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Devendra's Log

Living the past from memory

Our parents shape us. They give us our early aspirations, a safe environment to grow in, and lots of love. My early memory of my parents are lost in time but snapshots of a few poignant moments resurface from time to time.

One such memory is of a time I traveled with my mother and sister to our grandparent’s village. I probably wasn’t older than four. It was quite an experience and involved a harrowing moment when I woke up in the middle of a thundery night. Upon our return, the happiness of seeing our family reunited with Dad is still fresh in my mind. I remember telling him that I felt the ground rocking under me, a sensation bound to be familiar to anyone who’s gone on a long train trip. I remember playing with a new doorbell Dad had installed during our absence, and which we took to every new place we moved to hence.

One particularly traumatic memory is of an occasion when we had visitors at home. My sister must have hardly been two years old. She was a particularly rebellious child at that age. Dad had purchased a sore throat syrup for me that she wanted to have too. Her requests were denied but she’d observed keenly where the bottle was kept. One evening, when my parents were busy entertaining guests, she dragged a chair and got hold of the bottle. She drank half the bottle by the time I discovered her, groggy and just shy of falling unconscious. Dad rushed her to the hospital and we had a tense night awaiting news about her.

Another memory involves the belief system my parents inculcated in me expanding to absorb a new one. In a certain sense, this represents what I do on a daily basis - look beyond my belief systems and absorb what’s new - new cultures, places, and technologies. I was a student at Saint Josephs High School at Colaba then and we lived about half a kilometer’s walk from it. As the name of the school may suggest, it was a catholic school. We said our morning prayers in the school Church and played around a Saint Mary’s Grotto during our breaks. I am not sure if the prayers were tied to any particular faith, but my fellow catholic students went to a different classroom once a week for religious studies. I was so overcome by curiosity once that I sneaked in with them into the classroom. The teacher was well into her daily routine when she saw me sitting with the rest of the students. I don’t remember the explanation she gave me but I was asked to leave the room.

Another memory is of when I discovered a library in the Naval colony. We lived in a block of apartment buildings called Jayeshta and Dhanishta. I am not entirely sure which of the two harbored our thirteenth floor apartment and which the library. I discovered quite eagerly that I could borrow books from the library, and all I had to do was give my Dad’s service number to the librarian. Dad was more than happy to help me memorize the somewhat long number. I happily recited it to the librarian and borrowed my first book. I have no recollection of his service number, or the book I borrowed, but it must have been an enjoyable one.