Sounds of ringing laughter are clearer than ever in my head, with images of burning yellow sand and crystal blue waters bringing in me a familiar sense of peace that I have revisited over the years. I keep talking about beaches over and over, writing poems and stories around them, including them even when it isn’t about them. I like to think that I do that because I’d always thought that the endless expanse of sea was all that separates me from where I once used to love being. It is one of the few things that connect me to memories from when I lived in and visited Kuwait.
For many years, I refused to call Mangalore home, simply refusing to believe that I would fall in love with another city that wasn’t my birthplace. For me, at 4 and at 13, the feeling that breathing its clean dry air brought was and still is incomparable. I hold that memory so close to heart, I’m sure that if I forget it, I’d forget a part of who I was.
Every time we hopped on a plane to go to Kuwait, I would be the most excited of all despite hating having to sit for over 5 hours in a rather uncomfortable position. Excited, because I believed that that was where all the joy in the world was. Excited, because Kuwait meant amazing ice-cream and beach air, fast-speaking Arab “Harris uncles” that doubled as rent collectors and repairmen in the apartment building, air-conditioned homes and stores and going to the supermarket every two days! Supermarket visits meant racing down the aisles on a shopping cart and cheekily pocketing two or three chocolates before getting caught by dad, and sulking after enviously eyeing all the kids who filled their carts with chocolates and cheese.
As I grew older, supermarket visits there meant practising math in my head (to show my mathematics teacher that I had really practised my multiplication tables in the summer), awkwardly apologising for bumping my cart into customers or employees arranging products on the shelves, and deciding which was the better offer for a bottle of shampoo, before giving up and buying a bunch of stationery items simply because they looked pretty. Looking back, I realise now how small things like this meant I had grown and changed, that I was no longer a tiny 7-year-old girl. And over the years, these weird, small things stayed with me and became funny stories to recount.
Now, when I look at my nieces and the little things they do, I wonder how these moments are going to shape them and remain etched in their memory. I wonder if they’d realise how these little things may be forgotten by them but remembered by others, or how they might suddenly remember when doing something completely unrelated. I wonder if these memories will become part of their comfort space in their heads – just like Kuwait was for me – and I wonder if I’d be part of it. When my parents launch into another one of their “when I was younger, I..” stories at lunch, I wonder if I’d do the same with my children 20 years later. And I wonder if when I’m 70, I’ll remember the silly things I’ve done so far, laugh at all the bubbling worries in my head, and have many more such comforting places and memories to revisit in my head. I really hope I do.