The sun was slowly sinking into the horizon as our car rolled over the sand and to the edge of the compound. The waves lapped in and out quickly, its foamy white waters turning a serene orange in reflection. The bungalow itself hadn’t changed much. It was the same off-white color as it was when I last saw it, the potted plants were still drooping on the balcony and a thin film of dust (or was it sand) clung to the windows. I smiled. I looked at the sea, and it hadn’t changed either. It was as calm as I remembered it to be. And seeing my six year old daughter jump in and out of the waves brought back memories. This was where I belonged. This was home.
But did I hear that right? This “was” home? Wasn’t it still? A tinge of sadness mixed with the joy I had been feeling since I got out of the car. Had it been that long?
Seven years. Seven long years had passed since I had last seen this bungalow, this white castle where I spent most of my childhood years.
It was a treasure trove for me back then, as I hunted for gold coins that my father’s bedtime stories had, for the two little mice that once drove my mother up the dining table and for one rupee coins that may have slipped into the crevices of the old sofa with the creaky springs. It was on these sands that I first dreamed of, and built my first sandcastle. It was on these shores that I made my first friend, a little stray mongrel I named Pooh after my favorite cartoon character. It was down this bungalow’s winding staircase that I first tumbled down and skinned my knees.
It was in this bungalow that I first threw a party in college, and after an impromptu game of spin-the-bottle, shared my first kiss with the prettiest girl I knew and felt I had no chance to date. It was here I came to study for my finals, and here I came after I graduated with honors. It was in a big pandal on this compound that I got married to that very girl seven years back.
I remember the last time I saw these shores, and I I turn and look at my wife. I can see that she’s thinking the same thing. Leaving Vidya to enjoy herself with the waves, we rush inside the bungalow.
A bottle with a note inside it sits proudly on the mantelpiece above the roaring fire.
And we smile, seeing another memory still left unchanged after all these years.
I open the bottle and take out the note. Reading it quickly, I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. But I still read it out loud.
“We know that promises can be broken,
But here’s a promise we mean to keep;
This bungalow is a palace of our memories,
A castle of emotions we’ve stored deep.
Here’s where we first, years back, did kiss,
And where we first, that day, fell in love;
And where we tied the knot, became one,
Another memory is those unsaid vows.
To this palace, we shall return every year,
That’s a promise we wish to make today;
For memories are what makes us realize,
The value of those blissful yesterdays.”
Seven years of broken promises, and here we were, for a vacation of seven days. As I read those words again, I realize this trip would not be easy. This journey back home was a journey I had wanted to take. But I had forgotten that a journey through these memories was another I would have to make.
(08 Dec, 2013)