I have a board above my study table wherein I pin up anything that I find inspirational, aspirational or simply interesting. While the paper bits get changed almost every week, there is one clipping that remains. It is a yellow shabby sheet out of a pocket-sized diary. It says – ‘Ammu, I love you always’ written in green marker. Underneath is her sign. A curve around N of Nivya, written in fat bold alphabets.
Chechi had her moods. She would randomly sign on my brand new notes, right on the front page, much to my annoyance. This withered sheet was a reflection of one such instance. She had pasted it on the board saying that it should be left there permanently. I had given a sarcastic nod then, and continued with my work.
Months went past. The clippings changed from news about Obama’s announcement of Osama Bin Laden being killed to the curiosity rover being sent to Mars. During this period, she had got married and moved to her in-laws place permanently. The space in the shelf, which I used to fight for, now lay empty. The portion of the bed which I demanded for every night, now lay vast and untouched.
Years went past, the hollowness vapourised. The yellow sheet remained. Sometimes ignored, it lay beneath a pile of books and would be later excavated while cleaning, pinned up again. Sometimes I would find it hanging at an angle with one pin less to hold it. Be it during a hurried breakfast with mouth full of food or while inserting my tight sandals up my soles, I would always take a second to pin it up if I see it dangling on the board. It had almost become an involuntary action.
Then she left for the US. I remember smiling at the yellow sheet when back home after seeing her off at the airport. The idea of it resting right there somehow is comforting. The sheet talks to me. It pacifies me during stress, says things are alright, perfectly okay. It reminds me of the little garden we had in Haridwar, where as kids, chechi and I spent our childhood riding toy cars, eating unripe grapes and smelling jasmine. All those days when we used to apply ponds cream on our cheeks to get rid of the winter freckles and go to Kathak classes with three layers of clothing. It reminds me of the white frock with fat circular blocks and the huge cactus plant in our balcony. The smell of mango kept for drying and the sight of vulture outside our bathroom window, the same window through which we used to see mom and dad coming back from work in the Bajaj scooter. It’s surprising that this shabby scrap holds the key to such memories.
A few days ago I had unknowingly discarded it along with few other bits. After scavenging inside my files and shelves, I found it lying inside the bin along with a banana peel. Now it rests on my board again, neatly pinned up, yellow and rusty as ever.