Where I Grew Up…
Today, my doctor asked me to think of some of my most beautiful memories.
He said they would help me relax, and release my stress. He said it’s a common thing doctors advise their patients to do.
So, I started thinking.
I closed my eyes. My doctor turned off the room lights, and left for a while.
It was dark. It was quiet. It was peaceful.
I discovered something. You can train your mind to think of memories your way. You can tell your brain to think of things you want to think. You can think about the good things that happened in your life. You can think about the bad things too.
You can focus on the good things. You can train your mind to focus on the pleasant things. Doing it, you can drive the bad and ugly away.
And doing it, you relax. You soothe. Life brings back happiness.
Ancient Town of Puri
Sitting in the dark, quiet, peaceful place, I thought about my childhood. I went back to the days when we lived in that ten-by-ten, mezzanine, box-like, one-room apartment in North Calcutta. I thought about the summer holidays when I watched that free, shadow magic rising up and above from the street, and scrolling across one side wall, then the ceiling, and then down the other side wall, only to disappear back into the street.
I thought about the overnight train rides with my parents and little sister to Benaras, the holy city on the Ganges. I went back to the days when my grandmother was alive: when she would make the spicy mango pickles and her special sweets for me. I remembered the summer evenings when way past dark, we’d sprinkle cold water from a bucket onto the open roof, roll out our palm-leaf mattresses, and sit on them and chat through late hours at night.
I remembered our little family vacations on the sea beach at Puri. My parents would sit on the sand dune with our visiting uncles and aunts, and I would wander around on the beach, picking those very colorful, God-designed shells. Then, we would walk back to our cheap hotel and after a little rest, walk out again to pick up some rice and fish curry at a cheap seaside restaurant. The next morning, we’d take the bus and visit some of the ancient temples. The strange, ancient smell of cows and cow dung and little bats hanging from the dark ceilings would haunt me for weeks after we returned to Calcutta.
Ancient City of Benaras
I remembered some of my adolescent years. The street cricket and football matches that grew my confidence. The community worship of Goddess Saraswati with our liberal, Bengali way to celebrate with art exhibitions and recitation contests. The raucous, mini-truck rides with our boyhood friends to the Ganges for the idol-immersion ceremonies, the country drums accompanying us all the way.
Then, just before the doctor knocked at the door and entered and turned on the room lights, I remembered the firecrackers and home-made light-sprinklers on the eve of our autumn Kali Puja, the Bengali version of Diwali.
Diwali is coming up soon. And I promise to return to my doctor to unwind some more, bring back some more of my most beautiful memories.
Life is full of such memories: good and bad. Only we can decide which memories we let take our minds over.
It is upon us.
Waking up, one pleasant memory at a time,
Brooklyn, New York
Mother Kali arrives in Kolkata