When it comes to memories, I cannot help but strongly believe in Tagore’s philosophy — that an artist paints pictures in their inner canvas, imprinting life in their memories. Tagore suggested that now and then, we catch glimpses of a fragment of it, but the bulk remains dark and invisible to us. While, at times, I recollect many incidents and anecdotes from the past, a significant part of these events are no longer in the canvas.
The ‘hall room’
In our home, the living room or hall room is among the oldest parts of the house. It has existed from well before recent extensions were added and for me particularly, this area holds dollops of nostalgia. From spending hours playing in this room as a child, to now having spent hours glued to a device for online classes, there is little that has changed, or at least at first glance.
Among its many installations, I hold the display cabinet and its artefacts, the dearest. It holds several fresh-looking, bright and attractive fruits that are otherwise considered rich in potassium and other such nutrients. Besides, there are also cakes of varied sizes, designs and ‘flavours’. However, none of these goodies are edible; these are all wax replicas that have been made at home, back when hobbies or crafting at home, was considered a virtue.
Unfortunately, with the onset of digitalisation, these finer activities have been cast aside. The existing pieces of craft serve as a quiet reminder of how people engaged themselves before they became permanently glued to their screens.
Cakes, fruits and doll preparations
I vividly recall that when I was about six years of age, we were not as severely bitten by the digital bug. Indians, especially rural dwelling ones, knew how to strike a balance between professional obligations and household chores. In addition, they even kept time aside to socialise at leisure. And these social events weren’t simply a formality to ensure relations were maintained.
In my view, these get togethers connected hearts, infused life and humour, and allowed people to live in the moment. There was no big effort to record these moments on camera to relive at a later time and most seemed eager to participate in one activity or another. For instance, when my aunt would return from her in-law’s place, she would host such gatherings for her friends.
During these get-togethers, they would often partake in preparation of wax sculptures — the cakes, fruits, and dolls that continue to adorn our living room. I would be an eager onlooker without really understanding much of it. In hindsight, it was as though they were running their own little Madame Tussauds like effort, although my aunt and her friends were recreating edibles mostly rather than life size figurines.
Weakening of the ‘inner canvas’
Aside from their fascination for wax craft, I would also enjoy the good fortune of having sweaters knit for me. This surely was a perk of being the youngest in the family. It was this giggle, positivity, creativity and hubbub that filled the atmosphere of the house with love and sheer joy.
They would also paint bed sheets, some of which are still carefully preserved. The wax creations, meanwhile, have mostly survived the mishandling by curious children although most of these wax creations are now old and fragile. The elegant-looking momer putul or wax doll has, unfortunately, succumbed to the ravages of time.
I sincerely think all of this was possible, thanks to a bygone era. It was during this period of transition when digitalisation had not taken a toll on everyone. I count it as good fortune though to have witnessed all of these changes first hand.
The ones who were born only a decade after me have witnessed a more mechanical world. In the case of my generation, we did catch a glimpse of the yesteryears. One debatable advantage, however, is that smartphones have enabled the recording of ‘glimpses of a fragment’ as Tagore put it, albeit while weakening the ‘inner canvas’.
Reminiscences of the yesteryears
Earlier, when students were forbidden to possess gadgets while in school, we would never miss an opportunity to play cricket and bother our hall masters. Fast forward to the present when a gadget has become central to daily lives, we seem unable to extract ourselves from the clutches of this digital monster.
I also fondly reminisce the times when summer months were witness to long hours of electricity cuts at home. We’d be compelled to use lanterns, and many, as I recall it, would walk up to their terraces. With little else to do, they would gaze at the stars and constellations, talk to one another, and perhaps try and forecast the following day’s weather. These former days held a particular charm — where gadgets did not dominate lives, exchanging greeting cards were in vogue as opposed to text messages, and social events meant plenty of laughter and conversations.
I yearn for a time where individuals did not solely meet with specific agendas in mind but rather to share feelings and simply live in the moment.