PEOPLE PLACE RELATIONSHIPS

ISSUE 4

SEPTEMBER 2021

Piecing it together again

Alefiya Vali is an Interior Designer by profession who has been awarded ‘The Best Student Allrounder award’ by III D in 2017, and a literature enthusiast. She is an avid reader and creative writer who expresses herself through her poetry. A sensitive soul she likes to live every moment to the fullest.

My hands felt clammy, and my tears mingled with sweat, in the hot humid Mumbai air, as I clasped the pen in my hand, my palm shaking as I sketched out my signature on that god damned paper. The deed was done. He had gone and now, with the house my last connection with him would also be lost. I sighed in gloom and frustration, as I listened to the nonsensical small talk between my grandmother and the now, new homeowners. I turned my face to the sea facing window. The sea had always calmed him and me, it was where, he sat with me in his lap as we gazed out at the enormous waves crashing on the shore. Right beside the window was a seashell, which he pressed to my ear, and I heard that same beautiful cadence of the waves. It was a punch of nostalgia which I was not capable of processing right now, so I quickly turned my head back to the conversation.

My father! Every inch of this place was vested with his memories, suddenly I could not hold back my sobs and I dashed out of the room as my throat choked up. I ran through the dining room and through the lobby eager to get out as fast as I could. My world felt bleak, it was as if I had lost him all over again. This decision to sell was just as sudden as his demise. His death had been shocking, who could have thought he would have died so young. Now with the house gone nothing would be the same ever again.

As I crossed the large building compound, my phone slipped from my trembling hands and I bent to retrieve it, suddenly I saw her, a little girl sitting on her father’s lap, in the verandah and solving a jigsaw puzzle. My feet stilled as I watched her poring over it in deep thought, as she searched for the next piece. Suddenly it struck me, in this moment this little girl and I shared a similar predicament. Another wave of nostalgia rolled over me. I missed him so much! It had been 24 years of constantly trying to hold on to his memories to keep him intact, but it was a losing battle, it was a puzzle I could never piece together, a puzzle whose fragments-my memories of him- kept fading into nothingness with the waves of time washing over them. But in that flat I could still feel his presence. The flat! My head churned and I fumbled across the lawn as I made my way to the taxi stand outside the building compound. How could I live without it, without him? The same question kept haunting me until the cab driver asked me where I wanted to go. I asked him to take me to Charni road- the graveyard where my dad was buried. The taxi crawled in the traffic, the humidity shaking me out of my reverie as I soaked in the sights of my childhood, Kemps corner where our parents took us to the most wondrous toy shop, where they smiled at us serenely as we jumped in delight. Shemaroo library, where we borrowed books which he would read to us at night. A little smile
tugged at my lips. They were amazing days indeed! I hopped out of the cab and visited his grave; I placed some flowers and cried my heart out. I left there feeling lighter- both mind and
soul. I felt his presence so strongly as if he were still watching over me with that serene smile. I wiped a lone tear from my eye as I ambled over to Marine drive, past the Taraporewala aquarium which housed so many delightful moments with my parents, the fun times we would have here, and the horse carriage rides at Nariman point! I sat down there and watched the pigeons, the hawkers and the waves that crashed on the shore, reminding me of the time we had gone fishing in this very sea. I had lagged behind, as my brother effortlessly followed him and I ended up falling into a small pool of water in a huge rock by the sea, he rushed to me and once he had ensured I was not hurt he burst into peals of laughter. Oh, that rich baritone! I wish I could capture it. I wish I could hear it again.

Even though it was getting a little late, I decided I would go to City Bakery, near the Bandra-Worli sea link. It was a little far off, but who cares, I was hungry and sad and I needed that sugar-carb boost. I enjoyed the beautiful sky and the skyline of the city I was traversing through. The cab finally came to a halt, and I slipped into the bakery, where even before I saw the goodies, that familiar aroma of baked goods, hit my nostrils. The owner smiled at me, “The usual to go little girl?” he asked as I perused through several rows of deliciousness. I whipped up my head in surprise, he still remembered?! After all these years! Of course, he remembered that wonderful man who brought me here. “Yes, please” I replied! And he parceled out lemon tarts and a couple of butter croissants for me, our staple whenever we visited the bakery. I left the bakery smiling.

On my ride back I felt happier and more cheerful than I had felt for a very long time (i.e. the moment I came to know the house was to be sold). He would be there, every part of this city
held a different piece of him as a father, doctor, teacher, friend and the best human ever. And though he was a puzzle, an enigma that I could never completely figure out, yet I knew that the city would link me to him forever. I did not need to hold on to the house to find him I just needed to broaden my horizons and I literally could find him anywhere and everywhere! My puzzle although far from complete seemed to suddenly afford me unimaginable calm, because even if I could not piece it together, I knew that the pieces would always remain in the heart of this city just like he would remain in ours forever.

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