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      Volume 12 |Issue 04| January 25, 2013 |


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The Songs of the Past


Why is it that we love the songs of the past like those of Elvis Presley and the Beatles? Why do we still remember details of our favourite books -Kidnapped, Under the Lilac Tree, Good Wives, For Whom the Bell Tolls, or even My Fair Lady?

The “makhon – chini” of the colonial days in tiffin carriers still brings water to the mouth. Those precious, happy memories were priceless which today's “facebook” can never capture. I remember the delicious roast beef sandwhiches my Anglo Indian friends would share with me during break-time at school. Many layers of jello on custard pudding and the currents in the cabinet pudding were not just things we read in “Thornbirds”, but desserts kept for the weekends.

While my mother kept our taste buds busy with her delicate cooking, she was also very particular that we read and introduced us to the world of Dickens and George Eliot. The stories of David Copperfield and Maggie Tulliver, has helped even in my career—many decades on. As for Margaret Mitchell's “Gone with the Wind”, I was often accused of reading it too many times!

French or German always helped in Middle English, so we scooted for them, without being told twice. Chaucer was something one enjoyed, whether reading or scanning. This was so even watching his Canterbury Tales on the London Stage. It was like reading or watching Shakespeare – one loved it in Newcastle or Melbourne or even in the formative years, in the Karachi convent school, which was always filled with the tinkling of the piano notes or other diversions.

Remember my first puff of cigarrette in the newspaper office—sitting pretty on one of the tables, swinging my legs. I quickly sprayed some mouth freshening spray to disguise the smell. That was two decades ago. Today my teeth all have fillings – not due to age alone, in my golden sixties—but as a result of smoking.

When we went on a picnic in school, during my last year, the flowers in the place we visited looked intoxicating, although they were actually quite ordinary, everyday blossoms like the many coloured bougainvillea , grown specially for their little need of water. I had on borrowed red jeans and a white school blouse lent by friends—but was I content and blissfully young. On the last day of school, I had on a white sari with straw coloured embroidery at the lower end and my mum's vermilion and black pleated slippers. Days of yesteryears were filled with the antics of pets - cats and dogs. When I hear complaints of my brother's daughter-in-law, Margaret, adopting Afghan hounds, having been on a trip to Afghanistan. I recall the school and college and university days that were filled with warm and loving, mixed breed dogs, Siamese cats and parrots—which I had to eventually give away.

As time passes by, memories become more precious as the time when I sat at a tiny dining table in Melbourne waiting for the mince pie to be cooked – one loved being lost in romantic novels. Even the pistachio and almond mixed “kulfi” and vegetarian dishes that one indulged in with one's once-upon -a time school friend was delectable. Getting together— more recently– a decade back – and hobnobbing with the same friends, who were journalists from choice, the memory of the get-together and yarning about common friends was an unparalleled joy. There was little time for exchanging anecdotes about life's strange ways. But we had common memories which we mixed with the common desire of being sheltered and cared for.



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