I have been ill since the weekend. Body aches, fatigue, high fever. The fever is mischevious. It rises stealthily at night. Yesterday, close to midnight, I lay in my dark room, my body hurting, its temperature hovering at 102-3 Fahrenheit, breathing deeply and being faintly aware of my heartbeat. Everyone else in the house was asleep and it was totally quiet, but for the fan above me. Then, the usual thoughts related to being ill, feeling uncomfortable, wanting to sleep and so on subsided to the background, and a stream of images spontaneously flowed through my mind…

Me in the 3rd floor library of the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge, where I studied in the year 2009-10. I look out of the window down below. It looks cold. In between trees with orange leaves, there are rows of parked bicycles. Some students are moving about. I notice the red-haired Dutch girl who attends Sanskrit classes with me, riding her bicycle.

Me walking out of the library, down the corridor, towards the staircase. After hours of solitary study, here one hopes find someone to make conversation with, or just to nod or smile at someone one likes but doesn’t quite know. Maybe my Egyptian friend whose presence emanates a beautiful sense of reflection and dignity. Maybe the British Muslim lecturer who always seems very busy, but whose talks are some of the most profound I have heard and whose blue eyes have an intense glow, for which I have nicknamed him “blazing eyes”.

“Come Mr. Kaa-ef, kaisa hai aap [how are you]?”, my professor cheerfully asking me in his broken Hindi, as I enter his room for an hour of supervision. I feel that I would like to be like him when I am older. He asks me if I like the food here, and if I have made enough friends. I am more concerned about making a good impression with my essay that I am about to present. 

I take my friend, who is visiting me, around the University Library. We are in the section on Oriental Studies, walking past the book stacks, both of us in our long overcoats. We come across the collected works of Sri Aurobindo. “What did he exactly say? I never could figure out,” says my friend, lowering his voice as much as possible. I tell him that I am not too sure either. I few moments later, I tell him I’ve been reading the Bhagavad Gita and recite a few verses from it – “Never was there a time that you were not, and never shall there be a time when you will not be..”. He likes it.

Indian classical music. Two men are playing the sarod, a string instrument. The hall is in the middle of a garden, with two of its walls being largely made of glass, allowing the sunlight to come in. It is early evening. As the soft, introspective music proceeds, the sun sets, it gets darker and darker, except for the glowing chandeliers above the musicians. The professor with the broken Hindi sits in the front row. I sit somewhere in the middle, next to me the Indian girl I met in my Sanskrit class. The concert ends at about 10. We leisurely walk back together. It is a dark, quiet evening in the British summer. I have never been to this part of West Cambridge. We walk to Pembroke, which is her college, which is on the way to Hughes, which is mine. While walking, we talk about music, art, life and ourselves. We reach Pembroke in half an hour, but stand outside till midnight, continuing our conversation. We don’t want to stop, but we should. She has a flight to catch the next morning. I am in the country for only a fortnight more. That is the last time I see her.

… these fragments of memories flowed past my mind, for no particular reason. It has been a year since I was in Cambridge. Why did I think about these things? They are not dramatic, not really ‘memorable’, except perhaps the last of them. Mostly they convey a sense of daily life, with its routine, its physical surroundings and the people one comes across. Why did my psyche throw up these memories when I lay there in discomfort and solitude?

I don’t know the answer. One word comes to mind – value. It was the best year of my life. They say that when you are about to die, in your last moments, there come to your mind those things that you value the most. I was not dying, but only sick. Still, perhaps it was my psyche’s way of telling me what matters most to me. Perhaps it is a compass that points at the path to take.

Time it was, and what a time it was,
It was a time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you

– Simon and Garfunkel

~ by tdcatss on July 13, 2011.

7 Responses to “Memories”

  1. Kaif . . .I’m praying for you. Are you under a doctor’s care for this? yuck!
    Too often I remember the bad things and can’t dwell on them. But to remember something like this was so special. It wasn’t even my memory, but it touched me. Hoping you have more years that add value to your life and get better soon!

  2. Thank you for praying for me Debbie. Yes, I am seeing a doctor. Maybe I am making it sound worse than it is. I think I should tone it down a bit! The very fact that I can sit here in front of the computer for half an hour and write this means I am not too bad!

    This was a way of figuring out why I had these thoughts last night. But I still don’t understand :s. I’m glad this touched you!

  3. How are you now? Please get your blood tests etc done. Don’t take it so lightly.

    Good post. I liked getting into your head and seeing those past moments. :)

  4. a very nice post buddy, do you think it is important to talk to yourself for the reason of thoughts, i am not sure but just try not to find a reason and just let it be then see what happens, maybe these are just dots which can only be connected later or maybe never but how does it matter, let go better, i dint intend to rhyme but it just came to me ;)

  5. thanks karan. it was a pleasant surprise to see your comments here!

    yes, i do feel it is important to reflect on the meaning of my experiences. at the same time, i agree with you that stopping to reflect me snatch the spontaneity out of the experiences. i try not to stop my experiences and start dissecting them analytically, but wait till they subside (at least somewhat), and then reflect on them, more like one would reflect on a piece of poetry, rather than how one would dissect a mathematical problem.

    i feel it has to be a balance of the two.. feeling and reflection. just like we had in our group in rishikesh :)

    i think you should start a blog for your poetry, etc. too !

  6. Awesome post, Kaif. Sometimes, our mind takes its own journey just like that. Aren’t we glad that it does this?

    Some unconscious or subconscious longings and desires are suddenly thrown up or chewed up while we watch or reflect. :-)

  7. thanks abhilash…. it is fascinating when something comes to consciousness unexpectedly

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