Tag Archives: memories

What is your earliest memory of falling sick?

Today, I was in a meeting in my office where they were talking about a program to teach kids about this pandemic, mainly educating them on the importance of handwashing and how that can help them from falling ill.

It made me wonder about how strange it must be to teach a kid what falling ill is all about unless they understand the feeling first hand. Though, I suppose, every child might have some exposure to having fallen sick by the time they get to schools and we teach them the importance of handwashing. But the whirlwind of thoughts took me back in time and made me wonder, what is my first memory of falling sick?

I remember a specific day when I had gotten fever after a school picnic – a definite case of food poisoning. I also remember multiple episodes of me running high temperatures, the taste in my mouth all bland, the sheer tiredness and turning round and round in the bed. Nothing felt comfortable. I preferred to lie right next to the wall touching the bed so I could derive the coolness of the wall as temporary relief. It felt horrible! It always does.

I also remember the bout of toothache in the middle of the night. A pain that originated in one tooth but seemed to have spread throughout the mouth and then travelled all the way up to the head. Hours staying up and putting toothpaste or cloves in the tooth for relief.

But no, I am struggling to remember my first memory of sickness. I cannot remember when was the first time right out of my mother’s womb I learnt what it feels not to feel the best version of myself.

How about you, dear reader? Do you remember?

The City-Dweller’s Diary | Part 1

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Every year in March, the non-evergreens shed their leaves. They shed a year of growth, tiredness, hard work, boredom, memories and lifelessness and go on to become homes to tiny neon-green leaflets. To become young again. To make more memories, to produce more oxygen, to become homes to countless birds, insects and squirrels. Year after year. Growth. Death. Renewal.

As humans, we don’t have a symbolic growth aspect. Our everyday is merged with our regularity. There probably isn’t one single moment which defines a significant change in life. It is gradual. Full of hopes. Full of fears. A literal step ahead, literal two steps backward.

Yet, over the years, our cells are constantly regenerating themselves. Our memories are become weaker – we are inadvertently forgetting some, forgiving some. We are becoming more accepting of the world around us – we are learning to live and let live. The hair is turning grey, and muscles are no longer taut. Yet, we morph into a version of ourselves which is less insecure of how the world sees us.

Traveler, behold! If you made a promise to yourself and never followed through: well, there’s a non-evergreen in everyone of us. Somewhere inside of yourself, you are shedding those leaves. Perhaps you don’t see yet, the growth of those neon-green leaflets. But in the moment you decide to wake up half an hour earlier to see the sunrise, to donate your old clothes to folks who need them more than you, in the moment when you let someone else take the lift because it is full and they are late, when you help a child to learn the alphabet – you grow a neon-green leaflet. Small. Fragile. So much so that it could break. Yet, in it lies the potential to grow bigger, stronger, the provider of purity that sustains the world.

So close your eyes, and nurture the neon-green. Because, at the end of the month, a deeper shade awaits you. Every moment. Every year.

The past that lingers on…

I am in my hometown, Durgapur, on a break for a week. It is the month of monsoon, and what greeted me first was the all-encompassing greenery and the damp weather. Durgapur primarily has a tropical climate: hot, sweaty, sticky. For the most of Summers the city is brown, but with the advent of monsoons, the shrubs and bushes and the trees claim the land – it is no short of an invasion. The bright, rich green is unashamed in its exploitation, and claims every inch of the land it can touch. It has a raw quality to it which soothes the eye and makes me remember the years in which human beings lived in jungles.

Durgapur is where I grew up, went to school, played with friends. It is a well planned city, with mostly good, wide roads lined with trees. The neigborhoods are calm and silent. Traditionally, people used to work in the steel plant that Durgapur is famous for. Nowadays, kids study and move out of the city all the time, settling down in different parts of the country, and sometimes, even the world. Durgapur has a few good schools which lay the foundation for good careers. Today, while I was on my morning walk, I saw schoolkids in variety of uniforms, in buses, pool cars, on parents’ scooters and bikes, rushing towards school. One of the girls was behind her father on the scooter and she had a bunch of papers in her hand that she was studying; probably for a test at school. This took me back to my school days, when I used to climb onto the school bus, and find myself a seat next to the window and go over the copies one more time before we reached school. The world has changed a lot since I graduated from schools: I did not own a mobile phone until I went to college. But to see that still some things remained same – some kids to this day are as studious that I used to be – was weirdly satisfying. Note that now that I am grown up and have seen how professional life works, I realize that the number of hours put in studying is not always proportional to professional success and I would probably not encourage my kids to study while we were dropping them to school, but nonetheless, it is interesting to see that my hometown to this day remains similar to how I saw it growing up.

On my morning walks, I also walk beside the fair ground which hosts the Annual Rath Yatra to celebrate Lord Jagannath’s visit to his aunt’s house. In my childhood, this ground used to be a place of wonders: lots of snacks places, shops which sold cheap jewellery: necklaces and rings with shiny stones, toy shops which sold trains and cars and dolls and tiny houses. There was also a book fair, which was my favorite haunt. I used to wait for the entire year to buy one book at the book fair and read it many times in the coming months, over a bowl of muri and samosas. Today, when I walk through the narrow lanes of the fair ground, all I can see is the amount of dirt on the sides of the road and the crowd. It bothers me, even though as a child I looked forward to it. Today, I feel more at peace at home, enjoying the silence of the rooms I grew up in, sometimes going through the diaries I kept when I was younger.

Every time I come home now, I discover a piece of myself in those old notes in the diaries; I understand the things which drove me as a child, the things which made me happy. I miss the prayer ceremonies at school, where all the school kids stood in lines, as per their classes and in order of their heights, singing songs that glorified the country and the state and the mother tongue. I miss the ceremonies we used to host in the school where I played the role of an anchor, guiding the ceremony to a successful end. I miss standing on the stage to make a speech (even though it was something that made me immensely uncomfortable). I miss dressing up in sarees and bangles and wearing make-up and flowers in the hair for the occasional dance performance. These things are no longer there in my life – somewhere, I have lost the creative influence that surrounded my childhood likes clouds around a snow-capped mountain. I miss it and I crave it and I want to become part of something similar again.

In all my writing, I have realized, there is a craving for the past, of something that exists in my memory (sometimes in the vague, muddy manner that is characteristic of dreams). It feels strange that I have lived through my childhood and it is really over, for in my heart, I somehow never grew up.

Frozen Memories

The below story has been applied to four flash fiction magazines and duly rejected. Yet, this story is very special to me. So, I’m putting it out for you all to read. Do let me know what you think of it in the Comments.


Frozen Memories

When I lie on his lap, my head nestled in him, he tells me stories of all the good times we have spent together. He remembers every date we met, every conversation we had. He remembers every time I have said something nice to him, praised him for keeping a promise. When I hear him narrate the days of a previous summer, it feels as if I am in a story. I see us together in that story, sitting cross-legged on the green, grassy field under the stars, watching kids play football at a distance.

As I listen to him, I wonder what it must be to be him every single day – to have little compartments in his mind, filled with happy memories, like shiny wrappers filled with dark chocolate balls that melt within moments in your mouth. Oft times I have wondered, how is it that he recalls the plainest remark I made on any day when months later I have no memory of it? Is it because he hangs onto every word I say with the kindest attention, because he loves me so much? His memory is like an ancient family heirloom – something I have learnt to cherish ever since I discovered it. His memory makes me feel powerful: even though the day is long gone, I know he can make it as real to me as if it were today.

Today, it is different. Today we had a bad fight. It is past midnight and I am lying on the sofa. He is in the bedroom. I bristle in the uncomfortable heat, cursing the broken air conditioner. I am ruminating on the bitter words he and I exchanged earlier.

The thought comes like a sudden chilly wind of a winter morning. If he remembers every date we have met, every word we have spoken between the two of us, he probably remembers every single fight we have had, every venomous word we threw at each other too. Does he compartmentalize his memories in boxes then – pink-red boxes for the happy ones and dark, ominous ones for the poisons?

What it is really, then, to be him, every single day? What is it like to be someone with an infinite reservoir of memories, memories that you cannot erase away? Can you, then, ever escape from naturally drawing on happy memories when the times are good and on the bitter ones when the tides are rough? Is that possibly why he froths a little more venom with every next fight? A little more intolerable, a little more uncaring?

The prickling heat of the sofa is engulfs me slowly, completely, like a water demon. Suddenly, I am breathless. I walk to the balcony and wait for a breath of wind to kiss my face.

There is no wind. The trees are as still as a colorful glass paperweight, frozen in time.

©2016 Arpita Pramanick

The Cottony Clouds in the Blue Sky

The August sky outside my window is a shade of royal blue. White, cottony blobs of clouds float in that vast blueness. In the countryside of West Bengal, soon kash flowers will start to bloom, announcing the arrival of Durga Puja, one of the most celebrated festivals among the Bengali.

Even though I spent the first few years of my life in Guptipara, a small rural town in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, the more conscious memories of my childhood are engraved in the soils and air of Durgapur, my present hometown. Durgapur being a city, you won’t probably see sprawling kash fields by the riverside. So, for me the arrival of Durga Puja in Durgapur was marked by the bright blue skies filled with blobs of white clouds. To this day, the sight makes my heart leap with joy, because it is associated with my childhood. It reconnects me to my past.

My fascination for the white, cottony clouds date back to when I was four or five. At the time we were still in Guptipara. We lived in a house which was home to a big, joint family. Our family had to itself two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom separate from the house, a well for drinking water and lots and lots of trees: wood-apple, litchi, mango, jackfruit, banana plantation and teak. There was big yard surrounding the house on three sides.

All our neighbours had the same surname. The ones on our left were especially close to us. My mother says the grandpa-like figure of that house loved me a lot and I spent a lot of time with him. One day, I walked up to their house, attracted by a blobby, white mass on the ground next to their verandah. There was no one watching me at the time. I knelt down beside the white mass – it resembled the clouds up in the sky that I loved to watch. The clouds have descended to the ground! Wow!

I checked to see if anyone was looking and sheepishly touched the whiteness. It felt wet. Suddenly, someone came and said, “That’s shaving foam, sweetheart. Go wash your hands, it is dirty!”

Eww! Gross!

As I write this, I feel numbly certain that this incident had happened but I can’t exactly be sure that it happened the way I am writing. Was there really no one around at first? I have a feeling that I was indeed alone. Did someone actually tell me that it was shaving foam, or did I realize it myself? Again, I am not sure. There are memories like this embedded in the cells of my brain of whose existence I am vaguely, at times seriously convinced of, but can’t bet on them.

Do I really remember things as they happened? Or is it some dream that I believe to be a memory? These anomalies bite at the back of the writer’s mind; she wants the truth. She wants to see through the sepia-tinted lens of time and find out what little Arpita loved to do, who she played with, what she played with.

At times, I am certain of the events that occurred, but cannot point them to any particular year. I have tried asking my mother, but her memory is weaker than mine with respect to such anecdotes. She is one happy little woman who is content with the present. I have never seen her speak to us about the past nostalgically. Even when I ask her about it, she is factual about what she remembers. I do not see any hint of the sentimentality in her that according to poets, are associated with memories.

My father wasn’t exactly there when I was growing up – when we were in Guptipara, he stayed in Durgapur, manning our medicine shop, visiting us once a month. Even after we came to Durgapur, I saw very little of him as he was at the shop the whole day.

The only persons who might have told me about the first few years of my life, my paternal grandparents, are dead. I lost both of them before I was ten. I will revisit their story in a subsequent chapter.

Sometimes I feel sad, not being able to construct the first few years of my life. Somehow for me, understanding the past holds the key to understanding myself in the present. I can’t accept that those years have simply slipped off my cognition, alive only through some feeble memories on whose authenticity I am not sure I can rely.

Perhaps that is why I look for the broken toys in the few old family pictures we have, because they bring back memories of something that had been, something more tangible than my fading memory.

Copyright © 2015 Arpita Pramanick. All rights reserved. 

Note: This essay is part of an upcoming anthology. To read my fiction pieces, please check out the Short Stories on this blog. You may also buy my Kindle ebook, Bound by Life on Amazon. It is available for only $0.99 until 19th August, 2015.



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