June-10, 2015 around 6 PM
“Growing up is a unique process in itself and the experiences associated with it are unique for every individual. People look at things differently at different stages of life. This phenomenon, be it natural or self-governed brings out unique stories from our lives.”
I couldn’t stop myself from reading the paragraph twice. Someway it made some sense.
“Hey Raj, would you prefer non veg or saint style?” Manoj asked showing his glittering teeth
“Dude get me some non veg stuff with saint type toppings.” I replied like a wise man
“Forget it you mixed bag.” Manoj placed two non veg pizzas finally on the table.
A cloudy evening, a friend of choice and a pizza treat is a delightful combination. I was fortunate to get this combo pack all of a sudden and that too free of cost.
“What’s about this notebook? Are you trying to pen any experience?” I asked Manoj pointing at the paragraph I just read from his notebook.
“Hey that’s personal !!” Manoj exclaimed almost snatching it out of my hands.
We continued talking about our present state of mind, covering the different states of the country we have been working with. This reunion of two college mates had happened almost after a gap of three long years and so there was a lot of stock piled up waiting to uncover. Manoj and I met in Chennai for the first time when we shook hands within the premises of an engineering college. Soon we became bench mates from just batch mates and since then the series of talks concerning both of us had had their way through our ears, through different courses, be it subjects or personal lives.
“So buddy how did you land here in Bengaluru?”
“Delhi is burning these days, you know. Thought of chilling out with the weather here.” Manoj, having spent his childhood in Chennai never liked Delhi. I could think of two reasons instantly. One, the usual language battles and two, the mismatch of his nature and the hot weather there. But, thanks to the awesome HR policies of IT companies, despite his unwillingness, he was forced to join a project there.
“Well I don’t remember reading any news about the Delhi weather changing much in the last couple of years. Are you sure it’s all about weather fantasy?”
“Ok I give up Mr. Investigator!! I’m here for some crazy matter this time.”
He pulled out his mobile and started showing his call details. Five messages from an unknown number. The same text repeated five times, which read ‘Do you still remember Jaideep?’
“I have been receiving the same message for a week Raj. The name Jaideep has created a ripple of unrest in me. Do you remember the day we discussed about him?”
It was during our second year in college when Manoj introduced me to Jaideep through a photograph. A childhood friend of mine, a very special one, he had said. I tried to recall the story he had shared that day.
May-5, 2009 around 2:30 PM
“Hey congrats dude !!! you rocked this semester. You owe me a party, don’t you?”
Manoj, as usual, had topped the semester and as the untold rule goes in college, happiness needs to be shared through your wallet. Every student had to fall for it.
“Yes we are having it right here, right now.” Manoj placed a large sized pizza between us. It was time for our untimely pizza treat.
“Looking at your remarkable performance I am sure you have planned for a glittering future. You can share the sight of it with me if you like. I promise you won’t find me asking for a slice of it later.” I winked at him to forcefully get him reveal what he had in stock today.
“You know sometimes future looks very uncertain when your past stares at you, demanding for completeness.”
I thought he was up for a romantic break up story.
“Have a look at this.” He tossed a photograph towards me.
Surprisingly it turned out to be a guy of around 12 years old, serious face, in a dark blue checked shirt and black Jeans. The eyes appeared drowsy and cheeks slightly fluffy giving him a very decent/lazy look.
“He is Jaideep, Jaideep Singh. One of my childhood friends. I call him my invisible friend.”
“This sounds a bit different from the usual friendship tales.” I understood the case wasn’t romantic at all.
“We faced each other only twice so far in life. First when he arrived at Chennai and came to stay in my neighborhood. He told it was his Uncle’s house near the fifth light post starting from the one illuminating mine. A week later, as I stood in my balcony, I saw him vanishing under the same street light early morning. He had asked me to join him for a mysterious adventure as the world illuminates the next day. Following his words, there he was waving good bye to me and leaving for his unknown adventure, never to return again. That’s the last physical impression I have about him.”
I thought of participating to make it a dialogue. “Didn’t you talk to his Uncle’s family?”
“Yes I tried every means to trace him out but he was gone. He is on a spiritual trip. He saw a dream many years back that he would follow the path less taken, less known. I heard many statements like these from them, as if they desperately wanted to set Jaideep free.”
Manoj talked about how strange it was for him to visualize a teenager willing to opt out of social life, for no known reason. He felt some parts were missing in this picture puzzle, for it wasn’t emerging out in any logical sense. A week went by imagining about the background of this sudden act of disappearance. Things had started following usual course when a mail startled him.
I wish you had joined me that day. A journey always gets better when you have a partner in crime along with you. Isn’t it?
I am on an adventurous trip. It’s neither spiritual nor in lines with the rituals of social framework. It’s all about me, my journey and my destination.
I’m sharing my photo just to help keeping the memories of our brief meeting alive. I can just hope that we reappear for each other someday.
Your mysterious friend
“Is this the same photo?” I intervened to connect fiction with reality.
We talked a lot more about Jaideep, particularly his character, possibilities that would have enabled him or carried him to the other sphere of humanity. Both of us decided to close this matter as one of those dark secrets, that we fear to disclose, that could spray dark spots on this colorful world of ours.
June-10, 2015 around 9 PM
“Oh come on my friend, are you crazy? How could you relate a message delivered in 2015 with the discussion we had in 2009?” I sounded probably a little stern than usual.
“There is one more graphic reason for that Raj. I received it through a mail.”
Another photograph was on display now. An independent house, with a signboard ‘Memory lane’. The building looked quite old in age but somehow fresh in liveliness. The pin code on the board referred to a remote place near Bengaluru.
“I tried calling the number but couldn’t hear a human voice in return. Similarly replying to the mail only returned a scripted note signifying failure in delivery.”
I could sense something fishy in all this. This wasn’t just a coincidence or a prank. There had to be something specific ahead of these indicators. Something sensible ahead of these blank messages. There was only one way to find out. To follow the way.
June-13, 2015 around 9 AM
The place was full of greenery and devoid of any unwanted noise. An atmosphere of peace, an ambiance of friendliness among unknowns were instant feelings that could be immediately penned about the experience of being there. With little inquiry about the term ‘Memory Lane’ we easily found someone who could present a vivid pathway to get to our destination.
The building looked quite similar to the one in photograph. A beautiful garden welcoming us was a visual treat. The musical notes filling the stillness of immovable objects around us made us appreciate the variety of birds. It brought back my childhood memory of walking with my grandmother early morning as she plucked flowers for morning Puja. The same smell of flowers, the same purity in air but not the placidness of mind anymore. No wonder I was staring at the welcome note displayed on a board near the door titled ‘Welcome to The Memory Lane’. It was an old age home.
“How can I help you gentlemen?” A middle aged receptionist inquired looking at us
“Well we are searching for someone with no authentic clue. Managed to reach here following certain messages. Is there anyone called Jaideep Singh here?” Manoj’s desperation was both visible and audible now.
“As per our records we have a staff member with that name. There he is at the cash department. Let me call him here.”
A young boy, barely eligible for voting, in a formal attire stood before us.
“Hello Mr. Manoj. Nice to meet you.” The guy greeted Manoj with a perfect smile
“So you know me already. It was you who brought me here. But you are not the one I was searching for. How are you related to my friend Jaideep?”
“Sir it doesn’t matter how we relate to each other in this world as long as serving others is the motive. I have to leave in few hours. All you should know is I am a friend of your friend with a friendly motive. He used to discuss about you many times with me before he left this place. You already got many clues to reach here. Here is the last one for your next journey. Excuse me now please.”
He placed a note on Manoj’s hand and quickly boarded a cab waiting for him nearby. The note unfolded with the breeze of scented air.
Welcome to The Memory Lane
Thanks for accepting my invite after so many years. It’s better late than never for a wise start. Adapting yourself with your memories is often challenging as you might have experienced in the last couple of days. But surprisingly touching the memories of people in need, syncing them with your time could be refreshing.
I always thought loss is the most devastating feeling of life, sometimes momentary, sometimes for life. No person would like to lose anything. I have had it all. Losing my parents early, understanding it later when treatment changed being under my Uncle’s shade. I understood that branches emerging from the same root could be different in inclination, inspiration and protection. So one fine day I was desperate to lose my childhood. I wanted to grow up fast.
Then I reached here seeking for a different life, a different role. I found people with the same degree of desperation that I carried with me. The only difference was, they wanted to lose their adulthood.
Since then I am trying to figure out how could loss be so meaningful and losing, a need. It’s all about the play of time which we mistake to be the game of numbers. Hope you will give it a try.
The next day we went back to our usual cycle of daily events. We never talked about the experience later. Probably we were scared to think about it. What if it disturbed the soft balance that we build out of our imaginary comfort zone.
That night while I was staring at the stars lying on bed, I thought about the whole sequence of clues. I found it so funny to think how sometimes we know where our end lies, yet we pretend to be someone else. Eventually in doing so we end up somewhere else only to stare at the real guiding stars and wonder how much distance was covered. The enjoyment with number games goes on while the play of life makes us act the way we never thought. My eyes closed a few minutes later waiting to respond to the morning alarm.