Leave the past in its permanent home. Do not make that reality so strong that it tears down this one.- Jeanette Winterson
It's amazing how you'll remember things that you hadn't held so very dear to you when they were in the present. I finished school a few months before I turned 18. Seven years down the line, when I think of school, the first two images that come to mind are of Kanchi didi, the Nepalese ayah at kindergarten, with her "lal dawai" - a mysterious bloodred concoction of Lord knows what devilspawn that worked wonders on cuts and sores - and Johnny, the ice cream man. Kanchi didi never tended to me, I spent most of nursery and KG being bitten by my friend T, who was quite the bully then, and has since metamorphosed into the picture of grace and comeliness. 20 years ago she was running riot, making boys and nursery teachers alike howl in pain. Now she frowns upon my decadent lifestyle and is often to be found shaking her head in disapproval at the world at large. She's getting married soon, to Gullu Mian, who adores her and looks suspiciously like her ex-crush/my ex-boyfriend. It's complicated. On the upside, he's nicer than ex-crush. By far.
Johnny had a white cart and sold Kwality ice cream. I'm sure he must've switched to Walls, but that's not worth a memory. I reckon his name wasn't really Johnny. In all the time I was at school, which is all the time one can possibly be at school, I hadn't once spoken to Johnny. T used to climb up one of the wheels of the cart and peep inside the freezer. There was something other-worldly, positively magical about the way the brown, skinny man in shorts would let screaming children harangue him, would chide them good-naturedly and sell his ices all the while - with artful precision. Like a juggler, really.
It could be that I remember more of him than was. The past will do that to you, because when you know it isn't coming back, you'd like to remember the best parts. What amazes me, though, is that I would ever consider Johnny and Kanchi didi to be so much a part of that past that makes up my childhood.
Not that any of this discounts the severe sense of loss I'm feeling at having donated my favourite bookmark to one of those spoilt little mutts I frequently travel with on the Metro. They're the same lot that picks on smaller kids and thinks passengers are waterbeds, all the better to headbutt, jump and stamp their feet on. Bloody kids, with bloody puppy eyes. But there's only so much you can do when you're trying to catch up on a good book and this tiny little thing keeps poking her head in and playing with your bookmark. It's kind of sweet, all said and done. I just wished this bunch had more manners. But my poor pretty bookmark with lemony cats and cat's ear edges. It was a gift from my UK mashi too and had silly puns made with cats and literature - like "Cats 22". Crazy cute. I heart pretty bookmarks. It's the only one I had too. :-[ It's not even like I gave the thing to her. I only handed it over to her to keep her busy while I got on with my reading. But then she started showing off to the others that I'd given her this "thing". And then she showed her mother, who said, "Uff, abar koththeke ekta aborjona tuley enechhe!" and everyone else laughed, and I glared at the mum and asked the kid with as much dignity as I could muster, "Nebey?" She nodded vigorously, the little demon.
You think I may have got bullied into parting with a favourite possession by a 6-yar-old who has no use for it?
I'm never having a screaming kid, I promise. I'm never having anything that isn't well-behaved.