Charing Cross Bridge, André Derain (1906)

I remember the cough syrup life.
I remember bandage stains
and the rancid yellow smell of tissues healing
quite late into summer

when everything usually takes its own time.

I remember a heavy head.
The clanging sound of Ma’s bangles
filling up a silence so acoustic
that brims inside a room where a bed is usually lying sick with a ceiling fan barely turning

there were always feeble prayers for a better life that I heard.

I remember myself.
Years into the sunlit courtyard of tiny hands and feet
splashing water in a plastic memory tub,

I remember my distaste for bathing.

I remember drowning Didun’s laughter with my constant wailing,
the feel of warm breath and elastic skin beneath my newly formed palms that couldn’t contain her face

I remember the first nascent sense of comfort.

I remember a very crude happiness
sublime enough for me to not know how happy,
inching towards a confused growing up saddled on somebody’s lap at the breakfast table,

I remember the smell of my favourite breakfast.
A jelly scent now outdated for the market, reminiscent of a childhood that was many years ago.

I remember the pages from Blyton’s books brushing against the contours of my young fingers
when there used to be muffin stuffed tiffin-boxes during an afternoon recess
that included running across classroom corridors in shorts and a uniform I don’t remember clearly,

I remember the first time I did not cry at school
after Baba’s routinely disappearance into a motley crowd of worried faces.

I remember you.
I remember the very thought of you,
a comfort raft atop the crashing waves of something vast and alien under a white grey sky,
I remember our tender age when there was mostly smiling

for the lack of better adjectives.

I remember your fingers entwined around mine,
facing the shabby blackboard fatigued with chalk stains
and the cheerful voice of a woman chanting nursery rhymes,
I remember feeling secure right next to you
on the tiny wooden chairs amidst our newfound wilderness

far away from home.

I remember feeling a compelling attachment
without having known the precise labels for distinct feelings,
I remember feeling them all

when I never understood reason.

All these years,
and I have almost forgotten your face.
There’s a new wilderness once again,
and Baba and Didun are certainly much older now.
There are tiny wooden chairs and desks that I have outgrown,

but here I am squeezed into one of them.

There’s one right next to me,
as was always supposed to be,
but nobody would sit on that.

None of them would obviously fit into it.

There’s a new sense of comfort in this vast and alien something they say,
that they have found and I have obviously missed,
only that I do not remember how and when.

Everything is like a dream now, and I forget all of my dreams in the morning.
I’m also very mediocre, especially when it comes to endings.

— Satyaki Mitra

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