Back when, the entire family used to gather at my uncle’s place on Sundays. Over a cup of tea, we’d chat, laugh and pick on each other. We’d boo at cricket scores (those were dark days) and hiss at the politics. We’d dig out old stories and laugh even louder. The old stories were never new. We knew exactly what came next, but it didn’t matter, they were always just as funny as the first time, possibly even more, enhanced as they were with every telling. I don’t know when those Sunday visits died out. It happened gradually, and it happened for a number of reasons: college, work, relocations, squabbles, new priorities, stuff. I didn’t realize when and how those Sundays dropped out of my routine; I didn’t realize how much I missed them, not till my last visit home.
One of my cousin’s, back home after years, was clearing out the loft space above the kitchen when he rediscovered some old family photos – photos of us as kids, in pigtails, braces and terrible clothes; photos of our parents, slimmer, younger, elegant and chic; photos of uncles and aunts when they were just kids, eyes sparkling with excitement for things to come; photos of all our histories – the conversations practically come wafting out; photos that are real, that tell the whole truth, untouched as they are by the alternative world of post processing and airbrushing. He decided to put together an album, a family project in time for Diwali.
The whole family is here – well almost. Whoever is in town, and back home from work, is here. In Mumbai, that’s more than you can ask for on a week day. My aunt is in the kitchen, stirring a ladle in a large aluminium pot, declining any help because ‘everything is done’. Tumblers of hot ginger tea are passed around. The rain hits against the living room windows, and inside the laugher fills up around the album. The album’s heavy cover feels as light as a feather as we go back to those days in the old apartments, reliving them over and over again. One memory leads to another and that leads us to what happened yesterday, which takes us back thirty odd years, which reminds someone of what happen much before that, which brings us back to my cousin’s living room, laughing and arguing and laughing even harder. It feels like the old days again.