It’s not such a bad idea to flip through old papers and brick-bats, is it? There was a time, I remember, when I used to collect each travel ticket I purchased. Everyday. That had resulted in quite a number of thick and colourful wads of little souvenirs. To satisfy the curiosity of people around, I had used them to make bookmarks and distributed them among friends. They still remind us of our time together in a city many of us have left.
Last week I happened to stumble upon a few such memoirs. They were still there in my handbag — even though more than two whole years have passed since the time I acquired them. As I fished out one thing after another, I squealed in delight! One of them was an old Calcutta metro ticket that I managed to keep with myself because the kiosk at the exit had suddenly broken down. I’m told that the metro tickets have changed since then — and I am a proud owner of one of those rare, old relics. See the one I pasted the wrong way in my diary? Excitement, clearly, is not the best ingredient for quality control!
Another favourite happens to be two food bills that I had saved to settle accounts with my food supplier — Dabbawallah, to be precise — one of the most brazenly dishonest and dramatic people I’ve ever met. The day I terminated the contract and asked him to return my money, he narrated the most moving tear-jerker ever; about his son being severely ill in hospital, and he being in debt because of medical expenses. Boy was apparently suffering from a bad case of dysentery. I didn’t doubt him entirely at that point, no — but it was my money, and I did not want to part with it merely because a man can’t look after his family without begging for alms. So I told him to return the amount, as and when he could, to my friend who was living in the same hostel with me. I was leaving the city, and was sure never to see him again. Turns out that the said friend followed me after a year, and Mr. Tear-jerker gave her the same story. I remember I asked her whether it was the same boy that had the year-long dysentery, but that’s one missing fact I’ll never know. Doesn’t matter. Mr. Tear-jerker was destined to find mention in these pages; so here they are — my food bills for his medium to very bad food.
The two photographs below are of pages that are from the same period of my life. The first one is of a little entry I made after I moved to Bombay with a new job. I was reading voraciously and loving every moment in the city. There were pangs of nostalgia back then too, and what makes it all the more special is the little Bengali script in the middle with a few lines of a Tagore song scribbled out. The second one is a receipt for a cab we booked for going around Aurangabad to see the Ajanta and Ellora caves. I had promised my friends a little vacation — and off we went soon after I settled down in Bombay.
Now all these seem like they’re from another planet — so much have changed in such a short time. And although I’m not dying to go back to those days, there is this inexplicable sense of loss that is overpowering me every time I look at these pages. And what I say here is just the tip of the iceberg; so much goes unsaid, and still more is lost in transit.