I have a very long memory; so long, that many people think that I might have been imagining those things that I remember. Those memories are very vivid, but mixed. I am not sure which even happened first.
If I am right, my first memory might be my hospitalization when I was around 2 years old. I remember it was night, and it was a hospital at my mother’s native place. I remember getting an injection, and I remember that it felt like a small prick, and that I did not cry. I think I was on the ground floor. I also remember shopping for my tricycle; that too was at night. I was staying at my father’s house during that time, so I am sure that memory is one of my oldest, because I remember it when we shifted to our first house. We moved to the new house in an Ambassador car, and I was confused why the women who were waiting for us, presumably neighbors’, were laughing at us. We shifted our house before I joined for pre KG, and during that time, I must have been around 2 or 3 years old.
Those memories are impressive, but not as great as the first memories of my friends. I doubt if my memories of my best friend is as old as my kinder garden memories; strange, but maybe not that much, because I don’t think we spent that much time together when we were young.
I still remember my first day at school, both pre-kinder garden as well as kinder garden. My mother had taken me and my sister to a Nursery school near our house, but probably just for a few days. Both my parents were working and I do not remember spending much time in pre-KG. She must have dropped me over there when she could not find anyone to look after us, since it was right next door to her close friend. My first day in kinder garden was not scary for me and I did not cry. My father was a teacher and I saw him off to school everyday, and he always came back in the evening. So my tiny brain understood that people spend their daytime at school when they got bigger, and it made me feel that I was old, maybe as old as my father was. I was thrilled because I too was going to school like him, and on his bicycle; too bad I could not take my tricycle. I did feel a bit apprehensive just before I left home, probably because that was the first time I was leaving it for the day, and I knew that when people went to school, they came back only by evening, and that was a very long time for my infantile brain. I did my Lower KG at St. Mary’s A.I.G.H.S. It was and still is a girls school, but I was the second last batch (I think) of boys who did their KG in that school. I know that one boy from my class continued to Upper Kinder Garden in the same school, whereas all the rest including myself went to another school to continue our education. I and most other boys joined my father’s school.
Back to my first day; I felt apprehension the moment I sat in front of my father on his bicycle outside my home. My mother was beside us to send us off. The next thing I can remember is going towards the gate of the school. Just like a movie, the next moment I am sitting among a crowd of children, practically all of them crying, and me perplexed to find everyone crying. I remember looking at the door to see most parents looking in, and my father’s face in between them waving my good bye. That wasn’t worrying because he had told me that he would come to pick me up after school was out, but I was completely lost among all the crybabies. I failed to realize that most of them did not have the privilege of seeing a person going to school everyday. They must have thought that their parents were leaving them forever because they wetted the mattress last week. A few of them would have brothers or sisters who went to school everyday, and I doubt if they were happy about that. I do remember that a few kids were not crying.
My teacher was Miss. Nuzrat. A petite lady who wore sari and had short hair. I wonder if I would recognize her now. And those of you who are reading this, if you think I am making all this up, I can tell you were my class was. Next to the school is a Church, and there is an entrance towards the school from its compound, a small gate. There are a couple of steps towards the corridor on the right just after the gate. My first class was the last one on the right hand side of that corridor, though we changed class a few times.
As I said, most of the boys changed school after LKG to my father’s school, and many of them continued with me till we passed out of school, and I remember most of them. I used to tell the names of all the kids to my father. My best friend during that time was a boy named Dibin, but I will tell more about him later, because he studied with me for one more year.
I used to know all my classmate’s names, but over time, I have forgotten almost all the girls, except one. I remember her smiling at me the one time we met after I went off to a different school and that is probably why I still remember her. I must have been shy even then, because I did not talk to her, and must have practically ignored her.
Her name is Michelle, and she used to speak in a loud voice, and I think most 3 years old speak like that; over the years her voice have softened, at least it was when I talked to her after ten or twelve years. I am sure she had no recollection about any of these, but I do, and recognized her immediately when I met her years later. My teacher used to take us to the church compound; I think it was usually on Friday afternoon, let us play for a while and make us sit by the empty drainage with our feet into it. I was restless and used to wonder why everyone was sitting there doing nothing and used to get up a lot. I remember sitting beside her, once, maybe a few times. But I guess usually it was Dibin and I; wonder what 3 -4 year old school kids talk about!
She was cute; all 3 year olds are. But unlike one of my classmate, she didn’t have bad breath, dressed immaculately, at least better than other 3 year olds, had neat hair, but I still remember her because she said something that made an impression on me.
After that brief stint in the girl’s school, I moved to my father’s school, but shifted our house opposite my old school and my sister joined my old school. She was there for the rest of her school days. My father used to take me home for lunch, and once I was taking my sister back to school (my old school, and hers forever). I must have been in UKG, and my sister’s class was reachable from a difference entrance. For those of who are not familiar with the school, it had four entrances; two big gates and one small gate between those two other than the one I mentioned previously. I used to take her through the small gate. That day when I took my sister, I found my old friend sitting on the steps, looking forlorn or maybe lonely. But she did flash a huge smile when she saw me, and I, having gotten into a boys school, and irritated because I had to take my sister to a girls school, just smiled weakly, and walked past her.
I am sorry I ignored you then, Michelle.
I kept seeing her infrequently for a few years, but at that time I had no idea how much she had influenced my childhood, and I did not realize that years later I would wish I still know those friends from my childhood. But I saw her again, when I was around 13 or 14 years old. I spoke to her, but never mentioned that we were classmates long back. And it was then I realized that she was different from that bold little girl; sheÂ was still “little” but not as bold. I was still immature, and had no idea that she would be one of my cherished memories from kinder garden, because she remembered and smiled at me after a year.
When you are remembered for the wrong reasons, and not remembered for whom you are, then it is those memories from childhood that makes you realize your life was not so bad, that there were a few people who considered you as a friend.
I saw her profile on Orkut a few days back, and shot her a message asking her to reply if she remembered me, not from KG, but from our high school days. I wish I had not, because I did that impulsively.
Memories are sweet, but you cannot live in the past. Those days are gone, and neither of us are 3 years old any more.
â€¦, they dont have time
For, They have a nest to keep,
Fledglings to feed, and-
A mate to love.
I have many people to thank for what I am, and among my friends, I need to thank her before anyone else.
Thank you Michelle; for being my friend, even if most of those memories are lost forever. Thank you for that one single smile. You may never know, but that is the first smile I remember, of recognition, of pure childhood friendship asking for nothing but a smile in return.
They say, old is gold. And when I find myself wondering who my friends are, wondering whether selfless friendship exist, that smile reminds me that I did have a friend who asked for nothing but a smile in return, and I realize it was always me who pushed my friends away. But the pain of lost friendship and happy memories of that friendship is better than wondering if true friendship really exists.
Thank you, wherever you are.
I miss that spunky, 3 year old Michelle.