I’ve come to my native to spend a week of A Jr’s summer vacation with my father. Few days ago he got some minor brickwork done in the house like getting some windows closed and getting some door frames changed, as well as some major furniture rearrangement.
Due to this a lot of Mom’s ‘collected’ stuff lost it’s coveted position and was literally left lying on the floor because, try as he may, Dad simply didn’t know how and where to begin to put it. While our maid had a field day (or week) due to lesser work, he was eagerly waiting for me to land there and help him keep it properly in a way Mom would approve.
The scattered heap of clothes and books in my room never bothered me but when I couldn’t even see the colour of the floor tiles anymore and couldn’t find any place to keep our suitcases, I knew we had to sort the mess out with a vengeance.
Most of it was easy for me to put away since I was Mom’s wing man when it came to doing this kind of work. Routine stuff like her saris (which she carefully selected and preserved over many years and which we still cannot bring ourselves to divide or give away), new bedsheets, jewellery etc. didn’t require a lot of effort, thankfully.
While on one side I marvelled at her liking to spend so much on things that largely went unused, on the other side I came across some of her priceless memories in the form of some letters that Dad wrote to her during their engagement period as well as the time she had gone home for delivering me.
I had heard a lot about them from her and would have loved to get a whiff of the ‘purane zamane ka pyar’ wale confessions but the temptation to read them evaporated quickly as I didn’t want to invade their privacy. A doesn’t even send me an ‘I love you’ message and Dad wrote long letters when he missed Mom. How romantic!
I was playfully teasing him about it and begging him to teach his son-in-law a thing or two so I could hold on to something in his absence too. Dad didn’t utter a word, only managing a forced meek cursory smile somehow.
When I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and came back within a minute, to my horror, there was a big mountain of roughly torn bits and pieces of those letters at his feet. Not only did he not feel like reading them but also, in his own words, wanted to ‘do away with memories that only hurt’. As simple as that!
There I was, not letting him throw away a birthday card I had given to my brother when we were in college for its keepsake value and then there was Dad, who had razed away a large chunk of his marriage memorablia in one clean swipe without the slightest hesitation. I was speechless.
It is possible that I’m not able to understand the hurt a partner’s long illness and sad demise can cause to the one left behind. He wrote the letters out of love and concern, didn’t he? Did he feel no attachment with them? I couldn’t help wondering whether Mom would do the same if, God forbid, the situation ever arose.
I’m no one to judge Dad. It is the gender that confuses me at times. Do only women care more about preserving such memories? Can men really detach themselves so easily from things that mattered a lot to them at some point in their lives? Can they control their emotions? Can wiping out physical reminders erase the memories that were an integral part of them too?