On Sunday morning, as I lay half asleep on the bed, I smelt childhood. The smell of Quality Street biscuits. The memory of the round tin with the buttery biscuits that I loved chomping down. It was weird because suddenly I thought of all the people I had almost pushed to the back of my mind, to the extent that now I have trouble remembering some of their faces and names. They were old people I knew as a child. For instance, there was Mr X (just can't remember his name) whose house was called The Haven. It was extremely ironical because his son had committed suicide in that very house. He was a sad man, my dad used to say. But to me he was a friend who used to call me Wax, play cards with me and chat with me for hours.
Then there were my three old neighbours. Their houses are opposite to ours. The extreme left hand side is the only one who is still alive. But Mr D doesn't talk to anybody now. I wonder why. He used to take me to the circus and whenever I used to catch sight of his wife we would wave to each other from our respective balconies with much vigour.
The other two are dead. Sometimes I forget it. And I expect them to be there when I go back. One of them, the owner of the house in the middle (It was the prettiest of them all. It was a small villa with flowers all over), was especially dear to me. Mr S had a swing in his house. And every day at 5 in the evening, I would be there to take a ride. I felt very privileged. After all it was not a community park thing that I would have to share with others.
Except that his dog Pixie was a bit intimidating. Initially she would growl and growl (I would make faces at her) but slowly she became used to me. Later I stopped making faces at dogs. Thanks to my friend Amy's dog Teddy, the hugest alsatian I have ever seen. The day he chased me and my other friend Sudakshina all over Amy's place (I happened to have pointed fingers at him which Amy had told me not to), I lost my fear of dogs. So with time I learnt to ignore Pixie even when she was in a black mood.
Mr S died in London. His mother is still alive and a broken woman. She hates the fact that has outlived both her sons.
Dr D, the third of my neighbours, used to give me medicines on every occasion. When I suffered from tummy aches to when I ran high temperatures. Last time I went back home, he was there. Now he isn't.
I miss them.
And there's a relative - an aunt's husband. I have seen him as a healthy man who would sit back and enjoy his drink, drive around a contessa with much pride. We used to live at the same time in Oman. They returned to Calcutta soon after us. I have the fondest of memories with him. Whenever I would meet him, I would plant a kiss on his cheek. It became a ritual with us except for when I grew up. Their house is near to ours in Saltlake. It is an ornate house with his paintings all over it.
When I was in college, I visited his place and carted out a huge canvas that was unfinished. After that whenever I visited his place, he ask me to bring it back for him to give it the finishing touch. He never got the chance. One day he had a stroke. Now he lies on his bed with one half of him paralysed. When I visited him last October, he saw me and tears ran down his cheeks. He couldn't speak. He had to be fed like a little baby by a nurse.
How things change. And how they make one overwhemingly sad.