Memory is a funny thing. It tends to build upon the past in such a way that the very earliest ones are buried deep beneath the foundation of consciousness. Total recall is an expectation to laugh at and the contents are so hazy that most of the times I wonder whether these qualify as memory or just a concoction of my brain painting an inaccurate vision of the past.
My memory takes me back only as far as when I was 3-4 years old. The preceding years that I spent in Calcutta find their manifestation only in family photo albums and that is the only reason why I can somewhat agree to the notion that they really happened.
Coming back to what I actually remember, I remember the vast housing colony of Roopnagar in the middle of nowhere (also known as Valia somewhere in south Gujarat, to be more specific) for the GNAL factory where my dad had been hired. I remember the ground-floor flat with the two verandahs- the front and the back where Kelo and Bhuto, two mongrel puppies would show up everyday for food scraps doled out by us delighted children. I have almost a hallucinogenic image of the grounds that lay behind our building. The lawns seemed to be without end as I would run on the neatly mowed grass and do an occasional roll to soak up the refreshing moisture that remained stowed away in those tiny blades. On a sunny day with friends whose names I will never know, I'd be out on these lawns with nary a care in the world and for the most part, high on happiness and the freedom afforded by ignorance.
I distinctly remember Dad coming back from office and puffing away at his harmonica every evening. It was Dad's time-out after a long day at work so I'd sit unintrusively in the living room listening to the tunes being brought to life out in the front verandah. I never really found out what tunes they were because by the time I had reached an age of cognitive memory Dad had stopped playing the harmonica for reasons known only to himself. I am reminded of my Dad whenever I listen to "Hai apnaa dil to awaraa" but not exactly because my dad was as debonair as Dev Anand in this song. It's more because of the carefree attitude exuded by the song and it's harmonica segment. The song seems to resonate with my Dad's throw-worry-to-the-winds approach to life perfectly.
I also recall with chilling clarity, the laugh of the hyenas that lived beyond the boundary walls of our colony in the dead of night. This was still a really wild place a few steps outside the periphery of this enclave of man-made shelters and late at night the hyenas ensured that no one ever forgot this fact. With the numerous stories of hyenas making off with children being told to us to rein in the wayward behaviour of us kids, there were nights spent soaked in cold sweat and unspoken terror of what lurked a stone's throw away from the protective circle of our colony. I am not sure that my parents intended to scare me that much but boy, were they over-achievers in this respect!
As I dig up these old memories, it's hard to believe that it is my own life that I am talking about. I suppose any event when sufficiently in the past ceases to be a reality, ending up as a pile of fine stardust filtered through the multiple sieves of time, only to be scattered further by the wind.