The cradle of memories

I hope this letter finds you in good health. It has been a while since I saw your face. I have no complaints; I know we are oceans apart, and to frequent me will be quite troublesome. So, I send this letter in my stead, for you to read it at your leisure. 

The cradle of memories

Image Source: Freepik

Last month I received a letter when I was in Toronto that my son handed to me, saying, “Mumma! Here! A letter from Dadaji.” It was a letter from my father, and it read:


I hope this letter finds you in good health. It has been a while since I saw your face. I have no complaints; I know we are oceans apart, and to frequent me will be quite troublesome. So, I send this letter in my stead, for you to read it at your leisure.


Since your mother left me, I have succumbed to loneliness every day, and even a glance at our photos from when you were little moves me to tears. At this stage of my life, I need a reprieve from all these memories. I need to move on.

I rang up my lawyer and gave you whatever was left of mine. You are the only heir to our world. Bring it alive again; give it some colour in my absence. And keep the rocking chair. It still looks the way it did back in those days. I will take my leave to live in an old-age home. This new place has a great environment, and I will be able to make friends.

Visit me when you come back to Delhi.

Yours lovingly,

Babuli (Papa)

My Dadaji owned a rocking chair. It was his all-time favourite. After a long day, he used to sit back on this chair, roll a piece of tobacco, lick its rim, then burn one end and take a long drag from its butt. I would look at it carefully—to paint an image of him in all his exuberance—that man of few words would turn into a reporter on the news at nine, whose tongue would roll fluently without a mishap, or a woman in her forties who would chat away for hours with her neighbourhood friend serving all the latest tea soon after the second puff. He conjured up stories of his boyhood—of him climbing mango trees and sitting on their branches, then devouring the ripe mangoes; or when he won the hoop rolling race against his playmates and how he scared away the local ghost, who was but the local guard of the area, on his regular rounds while rocking his chair back and forth, along with the occasional drags. His experiences became my experiences; his adventures had become my adventures. That became the ‘cradle of memories.’

As the youngest in the family, I was the most adored and treated like a princess; Dadaji was the person to pamper me the most with everything from dolls, dresses and board games to books and even the little gleeful walks in the park. He was my moment after the ‘second drag’.

But our skits were the most entertaining! I would be the doctor, and he would be the patient. He would force his coughs and cry, ‘Doctor Ma’am, I cough a lot and have pain in my tummy’.

‘Have you had the medicine I gave you last time?’ I said with knitted eyebrows and a pouty mouth, barely seeing anything with my father’s big glasses on, which struggled to sit on my nose bridge. I caught him every time he had a snicker on his face at my plight.

Then, with a flustered face (as red as a tomato), I’d diagnose him with cough and cold from hearing his heartbeat with my stethoscope, attempting to read his pulse with my little fingers, and prescribe him a digestive medicine (the only medicine that I had known) and loads of rest. He would give a note of ‘10’ with some cents on a piece of paper for my excellent consultation. After our games, he duly retired to his rocking chair, staring at the ceiling while taking his mandatory drag while muttering to himself…


I remember once, when I was five, the word of his visit would ring in the room hours before his arrival. I would sit waiting, stealing eyes from the books laid in front, to the door and the clock.

‘When will he be here?’

I used to plague mum every five minutes. A ring in the bell, and I would rush to open it only to find my father holding all my gifts and tricking me into believing that Dadaji had left the gifts and returned to Kolkata. Yet, his smug face would attest to Dadaji’s arrival, waiting to be behind the staircase with my loud:


Dadaji was in his chair the last time I saw him, sad and serious. He would look every bit the person he is when he wore that gesture alone—a man of unimaginable experiences and secrets that no soul would know. As the radio played, “I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried… I have had my fill…. of losing’ he listened to, slowly drifting away while I complained to him of the affair of my eyes with the chocolate ice cream that I had a glimpse of on my way to him. His eyes were lost; his face always exuded the same serenity that he carried to sleep upon the white cloth. A smile and closed eyes became the epitome of rest after a fulfilled life.

At the time of unpacking, in my den of reminiscence, I heard my son’s laughter as he rocked the chair back and forth. It was his first time in the chair my Dadaji owned. Touching the memories alive again. The rhythmic forward and back movement of the chair was so dear to me. Seeing him do so, it was as if I could feel him comfort my memories nestled in the cradle of time. I began to weep like a child once more.