04 October 2012

Places do remember people

Rasika Jayakody, reading what I posted a couple of days ago (‘Fahad and Dilina are word-robbers’), remembered the speech I had made almost seven years ago, made a very interesting observation: ‘I don’t know either of them personally, they joined after I left that building; this piece reminded me of my various “stays” and “exits”, goodbyes said and unsaid, tears shed and unshed.’
Then he posed a question: ‘People remember places…do places remember people?’
Maybe these are memory days.  There is certainly comfort to be obtained in that reservoir, unlike in future-lake, no less splendid to visualize but far less tangible.  That which went, was, and given penchant for selectivity in recall, there are amazing flowers to pick.  What I am saying is that Rasika’s little note made me remember too.  Eight years ago I too asked a question:  ‘And bus stops that watched us grow from child to man to child again….are they saddened that in this circular transformation we never saw their faces?’

My ‘bus stop’ was a sign partly hidden by a jam-fruit tree.  The road was so narrow right there that some of those who waited for the bus had to step into the small space in front of ‘Korale’s Kade’ a small retail shop that was part of a firewood seller’s business operation.  Korale was kind.  The road is still narrow, but the sign has disappeared. 

We waited for the Route 120 bus.  They came full and we had to wait on average for half an hour before a ‘boardable’ bus turned up (and stopped!).  So we saw buses on other routes pass.  There was the 107 (Kalubowila to Elakanda), the 116 (Piliyandala to Mattakkuliya), 135 (Kohuwala to Kelaniya), 109 (from somewhere to Wattala) and the 162 (from somewhere to somewhere, rarely).  The bus stop saw all this.  In silence.

Time passed and we were able to board the ‘packed’ buses too, sometimes with just a toe-hold cling.  Our journeys expanded from home-school-home to other destinations.  Other routes became familiar.  More time passed and bus was abandoned in favour of bicycle.  The bus stop saw all this. In silence.
Today that jam fruit tree is gone.  Korale’s shop is still there, but closed.  No more wood chopping and transportation of firewood in a hand cart.  The shop will go soon for that narrow strip is to be widened.  All traces of place will disappear.

But places are also made of people.  I remember those who shared that anxious half-hour just after 6 o’clock in the morning.  There were schoolboys attending different schools.  Not many schoolgirls and that fact took a couple of years to register.  There were a few office-goers.  They’ve gone far beyond office and retirement now.  Korale is now a grandfather.  His wife has aged gracefully.  His two daughters and son have all married and settled down elsewhere. 

If places are made of people then all of them are made partly of bus-stop, jam fruit tree shade and waiting for a bus.  That story is told in different tongues and yes they are not said in different ways too.   There’s no way to string them together.  And there’s no reason too.

The bus stop is no more.  And that boy who stood there anticipating a school day with relish or trepidation and who can tell what else (I, for one, just can’t remember) is in pieces now, mind-memory parts dispersed in the passing years and discarded or robbed by the waylaying of association, event and metaphor. 

Places remember, for they are made of people-parts.  People remember, because they are part places.  If remembrance is tender, the world becomes softer.  That’s all I think there is to say about memory now.



Anonymous said...

It's such a solace to know that places remember people. There are exits, yet certain places hold memories, so much so, no other place can substitute- despite many odds... Your words brought back a flood of memories of 'places to dear' that they still bring a tear....

sajic said...

True. Places without people are like old railway stations where no trains run. Desolate.

Ama Aluthge said...

May be the places are also missing those people silently.......

Ama Aluthge said...

May be the places are also missing the people silently......