“What matters in life is not what happens to you, but what you remember and how you remember it.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
It was since last spring that Samira’s memories were being eaten down by her disease with a grave vengeance. I remember that day vividly, I was back home from another grueling day of work, knocked on the door more than 10 times and looked through the window to see her staring timidly at the door knob.
‘I forgot how to open this thing!’ she said with a laugh.
I fell in love with her laugh. I fell in love with the innocence of it. I fell in love with the way it repetitively defeated my depressions. When I said I loved her I knew the repercussions. I knew how a group of people, united by a subservient attitude to a set of unwritten rules, would react to the idea of us, two women, sharing a life. For them my love, our love would always be secondary compared to our identities granted down by birth. And when we began our life together, we were a bright spot of paint on their colourless thoughts, the mere existence of which may reconsider an ardent viewer to paint thoughts more colourfully. So they dejected us because we could defeat them, so they mocked us because we were beautiful, so they shied away because we were perfect!
Yet, as I remember her laugh as she kept staring at the knob, I could feel a certain pain. Because faintly yet certainly, every stroke of colour with which we painted our lives were now being washed away with time.
‘Aditi, when did you put up these? Who took it? My, they are lovely!’ she asked me looking at the photographs that detailed her room.
‘You know what I love about the photographer in you?’ she once said when she was drunk. ‘You tend to capture more emotions than colours!’
Perhaps that was the greatest compliment I ever received from the only person who have seen every one of my photographs. And then there was this image of her in front of me today; her skin folding everywhere, her cheeks, which I used to suckle, growing inwards and her eyes devoid of stories. She watched in awe at the photographs, as she began to relive them all over again.
She was patient when I said I loved her. She was as calm as a tree. Breathing in all that I breathe out and giving me my sustenance instead. There was this insanity amidst the calm which only I could decipher. Her craze for travels, her fear of not living life fully, her words with which she created a world of illusions.
‘..for life is something we interpret, not something that is as it is. Perhaps this is why our realities are different and our meanings of life so extreme that you could see a person seeing red as a rose in a lover’s hand and another as his blood which boils in revolt..’
I remember that night when she wrote these words and pulling me up to show me what she has written.
‘To hell with you Samira, it is 3 in the morning and I don’t understand a word!’ I said then. And it took me almost 30 years to understand the fact that life is indeed the way we interpret it to be.
She was defined by her insanities. It was her insanities which would define me too. For the travels we’ve been on created the photographer that I am today, the words she had written enriched my passions and the dreams which she shared made me a much better person.
She was holding a pen in her hands. It was years since I last saw the same. I waited, patiently, for her to write. She was smiling, rather displaying a naughty grin. She spoke very little these days and was almost always lost in thoughts. I tend to believe that she was recollecting all the years of madness we’ve been on, and was perhaps losing trail in between. I watched how her pen traced something on the folds of that paper, and I desperately prayed for it to be something with meaning. She stopped suddenly, looked up at me and stood blank. She didn’t come up to me and show me what she had written. Maybe, in those passing moments she was slowly beginning to forget me too.
‘Aditi!’ she called out as I was cleaning the mess she made as she forgot to go to toilet. ‘There is a lake by our old apartment where we used to sit every evening. You remember?’
I was taken aback by her sudden remembrance. ‘Yes! Do you want to go there?’
‘Yes!’ she said.
The lake was pleasant and by its shores numerous stories nestled restlessly. They were all waiting for Samira, they were all waiting for me, they were all waiting for us. But we never met them that day. We looked silently at how the lake, like every other thing around us had outgrown its due date. She was polluted, crippled by weeds and plants, choked out of its life by an encroaching city. There were fishes leaping out of the water and a couple of kingfishers waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I took out my camera, steadied it as one of the kingfishers dived into the lake and came up with her priced catch. Shutters of my camera clicked almost in the same instant and all the colours of that evening was devoured into a small little card which kept all memories.
‘Show me the photo’ Samira said and watched the image closely.
‘This photograph, it presents two conflicting emotions’ she said in a serious tone.
‘First, the kingfisher comes up after her successful hunting expedition, captures what she was looking for and holds it closely not to let it slip.’ I nodded in acceptance.
‘The next is of the fish. Clearly, she doesn’t like the prospect of being caught by this kingfisher and is trying to slip away.’ I smiled. Ever since her disease began haplessly eating over her it was only now that I heard her speak such genuine philosophies.
‘You know what?’ she continued, ‘I don’t think the fish will escape!’
And she slowly gave the camera back and stared at the lake. The kingfishers had flown away. The lake was calm and Samira was even calmer. I hugged her, and pulled her close. All the while the stories which nestled upon the shores remained there, untouched.