Watch paint dry.  Watch grass grow.  We have heard these and similar expressions often and scoffed at both the idea and any one who would indulge in such “time pass” pursuits.  Over the past week, I have done just this so to speak, albeit unintentionally.

Old habits die hard while some become a part of one’s nature.  Getting out of bed each morning I shuffle over to crack open the window.  It is most refreshing to wake up to the sights and smell of nature.  As all the senses come alive gradually, one becomes conscious of the most trivial of things that might otherwise go unobserved and unfelt through the rush of a busy day’s routine.  For instance, it is interesting to observe how each day over the past week the brown straw-like grass that emerged from under the melting snow has changed its color.  Turning from a dull yellow-green to pale green and now emerald green in ever-enlarging patches, it is a wondrous sight.  Par for the course for most people, yet others might compare it to the feeling of awe experienced by young parents who easily notice each new action by their young toddler.  Dark green shoots of crocuses, daffodils and other vegetation have sprung up and confidently grow taller each day.  Likewise, the leafless trees full of birds of all types and the neighborhood that has come alive with squirrels and bunnies emerging from their winter hibernation to run about.

Is there a “memory” that is activated and guides the flora and fauna to come alive at just the right time for it to flourish? Science can no doubt provide the rationale behind all this.  But, as my mentor (Late) Prof. Singh used to say, “I often wonder about the power that guides each atom of the human body.  Some type of a universal memory must direct each cell to become a part of the liver and not the kidney; while another cell “remembers” to join others to form the heart and so on.  Nature surely must operate using a very powerful memory bank.”

The famous Urdu poet Jan Nissar Akhtar had written:

“… kitnii nikhrii sub.hen guzriin So many clear dawns have gone by
Kitnii mehkee shaamen chhaaiin how many fragrant evenings cast a shadow
Mere dil ko duur se takne To observe my heart from afar …
Jaane kitnii yaadein aaiin …” … don’t know how many memories have arrived

My own memory takes me back to 1977 when I first met my then fiancée’s paternal uncle Sai, who lived in England.  He was a bachelor with very “pukka” British mannerisms having lived there from the 1950s.  We hit it off from our very first meeting.  I was on a long secondment with a bank and would go over to spend most of my weekends with him.  We would dine with his friends, visit museums and historic places of interest or play badminton and grab a meal at his cricket club or the local pub.  Before retiring for the night, we would relish a round or two of fine cognac or single malt whiskey in his exquisite cut-glass collection of Waterford crystal and enjoy a chat while watching a show or cricket matches being telecast on the BBC or another channel.  I would often jokingly remind him to bequeath his fine collection of crystal to me; uncle Sai would smile and say, “Without a doubt, as you are one of the few people in my family who truly value and appreciate this stuff.”  We met a few times over the intervening years during our respective visits to India although my wife would call him every week, specially over the last year as his health continued to decline.  We had prepared ourselves for the worst so it was not a surprise to get news recently about his passing on.  However, we were very touched to learn from uncle Sai’s lawyer and Executor that he had left his crystal to me.  In spite of the passage of time, uncle Sai had not forgotten our conversations even if in jest, from over four decades ago!

My wife and I had enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Weber’s original production of Cats in London while staying with her uncle in 1981.  I dedicate Elaine Paige’s wonderful rendition of “Memory” to commemorate the times spent with our uncle:

I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin …”


2 Replies to “Memory”

  1. All the mysteries of the universe are to be found in our backyard, says the wise gardener I married many decades ago. If you wish to know what happened at the time of the Big Bang, just step outside. The explosive burst of life out of the nothingness of winter is Mother Nature remembering how it all came to be.


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