10:57 PM 18th June, Berkeley
In a few hours the mortal remains will be laid to rest and all that would be left is memory. And so, I grieve the death, in a city oceans apart, a city so far away from home that even if I were to make the journey across, I wouldn’t make it in time. I grieve the absence of compassion. I grieve the distance. I grieve my inability to make new memories of you.
Today morning, I came across a Faiz’s poem on Spotify, it’s refrain – “Aaj main bahut door nikal aaya”. It’s playing on a loop in background. I can’t explain why I liked it. I haven’t read the poem to understand it. I won’t try to read it, not tonight.
It is the memory that keeps us alive. I wrote this, in a poem, seven years. And tonight, I seek refuge in memory. There’s no chronology. Memory doesn’t have a beginning. It is jumbled heap of moments that have must happened. And so I ask myself, where do I even begin?
Our last conversation was on Eid, a few days ago, over whatsapp, and you looked better. I told you about cycling here and the bike lanes. I could tell you wanted me to be cautious on the road. I could tell you were doing better than the last time I met you, and said goodbyes, almost a year ago. It was a brief meeting. I didn’t know what to say more, and I didn’t know it would be the last time I saw you. Maybe a part of me knew, but, I didn’t accept it. There was hope. There always was hope. And now, nothing except memory.
But, memory, also, is treacherous. I want to capture it now, as it is, as I remember it. But, it is over-whelming. I flip between sweltering hear of Jammu during summer breaks to the fresh evening breeze in Dakhna. It, usually, were just the three of us. I see you in the winter, sometime in the late 90s, watching TV and recording the Eid special transmission on the VCR. I see you with the cattle, outside the old house, with a pair of binoculars. I see you at your retirement party at the government school Shindera. I imagine you, sometime in the early 90s, holding me, just as I remember you from a photograph. I re-imagine me, from a visual captured on video tape, walking with you in a baraat. And in this refuge, I see you, as you were, a constant presence through all these years.
“Thus I swear, here and now, not to forgive the universe/ that would let me get used to a universe/ without you,” wrote Agha Shahid Ali. I now know, what he felt.