and the location was a seaside resort.
I was 10-years-old then, but I still remember most of it. We first met in the dining area.
“Good morning!” He wished my sister and myself as we passed him by.