Friday, December 01, 2006

THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT

For well over 25 years, I had resided next to a cemetery. I am told that we moved in next door to the cemetery when I was 2 years old. I moved out 27 years later. In my early childhood, I was mortally scared of the place. But as I grew up, the fear gave way to respect. And today I can say I did learn some unforgettable lessons in that desolate place.

When fear gave way to a sense of macabre curiosity, the cemetery became a favourite haunt for me and my two friends. Attending funerals and observing the ritual of burying the dead became a pastime. There were many instances that left an indelible mark on us. One such incident took place in the early 70s. There was this funeral of a 36 year old lady. When the time came to close the coffin the children clasped the lid of the coffin and refused to allow the pall bearers to do their job. The relatives had a tough time consoling them and taking them away. Suddenly, my friend, standing next to me started bawling; a few eyebrows were raised & he too was whisked away. (We had a tough time extricating him from the clutches of the doting relatives) The congregation was moved to tears. It was, to this day, the most tearful funeral that I have attended. I cried too….

The next day, the children came to the grave with flowers. They came day after day. Days became months, and months transformed into years. I observed that the visits of the children became scarce and then one day the visits just stopped.

The years went by. We continued our sojourns in the cemetery. Then one day, in the 80s, 1983 or so, a car drew up to the cemetery gate. The occupants of the car, 3 young girls, got out of the car. They were carrying a bouquet of flowers. My friends and I had reached that golden age when anything in skirts would draw immediate attention. So it was that we gawked at them. They seemed lost. They were searching for a grave. I recognised them as the children at that funeral. I attracted their attention and motioned them over towards an unkept grave. My friends helped me clear the undergrowth. There beneath the wild grass and creepers lay the grave of their mother!

We walked away. There was silence. I looked over my shoulder. The girls had placed the bouquet of flowers on the grave and were gingerly making their way back towards the car. It looked as if they were making a quiet getaway. One of my friends, the same guy who had bawled at the funeral, muttered ‘What’s this life!’


M’mries,
Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-color memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
M’mries, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So its the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember...
The way we were...
The way we were...

(From the movie THE WAY WE WERE)

6 comments:

Praveen Agarwal said...

simply touching sir!!!

rt said...

Its life isn't it!!

KAPIL said...

You never know....What's going to happen next??

Pratibha said...

I liked the way you told a poignant story with pieces of jest in it...nice one..once again!!

Harsha Shettigar said...

very touching!!

Hogwarts said...

its touching tht those children came back after so many years...i mean some say time is the best healer but then time is also the one which makes us relive the happy memories and also mourn the losses...- joydeep