Memoirs Of Hyderabad
I remember playing on the streets here years ago. The fierce football matches of a 12 year old were the centre of my days…at least in memory. Those were hot afternoons on a dusty street with a half digested lunch in my stomach, screaming at my teammates as I tried not to break the neighbors’ car. It recedes into a distance with time…the memory that is; the place is still here, whenever I come back to it.
You can’t quite cut off a memory from the place it was born in, it lingers like the stump of an umbilical cord; ugly. Places like people, grow older but they age because of this very stump, the remnants of the umbilical cord. A memory from a time that is cut off from what it is today; that is not quiet in touch with changes, no memory can…and so they wither away… Shouldn’t they?
The government officer’s colony looks almost the same with a few bureaucratic touches. The slides, swings and jungle gym in a sandy park have given way to a manicured lawn, trimmed hedges and a walkway. I can’t play in it anymore as its bad for the grass. Like Professor Pollan used to say, that a lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. Signs of age I suppose. The children have grown up and left and a new generation have been born in the age of the x box that doesn’t play outside together anymore. How alien that sounds now; ‘outside’, ‘together’ the words don’t seem relevant to them. But are they still children or is this word too a remnant from a time cut off from today? They have almost disappeared, children; a diminishing social species. But 8 years ago they were right here in the park on the swings, jumping through the jungle gym!
I wonder what they did to those old swings and jungle gym. I used to naively imagine them lying somewhere in a dark corner; forlorn and if I could only find them… I know now that they were probably sold as scrap metal, melted in an industrial forge and from there, who knows? They may even be in the barb wire that keeps me out of parks and abandoned rooftops…
It’s not nostalgia that I feel. There were times I hated this place; nights when I was sure that I could be happy somewhere else! The nights are the other things I remember. I loved the cool quiet and dark nights. Enveloped in the protective darkness and liberated by it they had a quality to them that a day could never have. At night, the colony barely resembled itself. The thrum of the city petered down to the drone of distant vehicles out of sight, quiet enough for you to hear the leaves rustling…the murmur of voices inside houses.
The streetlights permeating through the canopy, the withered leaves on dusty streets and the night wind inspired my first attempt at poetry… The attempt of course came much later, sitting in another city in a night that made me think of this one long ago.
The other day, I spent a warm winter afternoon grazing an old field for memories. The IAS officers association next to it has over the years been encroaching on the field and now I think they use it for functions and other such official fluff. As the dense shrubbery and trees surrounding the field was burned down an old roof emerged followed by a dilapidated building. A mud laden staircase led up to a crumbling portico where a marble tablet claimed that it was once a madhouse. Age had certainly helped solidify its identity giving it that sooty and haunted look cartoons associate with such places. Just the thing that would catch the fancy of an excited 12 year old, who would have gone home with a sense of wonder and el dorado buzzing in his head. I smiled at the thought; I was 12 years too late however.
Nothing quite reminds you of who you were like old habits left behind in familiar spaces. The ease with which they become me mocks my claim of having left them behind. And as much as I distance myself from them their comfort reminds me of just how well we know each other. There must be more to me than this though, even then I was always becoming who I am today, who I may still be becoming…wasn’t i?
Answers unlike destinations are rarely marked on a road-map, but they can be found. More apt however would be to say that they find you (it wouldn’t be a thrill if you knew how and when to get them) Sometimes it’s just about waiting patiently in the right place, at the right time, in the right frame of mind while being sensitive to what may come your way, just like fishing I would say and there is nothing more exciting than the thrill of the first nibble vibrating the rod in your hand, but now you must be patient, draw in the line slowly while waiting for the sharp tug to tell you its hooked. The catch however is that you are really the fish. I could never let go of an answer once it hooked me. I followed it endlessly through a maze of empty streets.
I went fishing that night in the madhouse looking for that fleeting jism of excitement I knew was waiting there for me a decade ago…could it still be here? Maybe…Pigeon shit had formed patterns on the floor that looked like one of Pollock’s better works. The dust and cobwebs were immense; untouched by destructive housekeeping .The webs had become large and intricate enough to cover doorways. I walked slowly, conscious of the sound of my feet and the filth around me with the hair on my neck standing. You will never not fear the dark, no matter how much you grow up, never not look over your shoulder suddenly alert to the pat of pigeon feet thinking of something..worse.
I wait here in vain for the revenant of my 12 year old self to find what he always wanted. To acknowledge that he is now just a memory…knowing it is not true.
Bio/Poetic Statement: Arsh Selvyn is an aspiring philosophy student and will be doing an MA shortly.
Philosophy has long drawn from and has a conflicted relationship with poetry. A tension which is infinitely productive to writing at large. It is at the site of such a tension where I would like to locate myself. Poetry as of form of writing is a deeply personal expression, hence lends itself well to autobiographical pieces – prose as a form provides one with the adequate emotional distance to reflect on what one has experienced. Perhaps this is what I seek, writing this short snippet of a memoir.