I’m in a mood today to jot down some childhood memories. I’ll try my best to put them in chronological order.
[A note: I was born on 22nd July 1993]
1) The angel voices (1993-94)
Strangely, my first memories are not visual. Actually, I don’t know whether that is strange at all, but it seems strange, because, you know, memories are supposed to be visual by default. Anyway, I remember snippets of voices of people (Mom, mostly) pointing out things to me. “Look, a cat.” “Look, the moon.” “Look, a bird.” Maybe I didn’t understand them back then or maybe I just didn’t look where they asked me to look, or maybe the sights were too common to register as long-term memories. Only the voices have been stuck irrevocably in my brain ever since, the contexts and the imagery forgotten. I wrote a short story about this phenomenon later, in tenth grade, where a kid suddenly starts remembering voices from his babyhood. I titled it The Angel Voices because in the story, the voices actually belonged to imaginary angels (quite lame, hence it landed in the waste paper basket).
2) Grandpa (1995-96)
The thing with old memories is that everything is partial. From my experience, a general memory has five levels of clearance:
• Other details (like smell, feel, etc.)
Meaning, first you remember it like a muted video, then come the emotions, then the voices, and so on. In this one, which is probably the oldest normal memory that I have, I am running down the stairs one morning to greet Grandpa. Upon finding him, I utter a strangest thing, I remember this perfectly and I quote myself: “I am 50 days old.” I recall being super excited that day, and the 50 days was supposedly the cause.
A memory without a context is a strange memory indeed. Later, when I shared this with Mom, she said it was probably because of a practice which I was taught by some uncle. Keep a count of days. Doesn’t matter from when, but just keep a count. It was supposed to teach me numbers and counting. Now you know why I suck at math.
3) The girl next door (1994-98)
Asansol is (or, used to be) a small homely town where neighbors were almost like family. The kids of Sripalli street shared an intimate bond, and I remember all eight of them perfectly as the miniature beings they were back then. Among them was Titli. Our houses had a common garden, and believe me, gardens were equivalent to fashion back then. Titli and I used to hang out in a small grassy patch, the only clearing among dozens of fruit and flower bearing trees, where we would spend hours every day. We were carefree souls and it would’ve been romantic, except we were too young to feel any sort of romance. We used to play really embarrassing girly games together, and even pledged to marry each other when we grew up, so that, you know, we could keep playing really embarrassing girly games forever! Oh, even the thought cracks me up nowadays. What is childhood without such silly stuff, eh?
The last time we met was like two years ago, after a gap of more than 10 years. She was all grown up and it was really really really awkward. Trust me, you can’t ever talk non-awkwardly to a stranger who has witnessed most of your embarrassing childhood acts. I think we even made a non-spoken agreement about never seeing each other again.
4) Dampu da (1999-04)
(‘da’ is a suffix we use in Bengali for elder brothers)
I’ll skip a few years, which contain few unimportant memories too embarrassing for this blog.
We had shifted to Kolkata and after moving around a lot, finally settled at State Bank Quarters, 19D Golf Club Road. Maybe it was because I was still a child, but I immediately became attached to the place and people and the Kolkata way of life. Those were the few peaceful years before the Pokemon craze hit us all. I believe I was in third grade.
Our new neighbor turned out to be an athletic fifteen-year old guy called Dampu who always donned a (and nothing but a) bermuda short. One day he turned up at our door carrying two tiny shoe-shaped erasers and said he thought they might fit me. That was the beginning of an era.
I was blinded by his awesomeness from the start. He was one of the few guys with a computer back then (even though we had a computer, Dad never let me install anything into it until I was ‘old enough’), and I started spending three-fourth of my waking time at his apartment. He was never rude, and for that I’m grateful because I can imagine now, how it must have felt to have a kid by your side all the time, especially when you are a teenager.
Thanks to him, I was introduced to games like GTA pretty early. It also quickly became evident to me that girls were crazy about him. That was probably a time for shy love and they conveniently made me their official messenger. These cute looking elder girls would often give me notes and chocolates and gifts, and ask me to pass them on to him. Imagine the nerves! Giving a kid chocolate and asking him to pass it on! I kinda decided that they were too stupid/heartless to figure that out, but I didn’t mind, since I got to keep the chocolates anyway. He would also read out some of the notes to me and give advices about the type of girl concerned.
Sometimes he would also teach me some academic stuff which my school hadn’t covered back then. Things I learnt from him included:
1. The structure of the solar system
2. The basics of evolution
3. The occurrence of two World Wars
We left Golf Club Road after four years of stay and somehow never got to meet him since. He left school and took up a dancing career later on. He played a considerable part in building up the person I am now and for this he’ll have my eternal respect. A true mentor.
5) Rivalry (2000-04)
A rival is one of those necessary things in life. At 19D Golf Club, there used to be two gangs of kids, one led by me and the other by a punk named Rohan. I was quite different back then; not the laid back and lazy person that I’m now, but a hot-head. Rohan used to be kind of a terror, and most importantly, he was always backed up by his parents to whom he was a gem. He used to go around puncturing our cycles’ tires and throwing mud into our faces, and whenever we gave him a beating his parents would appear from nowhere and reprimand us all.
There used to be bitter fights nevertheless, and mostly it’d be Rohan vs. me and I won most of them somehow till he started learning Karate. I remember one particular day when I took three straight punches in my face, which gave me a bloody nose, and in my rage, I gave him a hard kick in his belly. It was cheating (kicks weren’t allowed according to some unwritten rule); he had to be carried back to his home that day and we stopped confronting each other after that. That was the last fight I’ve had till date.
Rohan died of some disease in 2008, four years after I stopped living at 19D. I never got to know the details.
6) Mangalam Park (2004-11)
We shifted residence in 2004. Mangalam Park was extremely posh compared to the humble 19D apartments, but to be honest, I was utterly unimpressed at first since the last thing any eleven year old wants is to leave all friends behind and settle in a new place. But slowly I got into a warm group of friends and things carried on smoothly thereafter.
I would stop here, since childhood and teenage memories don’t go hand-in-hand. Maybe I’ll talk about them in some other post.