Read it on my TOI blog, Freeze Frame.
‘I am prone to momentary lapses of memory and at times it gets really embarrassing for me. Are you still sure? Think about it.’ The warning came on the morning of the first day of Baishakh, almost a decade and half ago. But that year the day had another purpose other than turning over the Bengali new year. He and I were also getting married the same day.
He had requested that he would choose the date, with the refrain that ‘that way, I’ll never forget our wedding anniversary.’ Either it was too late to back out or I was too much in love with him (and in retrospect, I think it was the former than the latter). Anyway, I gave myself no reason to reason with myself, to look back or think. I just took the leap. I draped the fuchsia Benarasi my mother had lovingly chosen for the occasion, allowed her to fuss over my hair, garlands, ornaments that had been passed down from generations, let her cry a little and basically have everything her way for, perhaps, this would be the last time. I had boldly signed on the dotted lines, next to his scrawl and was his better half, about a half an hour ceremony later. Social paraphernalia had followed a month later. The fairy tale had begun with a very brief courtship, a period not long enough to gauge the depth of his ‘momentary lapses of memory’. The nature and the depth of his ‘forgetfulness’ manifested itself once we had moved lock, stock and barrel to the Bengali ghetto in Delhi.
A memoir, if ever written on our life together, would definitely start with this paragraph: “Their new life was full of hurdles. He forgot his wife’s birthday. The wife took it in her stride and brushed it aside as a ‘minor’ glitch. He forgot other ‘important’ dates and she started maintaining an annual calendar of events that hung next to the dining table. She keyed in ‘important’ numbers in his phonebook, updated his address books, created files that lined the guestroom shelves to store forgotten bills/ prescriptions/ correspondence/ insurance papers etc, tried to remember the names of faces that she met for the first time so that next time he knew who he was talking to and much more that eventually became part of their history.”
One winter evening, I spotted fresh roses at the tiny flower-shop in our neighbourhood “Second market”, in CR Park, and left him behind to chat up with the florist from Bankura and haggle over prices. It did not take long to get a good bargain for a dozen long stemmed roses. But something seemed odd. Suddenly my questions were not met with his usual monosyllabic replies. So I turned to look for my husband. There he was, standing a few shops away, slightly blurry because of the fog that was slowly descending upon the dimly lit street, talking to a tall, elderly gentleman, in a long Kashmiri housecoat. I walked up to join the animated conversation.
‘And how are the daughters? Hope mashima is keeping well, too? I don’t see you taking strolls down our lane anymore.’ he was asking the gentleman, who had surprise clearly written on his aging face.
‘They are fine, but your mashima is still not used to the Delhi cold, even after all these years’, came the reply, in a halting, confused tone. ‘And I prefer to stay indoors these days. My old bones can’t take the biting cold either.’
Having found me standing quietly by his side and discreetly pulling him by his sweater from the back, he seemed to get the message. So he broke off with a, ‘Okay Roy Mesomoshai, do take care.’
A barrage followed. ‘What was that all about? Why were you pulling at my sweater? I can see you’ve got your roses. So? What do you want now? Did you forget your purse again? Need more money? What was it? Haven’t met Roy mesomoshai in a long time, so I was talking to him.’
So I had to tell him.
‘That was NOT Roy mesomoshai! Have you even forgotten what he looks like? You were chatting with a complete stranger!’
‘No? But Roy Mesomoshai always wears a Kashmiri housecoat and is as tall. He even wears a similar Nepali cap in winter. How can you be so sure? That was him!’ And only a visit to Roy Mesomoshai, who lived two houses away, allayed his doubts. ‘Minor glitch’ I sighed.
And such minor glitches continued. He would often come home from office with a bag of Salim’s Kebabs, even after being told that I had already cooked dinner (which in retrospect seems like an intentional lapse of memory, as those would be the exact days I’d cook vegetables like bhindi, bNadhakopi or pumpkin). He recognized faces and was capable of continuing a meaningful conversation but their names failed him, noticed things which were almost in his face much later than he was expected to. I was still not worried.
But when it resulted in him missing flights, both domestic and international, forgetting laptops at airport lounges, blackberries and phones in taxis (that too, on foreign shores), our driver with the car at the meeting venue and taking a ride back with his colleague or asking me the name of the person he had just finished a well-informed conversation with – it worried me slightly. You know the kind of thought that goes, ‘he might forget me at a bookshop some day’. That’s about it.
And also the fact that in trying to keep up with his forgetfulness, my gray cells are growing lazy. Of late I set up reminders on the Blackberry to remind me about things to do, appointments to keep, set up alarms to reach on time, maintain a diary of my daily chores, fill up the refrigerator with to-do-post-its etc.
But this is what it has come to pass. Just the other day, I was so excited about finally watching one of Soumitro Chatterjee’s plays in Bombay. I bought premium tickets two months in advance, alerted the husband and made him mark off that time of the evening as busy on his blackberry, marked it on my calendar et al and so that we both remembered, I even put the tickets in the husband’s ‘important docs’ drawer. And we were all set for, Monday, 9th of July to arrive.
Something struck me on Sunday evening. Perhaps the husband’s remark ‘how could have they planned a play for a Monday evening? They’re typically either on a Saturday or a Sunday. I’ll have to miss a conference call…’ I pulled out the tickets from his drawer. The date on the tickets read ‘Saturday, 7th July, 2012’.