Raiding the Memory Box

June 15, 2008 at 9:05 pm (Dominic Alapat, Personal Essay)



Four boys run across the street to Sterling theatre in white uniforms. It is afternoon and it is raining. The boys have no umbrellas and they are wet. They have come after school to watch a film. It is difficult to find corollaries for some experiences in life. The first morning of summer vacation smells different. One notices more things as though one had suddenly woken up. The birds chirp as dawn slowly breaks, one breathes in the freshness in the air, one notices the yellow flowers. The memory box keeps streaming pages; precious images, snatches of conversation start playing.


So much of one’s environment adds to one’s life. For me, the city is an endless source of sustenance. Artistically, I find it fascinating beyond words. Yet, so much of it lies in the unknown. Dark, looming buildings against the sea. The hundreds of windows staring empty, with whatever life you can invest in them. The traffic on the roads moving endlessly, the horns; a mad, recognisable music plays. So much emotion is invested in certain scenes. A long empty road at night. Travelling by in a taxi in the rains, the trees by the roadside, the flashing of the headlights on the road, the droplets of water hitting the tar. Or the two and three storeyed buildings of Central Bombay seen from the top of a double-decker bus. Women in nighties standing in the balconies. Their faces with expressions you cannot tell.


The past is constantly with us. It has a life of its own. Glimpses of scene, of sound can lead to emotion of the most sublime and nourishing kind. Sometimes the light or words uttered in a certain way can set the movie rolling. The past hangs circling with a scene or a phrase keeps playing. Faces connect with voices, the time of the day is clear, and the place builds up street by street, building by building, window by window. A certain smell wafts on your tongue and here a market opens with its vegetable sellers, colour and fruit setting off a riot of moods and words.


The book of days and nights is always open. We read from it everyday. Certain moments stand more familiar, marking some kind of permanent residence on the psyche. They lure us in a way as though they still had their stories to complete. These memories yield to great feeling, one’s earliest sights, sounds, happiness, fear. They seem to be telling us something about ourselves. Desire, love, it is all stored there. A machine humming in the universe. The wisdom it offers is the source of our greatest joys, our transcendental experiences, the life of the soul. Its rapture keeps us ticking.


A scene intervenes. A boy stands outside his house looking at his window. It is night. It is time for him to go to sleep. He looks at the pattern the bulb makes on the window glass. Something like a rocket or a tower. He looks at the sky above. He notices the moon, the stars, the calm and vast sky. He is on his way to sleep, but is in raptures. He is thinking of earlier days. When he was smaller, probably not yet able to speak. A garden appears to him in his mind. Inside, a coloured fountain plays. The light changes from orange to blue to gold. Droplets of water fall on his face. His mind is singing a song. A story is passing through him.  

The memory box is everyone’s constant companion. Life’s richness is stored there. In fact, it is sustenance itself. It is our only semblance to a form, a map begun somewhere without us. It is drenched in tears and rain. It is our communion of commonalities, lending its lessons of surprise and awe, wonder and comprehension. It is water from which we drink daily.


– Dominic Alapat.        



1 Comment

  1. shanti panicker said,


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