Coming from a middle class family in India, especially one with several members, it is quite unlikely for one to possess a family heirloom. There aren’t any sentimental childhood possessions either as they were all donated before the move from Mumbai to Bangalore 20 years ago. Materialistic possessions are anyway so temporary- perishable; it’s the memories that are to be treasured for eternity!
With the passing years, one tends to rely more on pictures to conjure up events of the past, but there are some that do not require a tangible entity, the memories remain entrenched in one’s minds forever!
Like the time, one evening, coming back home after playing with friends (I was around 8 or 9), I found my father eagerly waiting for me at the door. He ushered me into the dining area, brimming with excitement and said, ‘I have a surprise for you’. I followed him with puzzlement and wonder to the side table at the corner of the room. On top of the radio that stood on the table, there was a bird sitting motionless, barely a foot away from me, staring with beady eyes!
At first, I thought it was a stuffed bird and then it cocked its head to one side as if it was sizing me up. It was a mynah (a bird of the starling family) which had somehow found its way into that secure corner of our second floor apartment. I asked my father if I could keep it as a pet, but he flatly refused saying that birds are meant to be free, flying out in the sky, not confined in homes. The mynah remained there for a few more hours, confused and scared and finally flew out of the door that my father had left open for its sake.
The memory is a testament of my father’s kindness and childlike enthusiasm for many things, trivial or otherwise, in life. There are a few of his worldly possessions that I have held on to, things that embody his effulgent qualities.
This violin is a symbol of his joie de vivre and zest for life. He bought it after retirement in his continued quest for new learning. He even carried it to the US, when he, along with my mom, came to help me with my firstborn, to practise in his spare time. But I didn’t ever get a chance to listen to him play as he fell sick the very next day and passed away a week later. It is now lying broken in its case (damaged on its way back to India), and I hope one day to have it restored and learn to play it myself.
There’s nothing ornate or wondrous or antique about this stool. Rather, it embodies his spirituality and pious nature. He used it as a prayer seat; sat on it every single day after his morning ablutions, in a corner of the kitchen (which was also used as a prayer room) with his eyes closed in meditation. It continues to stay in a corner near the prayer room as we cannot dream of putting it to any other use.
A few of my favourite things? I doubt if I have any. But some I cherish as a legacy of a life of goodness, vivacity and devotion.