Monday, October 13, 2008

Slides and Joy Rides...

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of sitting in the darkened drawing-room of my grandparents’ house (henceforth referred to as ‘that’ house) with my whole family and watching a slide-show of old photographs. My ‘whole family’ consisted of my parents, my uncle, my aunt, my little cousin and of course, my grandparents. These photographs were usually clicked on out-station trips that the family had made; someone had come up with the priceless idea of converting the pictures to slides. And thus had started the ritual of sitting down for these ‘trips-down-memory-lane’. Every once in a while, post-dinner, the compact little projector would be brought out, placed on a table and my uncle would play narrator. One-by-one, he would guide us through the slides, offering brief descriptions of each of them.

The years passed by and the constitution of my family changed. After a prolonged illness, my grandmother left us at the age of seventy-five. I can’t place a finger on how things changed after her death, but they did. Somehow, somewhere. Three years ago I lost my grandfather too. Like any other family, we moved on. But our busy routines snatched away the pleasure of those frequent visits. And, needless to say, of the slide-shows that had formed an integral part of my life.

Recently, some relatives happened to visit us and we had a family-get-together in that house. Post dinner, someone came up with the idea of a slide-show. And all of us readily agreed. In a few minutes, we were all ready. After a gap of six or seven years, here we were, sitting in the same darkened room, our eyes glued to the wall. As images of the yesteryears flashed on the wall and disappeared after the respective narration, I experienced that same childhood thrill, that same excitement; for a brief period, it was as if my grandparents had come back, that they were sitting in the same room and reliving their pasts as well.

In that span of forty minutes, the family vacations of long-long-ago became tangible realities - my grandparents, both young and spirited; my father and my uncle, men in the prime of their youth; their trustworthy blue ambassador, a dependable companion who took them wherever they wished to go. And decades later, in the present day, we all sat face-to-face with the yesteryears.

Why those lifeless bits of film are so important to me, some may ask. And I have my answer ready. There is so much about the past that I have witnessed only through these slide-shows, for instance, my father’s pet rabbit, Bunny, who died when my father was in doing his MBA, our palatial house in Nainital, which is today practically in ruins, birthdays that were celebrated with extended family and friends, and so much more. To me, these slide shows are like time-machines, or, more precisely, like the ‘Pensieve’ in the Harry Potter Series.

Tomorrow, the constitution of my family is bound to change further – some people will leave forever, and some will come in. And someday, when we are having another get-together, with both old and new family members, I will ask, make a special request, for the projector to be brought out again. So that we can, as a family, relish another beautiful rendezvous with the yesteryears.