Silence & Memories

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kanchenjunga Pallavi Banerjee

“Remember me when I’m gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land.”

Christina Rossetti

What happens to our memories when we disappear into the world of silence? A few weeks after his death, I snuggled up to my mother and asked, “Does he miss us?” “Oh of course he does. We were his world.” She said reassuringly. I was thirty one, way past the age of naiveté or fantastic imagination. But I wished the silent land was not so silent. I wished it to fill it up with sounds of our laughter and our arguments. And with the silent grandeur of the moment when we stood watching the first rays of sun on the snows of Kanchenjunga.

There’s this thing about memories. It can be handed down to sons and daughters, friends and relatives. To strangers even, on monotonous train journeys. And then, there are memories of memories.

I have watched the vignettes of remembrance filter through our imagination, like light passing through a jharokha — creating a filigree of unseen moments. I’ve listened to father narrate his narrow escape from a landslide with trepidation in my heart. I’ve watched the changing colours of mother’s face whenever she talked about their long evening walks by the river. I haven’t witnessed those moments. But I can see them alright. My father as a strong young man walking resolutely up a Himalayan slope. My mother young and coy walking hand in hand with the love of her life. And then one day, when my toddler son is old enough to understand ‘love’ and ‘courage’, I’ll tell him what I remember of these old, motheaten tales.           

Shruti (which has been heard) and Smriti (which has been remembered) are the two pillars on which all ancient Hindu mythological texts are built. But if you come to think of it, much of what is remembered,  has been heard. The heirloom pickle recipes, the songs for rainy days, the tale of the rosy cheeked Prime Minister’s convoy passing through a sleepy suburb…

Unlike death, memories are never silent. Even the memories of silence are peppered with the music of light and colours. 

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;”

Sonnet XXX; William Shakespeare
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