Thursday, 7 January 2016

A bend in the River

Once again, another New Year day marked the beginning of an end for me. Not that there is nothing to look forward in the year 2016 or that life has been unfair in any way. Just that while one was busy receiving New Year wishes and reciprocating the same, there was also a simultaneous realization of things which will not be the same anymore. 

For the past two and half years since I resumed office after becoming a Mom, the patterns of change in my life had been rather predictable. While change did happen and  I changed places and assignments, one thing that remained rather same over much of this duration was a portion of the route I took to and fro from office each day. Nothing remarkable to deserve a dedicated blog post but to me, this road now seems like a repository of many mundane memories which will continue to cast a shadow on my life each time I pass by. 

It might not seem particularly interesting, but the teddy bear shops which dot a particular stretch on this route have been a source of boundless joy to my little N and each day while she accompanied me to office, and even now while she traverses this way, the sight of myriad stuffed toys displayed on the roadside are a huge incentive for her to stay awake! (As also the Fun Mall, which to her, is a perennial source of french fries!!). 

Much like Little N, while I do watch out for the upcoming shops and food joints along the route and keep count of exceptionally bountiful flowering trees along the way (like the brilliantly pink-purple canopy of jacarandas outside PICUP building, the flaming orange-reds outside Sangeet Natak Academy or the swathes of tiny Plumerias peeking out of the dominant greens of Lohia Park), it is the river that has captivated my imagination and thoughts all along.

While the route merely traverses the bend along the left bank of the river, and one never crosses the bridge technically, there are many things I will always associate with this phase of my life. For example, while the left bank is today being developed as a riverfront promenade and there is an ambitious construction-reclamation drive underway, in not so distant past, I can recollect looking at the uneven flood banks and the languid drains which joined the river and the children and pets from the shanties along the dry banks who criss-crossed the road on my way to the office each day. Today however, none of it remains and massive construction machinery is all that is visible along the left bank. Even a small rapid has been artificially developed not very far from the Barrage. 

But it is not all this that I remember the river for. It is for that 4'o clock winter sunset from a particular point when the sun would become hazy, the birds would roost on the overhead electricity cables and the river would appear to be a languid stretch of grey in the background. How many times, I wished I could stop the car and capture the melancholy of the moment as it presented itself to me each day on my way back from lunch. Similarly, it is that 5 o' clock evanescent sun of a Lucknow summer that would lend an aura of melted silver to the rippling waters of the river and on many a occasion while returning from a Secretariat meeting back to my office, I remember promising to bring my DSLR sometime soon and seize that sight as it appeared from the bridge near my office. Adding to this long list of these unfulfilled promises, I wish I had spared a moment and clicked the changing hues of the lighting on the main bridge over the Barrage late in the evening.

While I will no longer follow this route everyday anymore; I hope life affords me an opportunity to redeem my promises someday (but then I do not know if the sights will remain the same and even if they do, if to me they will 'appear' the same). I have seen the river change over the past thirty months and I have also known it to change with each passing hour, each passing day and each passing season. Just like the river, (over the said duration), my life has witnessed changes too- some big and some small, some ephemeral and some forever lasting. 

Each time I will think of my journeys along the river over all these days, my thoughts will echo the words below:

I thought how lovely and how strange a river is. A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too. It widens and deepens as it rubs and scours, gnaws and kneads, eats and bores its way through the land. Even the greatest rivers- the Nile and the Ganges, the Yangtze and he Mississippi, the Amazon and the great grey-green greasy Limpopo all set about with fever trees-must have been no more than trickles and flickering streams before they grew into mighty rivers.

Are people like that? I wondered. Am I like that? Always me, like the river itself, always flowing but always different, like the water flowing in the river, sometimes walking steadily along andante, sometimes surging over rapids furioso, sometimes meandering wit hardly any visible movement tranquilo, lento, ppp pianissimo, sometimes gurgling giacoso with pleasure, sometimes sparkling brillante in the sun, sometimes lacrimoso, sometimes appassionato, sometimes misterioso, sometimes pesante, sometimes legato, sometimes staccato, sometimes sospirando, sometimes vivace, and always, I hope, amoroso.

Do I change like a river, widening and deepening, eddying back on myself sometimes, bursting my banks sometimes when there’s too much water, too much life in me, and sometimes dried up from lack of rain? Will the I that is me grow and widen and deepen? Or will I stagnate and become an arid riverbed? Will I allow people to dam me up and confine me to wall so that I flow only where they want? Will I allow them to turn me into a canal to use for they own purposes? Or will I make sure I flow freely, coursing my way through the land and ploughing a valley of my own?” 

Aidan Chambers, This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn