Even today I love to open my ‘box of junk’ as my spouse fondly refers to it as and browse through hundreds of letters and cards stored in it. Chits and bits of papers. I have sheets of notebook paper which I have torn out of my college notebooks. These are filled, not with study notes, but with notes which my friends and I passed to each other during lectures.When I read those notes its as if I am back in Deshmukh Madam’s class, trying to keep a straight face as I read a remark on a cute guy while she explains the causes of the Russian Revolution! I have cards sent through the years by my school friends. For birthdays and anniversaries. I have wedding invitations of my close friends lying in that box for over two decades now. What a plethora of memories lie in those pieces of paper!
When we were school kids, there existed the trend of having pen-friends or pen-pals. These were friends we made from all over the world, based on common likes, via a international youth service organization which helped children to strike up friendships across the globe. The friendships thus formed were totally on paper. In all probability we will never meet our pen friend in this lifetime. But that never stopped us from forging these friendships. I had four such pen pals, and I am still in touch with two of them. I still write to one in the old fashioned way, using a paper and pen. The other has graduated to emails. My children took sometime to understand the whole concept of this kind of friendship. In an age when there are online sites to strike up ‘friendships’ with a purpose and no strings attached, I can quite understand their perplexity at the purpose of a friendship forged through pen and paper, and nothing more.
My youngest sister lives in another city, and she thought up of the idea of communicating with her niece, my daughter, through letters. Good, old, blue tinted sheets of paper, sealed in an envelope with a stamp stuck on it. When I see the glee on my daughter’s face when she arrives from school to find a letter waiting for her, it brings a smile to my face. I remember that the post used to arrive at 11.30 every morning, and I used to hang around the door if I had a holiday from school, to see the letters drop through the letter slot in the door. She writes back to her aunt the same way. It is probably the only time she will connect with the postal system, a dying institution.
There is nothing wrong or right about the way things were done or the way things are done now. Its just that I like some things the old fashioned way.
A stolen glance
A missed call on a phone without caller ID
Someone playing a song on a stereo just for you
A note smuggled in
The ring of a bicycle bell below my window
A long forgotten letter tucked in an old book
Give me old fashioned, anticipatory love any day as opposed to
A whatsapp message
A voice message
My first born turned eighteen recently. And my younger one is touching twelve. Looking at them chatting away at the far end of the room, I could observe them for a while without them realizing it. Suddenly my son guffawed at something his sister said, and the corners of his eyes crinkled up just like mine. It was a déjà vu moment. I suddenly saw a bit of me in him. A reflection of my expression in his. I have been a mom for eighteen years and I still feel surprised when I look at my children. To think that I have created two living beings, who carry a bit of their parents in them, and their grandparents and great grandparents …well..a bit of so many people. And of course their individual traits. I see glimpses of all of us in them at the oddest of moments. It’s not only them. Some days when I gesture in a particular way or say a thing in a certain style, I see my mom in that gesture or word. I remember a day when my sister heard me scold my kids over some minor offence, and she remarked that I had finally become Mom. I had snapped back that I had been a mom for a while now. She then told me that I had heard wrong, and she had meant I had become Mom, meaning our mother, and not a mom. That’s how we are all a potpourri of so many traits, some fragrances being more dominant and some being dormant in us.
Every job has its perks and teaching isn’t any different. A teacher may forget a student, but rarely does a student forget the face of his teacher.
One of my close friends has been teaching senior school for over two decades. She has scores of ex students spread all over the city and in various professions. It is but natural that she bumps into some or the other student in the least expected place. Her husband good naturedly grumbles that they purposely pop up every where that she goes. I myself have experienced this when I go out with her. We have met her ex students in movie halls, in malls, in restaurants, on the street when we are out shopping, and in the shops we enter and suddenly realise that the store is owned by one of her student.
I remember one such instance when my husband and I were out with one of his senior business associates and his wife, Mr and Mrs X. The latter has also been teaching for years. After attending an official function we decided to have dinner at a well known restaurant close by. Though we knew that the restaurant rarely entertained anyone without a prior reservation, we decided to try our luck as Mr X was quite a well known face. When we reached there, as expected, the restaurant didn’t have a table available and inspite of a lot of cajoling, Mr X couldn’t convince them to give us a table. As we turned to leave , we heard someone call out “Madam”. We turned to see the Captain walking towards us. In his mid 30s, he extended his hand to Mrs X and beamed a broad smile. While we looked on puzzled, he greeted her and said that he was sure that she wouldn’t remember him, but he had been her student in school almost 18 years back. When she finally got his name and could recall which year she had taught him, he asked her to wait while he arranged a table for us.
We had a delicious meal that night. I am sure Mrs X didn’t let him hear the last of how, for a change, it was her popularity as a teacher which had secured us a table at a famous restaurant , as opposed to her well known husband.