I remember the first time we were renovating our house. I was just a child, excited to see the old rooms being painted in new colours. But more than that, I was excited about the treasure hunt that was about to begun. I didn’t care about the trouble it brings to the elders who had to empty the cupboards and stacked up store rooms. All I looked forward to was the hidden whispers of surprise behind the locked rooms. I remember the joy I felt being lost in a land full of treasures.
When I think about it now, I wonder what excited me the most – was it the sight of seeing something that was hidden from my eyes or was it the pleasure of finding back my roots through someone’s possessions? I think I know now that the fascination was because of the route I had found to discover my mother, whose memories were too less to even smudge, in those unseen sights. I don’t remember much about her from the time when I lived with her. it must have been a long time, because my memories rarely go blur. I don’t remember how she moved when I was around her. I wonder how did it feel when she held me away from the world. All I remember were tales – tales of how she laughed at our silliest deeds. I remember her through the memories she had left behind in others lives, but I always wondered how it would feel if I could hold her in this moment, at this hour.
The only thing that comes close to her presence surrounding me is the treasure land locked in those cupboards, where she left her belongings, her life. I remember as a child, some days I wanted to hold her close when I missed her presence in my life, and I had nothing to hold except the emptiness she had left behind. So, when those cupboards opened, I found a treasure land I had been waiting to visit my whole life. My grandma as arranging the pile of clothes she had taken out when I saw the first unseen sight – a saree I had never seen my grandmother wear. She said, looking at my curious eyes, “you can keep it if you want, it was your mother’s”. I didn’t really know if I wanted to keep it with me, but I held it close because for a moment I could believe that perhaps she wore it and held me in her arms someday, even if it wasn’t true; holding it made her existence feel true.
The other day, I remember I had walked into the store room where the unused stuff were kept in boxes upon boxes. While a box was being lifted and moved, a sock fell on to my shoe. It was a woolen sock – size of a dog’s paw. I asked my grandmother whose it was. She told me that my mother wove it for my sister when she was small. I liked the size of the sock, it fascinated me how little a memory could be. When the rooms were done, and the things had to be kept back where it belonged, I came across a report file which had no home. It was the medical reports of a time my mother had fallen sick. It was a long time back, but I liked the sacred place it had reserved for itself in the house even now. I liked digging up the treasures for some reason I have no words to explain it in.
But if I had to tell you a why, I’ll perhaps say that maybe my mother knew that some day, someone will coming looking for her in those locked up rooms. Or, perhaps she left it safe herself because she knew she will not be around. I like to believe that those were her souvenirs for us from the past we couldn’t know. As I sit here and tell you this, I don’t remember what she wore when she held me for the last time, but I remember the smell of the saree I had discovered from the pile. It helped me believe that perhaps she smelled like it. I don’t remember the comfort it feels when you are wrapped around the arms of your mother, but I like to believe that it felt a lot like holding a woolen sock in the peak of a winter.
I don’t remember how mothers feel when they see their child come back home on their first day from school, but I like to believe that it feels a lot like finding the lost treasure locked up in old room.
All these years later, we are going to renovate our house again and I try but can’t find the excitement I felt that day. Perhaps, because I know I will no longer find any treasures in any bolt up cupboards now. All the locked rooms have now been discovered, and the memories replaced by new. There are no leftover belongings to find, no treasure land to discover.