शाख से पीले पत्ते टूटे
कुछ पुरानी यादें लौटीं
आज शाम की सैर कुछ लम्बी हो गयी –
Thus yellow leaves fell from the branches
Thus old memories returned from down the lane
Evening walk turned longer today –
In Fall, I am time.
I stay, I go. I wait, I am slow. I spill over, I am a pause. I die, I don’t let go. I am memory, I am also a memory lane. I am red, orange and yellow. I am marginal revenue of a life in flashback, I am its profit.
Leaves are my currency, I count them in memories.
Last week when I was on phone with my mom, she had just come in from her morning prayers. She told me she was wearing the shawl I got for her a long time ago and that the nip in the air was rather cold for this time of the year. It was Shraadh* fortnight and she was getting up earlier than usual. We spoke of years past when the family came together in early mornings, fresh from bath, my brother still dripping water on the carpet and say our prayers for family members long departed. Invariably, my father told us stories about them. That is how I came to know my great grandfather loved to walk in the rain, eat hot jaggery and ask my grandfather math questions at bedtime. How my grandfather loved tuning into the radio in the evenings and how the small village crowded around the haveli* as song after song continued late into the night. Life seemed to come full circle in those conversations as I realized where my father inherited his love of music from and in retrospect, my father’s bathroom singing and our crowding around outside when he did seemed to echo the earlier radio days in the faraway haveli.
* * *
Memories of the departed are a ritual, memories of the living a prescription.
Remembrance is brown, the color of wilted passion, also the color of leaves which hang on yet in hope.
Anupama Agrawal Goyal writes,
सोचो कितना तड़पे होंगे तन्हाई में वो
पतझड़ का पत्ता भी जिनको हरा लगता है
How they must have suffered, solitary
Those who see brown leaves and think green
And then Darshvir Sandhu,
Led me to wonder what is that burden still that does not let them fall, what is that promise yet, what wait?-
Memories of past are nostalgia, memories of future are reminiscence. Somewhere they come unstuck like falling leaves in an impossible shower of hope.
As Prithvi Parihar says,
यादों की किन गलियों से आये हैं ये दिन
धूप में दीवाली की खूशबू आती है
Which memory lanes bring back these days?
Sunshine smells of Diwali these days.
Turns out Indian autumn is as much about fallen leaves as about (in)fallible leaders. About memories of your forefathers as also remembering the Father of the Nation. It is not only about remembering promises made, it is also about selective forgetting. A mere coincidence but interestingly, autumn in India is prefaced by the birth anniversary of Gandhi and ends around the birth anniversary of Nehru. The fall lies somewhere in between. The phrase gathers more significance when one takes into account a nation swinging between the stark beauty of muteness and the eerie chant of ‘namo namo’. Add to that the G-string(-pulling ) dynasty and the khichuri* is complete. It was not until a friend pointed out a pun on the word ‘patta’ in Hindi (used for leaf as well as playing card) that the poker game being played on behalf of the country this fall became clear to me.
In a poem about elections, Meha Khanduri writes,
लो फिर चुनावों का मौसम आया
फिर नफ़रत की आंधी चलने लगी
Behold the season of elections yet again
Gusty winds of hatred blow yet again
Faiz Ahmed Faiz perhaps had a similar autumn in mind here in When Autumn Came, (translation by Naomi Lazard)
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
From summer into winter
Where evenings fall suddenly
Where growing shadows sometimes
Follow you home
And do not leave –
* * *
Shraadh: a fortnight of remembering ancestors in prayers and rituals. A Hindu custom.
Haveli: a large residence. North Indian.
Khichuri: a mash-up dish of lentils and rice. Indian.