My dad started his career in Bhopal as an engineer in BHEL, soon after college. Quite a few more college freshers had joined with him, so naturally they kinda came together and formed a group. Most of them were out of towners, young, bachelors, need I say anything more. Dad was the first one to get married in the group so obviously my mom was the favourite bhabhi. Even today when she remembers those times, her eyes get a faraway wistful look. They had such a great time together. Once she told me that there were so many times that all the others from the gang would just turn up at the house at midnight after a late night movie and ask her to cook them dinner as they were starving. In those days she would get annoyed at them but now she would give anything to get all of it back.
Eventually all of them got married and then of course we kids came along and became close friends. We were all like a big family, living in different houses. Weekends were never dull and were never spent at home. We celebrated all the festivals and other national holidays together. Usually we would all gather at one person’s place for a pool dinner, light a campfire, if it was winters and spend the night singing and dancing and laughing and eating. There was some special bond that held us all together. A group outing on the 15th of August and 26th of January was a must.
And Holi, oh man, everyone was crazy. A couple of weeks before holi, on a Sunday, we would all go out on a picnic and gather those special flowers which bloom only during this time ( I don’t remember its name). I used to call them holi flowers and we were supposed to make colours from them. We tried it every year, it never turned out the way we wanted it to be but still it was an adventure. On the day of holi we would all be wearing our whites and gather at someone’s house. We would play till late afternoon screaming and shouting and running and come home black ( the men’s kurtas were usually torn to rags by this time) have a leisurely lunch and fall into our beds and sleep like logs.
I remember once we had all gone for a tour of the state in our cars. I was a kid at that time so don’t remember the places we visited but I do remember visiting some forts and monuments and remember that we drove around the entire night. No-one was tired and nobody wanted to stop. We were all together and that was all that mattered.
There are so many incidents, some insignificantly small others not so. I don’t think this space is enough for all those memories. The details of each moment are etched so clearly in my mind. I still remember the moment when my dad told me that we were moving. I refused to believe him initially, I thought he was kidding. I remember crying myself to sleep in the nights. I never told my parents how much it hurt me to leave all of it behind; I knew it pained them too. We had a grand farewell party, a trip to Manali. I don’t think I can ever forget that. It was our last outing together.
Even today when we talk to them, it does not feel like we have not met each other for ages. We just pick up from where we left off. The entire group is scattered all over the world now, but we are still there for each other, still keep in touch. Last winter we were in Bhopal again, unfortunately I reached a day after my parents. They had a big get together on the previous night and were up all night talking. No body felt like going home. Even now as I write about it, my heart feels heavy and all those times come rushing back to me. We all have different lives now but still there is something that holds us all together. I have my own day to day routine to keep me busy but during these festive times which one should spend with the family, those memories come back to haunt me and I wish I could turn back the sands of time. I don’t think I have the strength to continue anymore. All I can say at this point is:
Gates of memories will never close,
How much we miss our friends no-body knows,
Days will pass like years,
We will remember the memories in silent tears.