“I hate going to the bank.” Dada flopped into a chair and thumped his bag on the bed. He looked beaten, my grandfather did.
“Even though you get to see the stashes of notes you have hidden away in your account?” Dadi laughed from the kitchen. “It’s sad how my pocket money never seems to go up.”
“Oh, take as much as you need. What good will saving eternally be, anyway? I am not here till eternity and neither is any of us.”
My grandfather isn’t given to despondency. He continues to be fairly active, walking to and fro from the bank and the market several times each day. His unusual sulkiness struck me as odd.
“The sun is indeed too hot…” I began, but he shook his head.
“I don’t mind the sun. For all I know, winter is far more unrelenting. I hate going there because it seems like a harsh reminder of the passage of time. I no longer see many of my old friends. Often, I don’t even hear of them from the ones who remain. Last I heard, my colleague from work, the one I used to lunch with all the time, passed away in his sleep. We will never have lunch together again.”
Dadi brought him water. “He was in his nineties. At least he had a peaceful demise.”
“Yeah, better than my Kolkata friend who went to the US to be with his son and daughter-in-law. He never found them, I heard. Neither did I ever find him again.”
The two of them sat there, discussing old friends and acquaintances, several of whom were no longer around. The fish market, the Durga Puja pandaal and the morning-walk parks now abound with unfamiliar faces. Like a puff of smoke, impossible to hold, these lost people lurk only in memories.
I often spot Dada sitting by himself on the swing, staring into the distance. He enjoys feeding the housecats, though I mistrust their loyalty and suspect that it remains only as long as the food lasts. Several years ago, we would go together on leaf-hunting expeditions for school projects. We would play Badminton in the neighbourhood park and sit on the bench, talking about the colour of raindrops. Try as we can, lost time is impossible to bring back.
As more time passes, we will continue to lose people we have held dear, people we have wonderful memories with. While I, forever the child in Dada and Dadi’s eyes, might find it easier to accept loss, they don’t. Indeed, what is life without people you cherish and the enthusiasm that kept you going? In our smug, air-conditioned cabins and glorious years ahead of us, the prospect of a friendless, cold, old age may seem absurd. But this doesn’t negate how the prospect is real and will be our reality one day.
There’s something though that the passage of time hasn’t changed. Dada’s love for sweets. Every other day, we sit together with a bowl of ice-cream or Bengali mithaai. Over delicious, creamy spoonfuls, we turn back time. All the talk about sweets and calories notwithstanding, both of us shed several years from our age.