I have an album of printed photos. (I feel the need to use the word printed since digital photos have become ubiquitous) I have many such printed photos, but I talk of this one for today. One humid July evening, two years ago, I had taken that album out to show to a few friends. Conversations went beyond the photos and their frozen instance, to animated scripts of events surrounding them. In an unintended mindless act, I left the album near the window sill; the night got long; and I went to sleep, leaving the album there.
This city’s rain is unforgiving in a way.
All those photos got washed out – the chemicals making an interesting pattern, though not recognisable ones I was used to in the photographs. Faces, backgrounds, trees and buildings either faded or become abstracted beyond recognition.
Those photos are lost to me forever.
Approximately thirty years ago, something similar had occurred. My father got transferred out of Hyderabad, and the memory of a few best friends was washed out by the incessant lashing of continuous new events and incidents. I continued to live a good life and the strong memories weakened every day as new ones forced their way in. The world as I knew it changed in these thirty years.
Then, the Internet and social networking happened.
I found one of those best friends from 30 years ago. We connected, talked, and became the same that we were when were, apparently cute, little eight-year olds.
We planned to meet up.
Only one word kept surfacing as I tried describing, to myself, the very funny feeling that continued to be surround me from the time I got into Mumbai Airport: Overwhelming.
When I reached Hyderabad, and saw him, the heart felt heavy. Not beating hard. Just heavy. In spite of that whitewashed part of me, I knew this person: always. That is something, somehow, I never forgot. Yet another part of me represented the effect of meeting a complete stranger. I had no context. I had no way to deal with this struggle, but I wasn’t bothered too much to deal with this struggle. An excited me collected his bags and walked out of Hyderabad airport, 15 minutes late. We hugged hard and long. I knew then, that we both felt the same way. Our memories from three decades had faded to a nothingness, but there was much that we cherished of that which was blanked out by time. After a very long time in my life, I have felt bonded purely by feeling and emotion — unadulterated, so to speak — by a memory or an event.
We didn’t have much to say. In our own way, without saying so, we were only telling each other how grateful we both felt. Thirty years of imposed amnesia couldn’t do much, as hard as it tried.
We discovered that the death of memories or the loss of connectivity did not matter.
What mattered, was alive and safe in our hearts.