When warm embraces the nip, when I hear the faint whistle of a train, when I am awakened at dawn by Azan floating on the morning breeze, when the raindrops make love to the leaves and when in the cozy hug of a quilt on a cold night, memories come flooding. And I remember.
I remember the lazy afternoons when the chime of the school bell sounded better than any music. The chime meant freedom from the frighteningly somber teachers, liberation from the dread of impromptu quizzes. I could buy a burger at the canteen for two rupees and dig into it with the abandon of a man untouched by the worries of the world. The carefree loitering under the warm shade of old trees with a friend in tow and the sharing of insights on how best to arouse the affections of the beloved. When Harold Robbins and Hustler excited more than Dickens and when the study of human anatomy seemed the most interesting subject in the world. Times were simple and so was happiness.
I remember my first meeting with Ibne-Safi and his larger than life characters, Imran and Fareedi. How we all saw ourselves as Captain Hameed vicariously experiencing his fetishes and dalliances and how we all wished in our hearts to miraculously acquire Fareedi’s machismo. Imran’s wit and laid back almost dismissive demeanor towards life was perhaps most fascinating. Equally endearing was the bullet dodger, Sang hee and the mysteriously beautiful Theresa, Bumble Bee of Bohemia. Hidden somewhere in our homes, disconnected from all noise, we would dive with glee in the utopian world created by Ibne Safi , a world dotted with small, far off verdant islands, the rugged mountains of Shikral, cabarets and Cha-cha and the so easily accessible underground bars.
I remember my first date. The anticipation and excitement trumped every other emotion and how a strange quivering sensation embraced the whole body. Having a girl friend filled me with pride and others with no one in their lives seemed condemned to a wretched, lonely existence. The pleasure of late night calls till dawn broke, of aimless driving on the lonely roads, of the unwitting and sometimes witting body contact and of the heartfelt vows, only a man blessed with the company of a nymph would know.
I remember my time at Warwick. How my dorm overlooked a tiny lake with a picturesque wooden bridge and how the bridge sat under the loving gaze of a huge, old tree. I would never keep the window shut. It was my way of beckoning serenity, of letting quiet seduce me into a state of sublime peace. The long, winding walks through the meadows under clouds pregnant with poise or under a brilliant sun shining on a shimmering landscape. The weekend trips to the university pub when ‘a pint a pound’ would lift us to heaven and poke our intellects to take on all that is profound. The smoke wafting from a friend’s fag, driven by her breath towards us. Riding on it is the smell of ale mixed with her perfume. Ménage a trois of burning tobacco, beer and perfume made for the perfect olfactory seduction.
Getting old has one thing good about it. It is how the years gone add to the burden of memories and how it gets heavier and sweeter. “Memories sweeten through the ages just like wine”, Elvis would hum in his inimitable drawl. What a pleasure to quaff flutes of this lovely wine.