By Prithvijeet Sinha
These are strange times indeed when the invincibility of human life dependent on modern technology, as a concept, has been challenged by the buzz of something beyond natural comprehension. In moments of lockdown and quarantine, care and concern dovetailing towards one of protracted patience like never before, we have come to cherish the beauty of creating memories by staying put. Since I have never been the one to believe in one selective point in time to retrace steps back to lingering mental snapshots of days spent with the loved ones, I relay that one instance among many regarding memorable jaunts around my city Lucknow with some of my closest relatives. It’s an admixture of nostalgia, travel narrative and memoir, which I feel can inject a little bit of joy and positivity in these pensive times.
This one narrates the meaningful time that my sister Veerangana and I spent with Rohini Bua (aunt), one of the most magnanimous personalities anybody can ever wish to meet. Daughter of one of my father’s paternal aunts settled in England, she has frequently divided her time between her home and the cities of Pune and Lucknow. As for Bua, she communicates more with her gentle smile than with words. She glows with positive words and has been by her parents’ side dutifully, something which is rare to find in this day and age.
She was her usual calm and composed self when we went to visit the imposing location of my school, La Martiniere Boys College, on a clear, sunny day in December 2017. It is a palatial structure of such imposing beauty that one visit can arrest one’s imagination for perhaps a lifetime. Founded by Major General Claude Martin in the nineteenth century, its brilliant Gothic architecture is a standalone monument of great agency for locals and tourists alike, besides being a premier educational institution. One can find history seeped in its nooks and crannies which has received a new lease of life today.
The trip followed a housewarming party organised by my family the previous night, in which Bua was present along with her parents. She was so immersed in our new surrounding that she decided to stay till late hours to converse with us, relax and, of course, relish the always palatable Awadhi cuisine. She stayed on even as her parents left earlier owing to travel and their advanced age. I particularly recall how she loved eating the traditional sheermal rotis.
This was, in turn, pleasantly reminiscent of the time when she had willingly accompanied my father and some other relatives to the by-lanes of the old city to enjoy its ambience as much as to relish the authentic fare offered by Tunday Kebabi, an institution dedicated to the preservation of the city’s fabled cuisine for about a hundred years. As opposed to what many foreign returned individuals are wont to do, she enjoyed being with the diverse crowd and the food. It was a real jaunt for her, in the very true sense. She is the kind of person who takes each moment as it comes. I intertwine one memory with these others to paint a composite picture of family ties. Good food and pleasant conversations, after all, are the bedrock of such get-together and I’m lucky to have received the opportunity to commit them to the receptacles of my mind.
Coming back to our trip to La Martiniere, Bua took in the sights with a silent smile and captured individual photos of the famed building. It was a special occasion for me as my sister was visiting the place many years after she attended it as a junior school student. She was surprised to see how vibrantly it had been transformed in these years. We visited the outer facade of the Alliance Francaise institute housed within the campus. The school’s garden has been impeccably maintained by the staff. We were fortunate to meet its current Principal and chief architect of the institute’s overall turnaround, Mr. Carlyle McFarland, who was there in the garden along with his two canine companions, one of them a cute little beagle. I introduced him to Bua and my sister as the cool shade of the trees enveloped us. When we talk about a profound ambience, this place ticks all the right boxes.
A host of butterflies swarmed as if to share the joy of this august company. Bua was delighted to see a Nativity scene in miniature placed on the outer rim of the garden, indicating an imminent Christmas. We took in the spectacle of kids practicing synchronised skating in the inner Spence Hall.
Recently, I have made a point to enquire about my relatives’ health, given the current situation around us. I have ensured to be in touch with Rohini Bua. I feel harking back to these memories is a pleasure now. It hope Bua’s spirit will be lifted by reading this essay and recalling those moments from not so long ago. As for my readers, make it a point to reach out to the near and dear ones and share the warmth of memories, making the current social turnaround one of courage and goodwill. It is time to be united.
Prithvijeet Sinha is from Lucknow. After completing his MPhil, he launched his writing career by self-publishing on the worldwide community Wattpad in 2015 and on his blog ‘An Awadh Boy’s Panorama’. He has published in several journals such as Gnosis Journal, Reader’s Digest, Café Dissensus Everyday, Café Dissensus Magazine, Confluence, The Medley, Thumbprint Magazine, Wilda Morris’ Poetry Blog, Screen Queens, Borderless Journal, encompassing various genres of writing, ranging from poetry to film reviews, travel pieces, photo essay, and culture.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.