Thursday, October 18, 2012
The man next to the room your dad was staying in played this song. You didn’t know what it meant. You were just about 4 or 5 years old. But you liked it for some reason. Thinking back, maybe he played it over weekends. He had a machine, which you later learnt was a gramaphone. It was fascinating that a spinning disc with a needle could produce songs. Who was singing? Where did they hide? When you were not being captivated by this machine, and this song in particular, you climb the short wall next to your dad’s room onto the tiled roof. You remember the mornings when your dad took you to the ‘hotel’ nearby for breakfast through a market selling fruits and vegetables. The whole restaurant smelled wonderful. It had a counter with the cashier sitting behind at a height. The counter had a red Coca Cola sign. You don’t remember what you ate, but you remember your father transferring coffee from tumbler to the ‘davara’ which is a flatter vessel to cool it down.
You remember the smell of jaggery being made. That’s what your parents and your family members you went with to see the new house they were buying. It was far from where you were living, with your cousins on one side, and the friendly neighbour who gave you a teaspoon of ‘powder’ which was ‘Ovaltine’ and a biscuit every morning. You remember the medley of smells from the small ‘petty shop’. An old woman is sitting behind a row of bottles, handing out cigarettes and candy to customers. She has huge gold jewellery hanging from her ears. You can see the big hole. In her ear from which the piece of jewellery is hanging, and you wonder if it hurts her. The smell of ripe bananas, cigarettes, groundnut cakes and other candy hit your nostrils. But dominating all is the smell of jaggery on this warm day. This song comes on from the small transistor radio in the shop. Later you would go to the place where they were making the jaggery. There was a well, and a thick tube stuck out of the well all the way out into a tank. The water rushed out like a frothing, liquid snake. You still the smell of the jaggery in your mind, and the song. Statue, statue, he was saying.
You were probably 4 or 5 years old, and it was the first few months of having been admitted to a school down the road from your house. You were playing with your cousins and friends all day long, and suddenly you were yanked from your familiar routine with familiar faces and thrust into this school with total strangers. You hated going to school every day. You hated saying good-bye to your elder brother who sat you on the front bar of the bicycle and took you to school every morning. You sat there on the edge of the bench and kept thinking of when your sisters will come with your lunch. After a while, you seemed to be getting used to the routine, not whole-heartedly, but whole enough not to feel so sad. Because you learnt that the kids you played with were also going to school. One day, around 11 am, while not listening to the teacher going on about something and daydreaming, your sisters come to your class and you see them talk to the teacher. Your new found friends want to know what’s happening. Soon, you are told to take your bag and go with your sisters. You couldn’t be happier. Once you are home, your mother is waiting for you. She says for you to get ready as you are traveling to meet your dad who is working in a town some hours away. You just follow her and go to the bus stop. Strange women smile at you and talk to your mom. It’s warm inside and you wish the driver would start the bus so some breeze would come in. There’s a smell of sweet fruit. Some mother buys ‘murukku’ from a vendor for her kid. You don’t get that as you are not allowed to eat outside food. Then you hear this song, rendered quite badly. You look around and see a girl with a small boy, and she is singing this song, and stretches her arm out for alms. You don’t remember if anyone put any money in that hand. You just remember the song.