As clichéd as it may sound, but I feel in retrospect, if we really look back at all the moments in our life, if we lay them out and spread them flat like feathered patterns on an astonishingly long wallpaper and go through them, one by one, shifting back and forth like a Time traveler in a vestibule, I feel it’s never the moments that had a major impact on the rest of our lives that we remember the most, right?
In the last 8 years, I’ve lived in 4 different cities, came across 5 different languages, and have a bagful of experiences and memories from all of them. I’m 22 and I’ve ended up here, an almost graduate from an Engineering college whose ready to enter the corporate world to slug it out in the rat race just like everybody else, but now that I look back, I don’t remember in much vivid details any of those experiences that led me here in the first place. I don’t remember what it felt like when I gave my engineering entrance exams, I don’t remember in great details how I decided to join the college that I’m now a part of. It just happened. I don’t remember the intricacies or how I felt in those moments. Maybe it was joy, maybe relief with a tinge of sadness. But I’m only guessing here. I can’t relive the same moment even if I wanted to.
Even during my boarding schooldays, I can’t remember in all the clarity the moments that had probably meant the world to me during that time. I don’t remember what it felt like the first time I gave my board exams or the first time I had a major fight with my best friends and we didn’t talk for a month. A month of no interaction with my best friends in a boarding school, and I don’t remember what the reason for the fight was. Maybe it was a girl, I don’t know.
What I do remember, what I still smile at reminiscing every single time, is this one single instance that has etched so finely in my memory, that I couldn’t help but lay it on the table over and over, during bittersweet conversations over a cup of coffee. It was this night when I was in a boarding school in Dehradun and the mess was supposed to serve ice creams for dessert. Naturally, we longed for this meal the entire week. It was Thursdays, (I still remember that see?) and on this one particular night, during dinnertime in the mess, my three other musketeers and I (I know there were only three, but it’s my blog and I can do- okay I’ll shut up now ) had managed to create such a ruckus, laughing our hearts out over some stupid shit that we did the same day, being young and wild and free, that the mess coordinator refused to serve us ice creams for dessert.
I remember clearly the four of us being furious and agitated, storming back to our dormitories (which were right above the mess by the way), cussing and slandering the mess coordinator the entire time. I remember all of us drooling over the taste of the strawberry cup ice cream that couldn’t be ours, the one that got away, and the rest of dormitory assholes mocking us about the same, doing the pretend “WHATTAN ICE CREAM BRO!” *slurp slurp* the whole time. And I remember, at around 2 in the middle of the night, when the entire hostel lay asleep, one of us coming up with this bizzaro idea of breaking into the kitchen (that was just downstairs the boys dormitory) and stealing back what was rightfully ours in entitlement, the cups of ice-cream in the fridge, the ones that got away. And as the crazy fucks that we were, I remember all of us agreeing in unison, like a mob being incited by a union leader. And like a ‘Mission Impossible’ heist sequence, I remember all of us intricately designing the master plan to break into the mess kitchen to take back from the enemies what was ours in the first place, the cups of ice cream, the ones that got away.
One of us would stand guard outside the warden’s room and would signal if there were much noise or if the other dorm assholes (yes that is what we used to call them) had come out of their rooms in the middle of the night to pee or have a drink from the water cooler. Another guy would stand guard just below the stairs so he could effectively communicate the signal from the first guy to the rest of us and the other two, one of them being me, would break into the kitchen and steal the leftover cups of ice cream, the ones that got away, from the gigantic fridge there.
The kitchen gate was a double door with a knob that was locked in the middle and one of the senior boys had told us that if you kick real hard at the exact center of the double door, it would slam open along with the knob. The only catch here was, it would make a fuckload of noise that could easily wake the rest of the hostel up, but that was a risk we were willing to take (because, you know, crazy) and hence there were the boys that stood guard.
And I remember everything falling in the right place, me kicking open the double door and it, fortunately, not making a lot of noise; us tiptoeing in the kitchen towards the Goliath of a fridge that stood before us and opening it up to find, lo and behold, three completely seal packed cartons of cups of strawberry ice cream, the ones that got away . This moment is so beautifully forged in my memory. We were like explorers who had wandered under the ocean to search for a mermaid, and in the journey to our fortune had been struck upon the entire city of Atlantis. I stared at the cartons, then to my friend, who stared back at me and the two us again stared back at the cartons of ice cream in front of us, sharing the same words in our mind that were left unsaid in that moment. And we looked back at each other and nodded in agreement. We picked up an entire carton of ice cream and agreed upon leaving the rest so as to dodge the doubt in the minds of the kitchen staff the next day that a burglary might’ve taken place. We then shut the kitchen door and tiptoed back to our rooms. I still get goosebumps reminiscing the same emotions we felt in that moment, emotions of excitement and relief and a sense of adventure. We felt like professional criminals at the end of an Oceans 11 heist who would now share the spoils among themselves.
The problem here, and I remember it as dauntingly as possible, was that the carton had 20 pieces of strawberry ice cream cups. We were 4 people. Each gets a share of 5 cups (yay to my JEE mathematics proficiency). It was around 2 in the middle of the night and the loot had to be consumed in the night itself (because, you know, ice cream). We cannot wake other dorm assholes up in the middle of the night to have ice creams (because, you know, stupid). And we dare not waste it or throw it away (because, you know, hostelites).
So we did what seemed the most logically comprehendible thing at that moment. We each grabbed a spoon and we indulged on an even greater mission, which was to have 5 cups of ice-cream in one go. And I remember, in the most excruciating of details, that after 3 cups, the loot seemed less of a victory spoil and more of a punishment. It was one of those moments where the atheist in me believed in something called the concept of ‘divine justice.’ I remember, and relive, the feeling each of us had when we finished the last cup which was an intoxicating mix of guilt, sore throat and brain-freeze. I remember the bunch of us snorting and coughing the entire time and going to bed raising those bleak promises of “never again” (how naive of us). So cloyed with ice creams had the bunch of us become in that moment, that I remember the next Thursday, when the same dessert was served, we ended up giving our share away to the dorm assholes *sigh*.
I remember all of this in such trivial details as if it were yesterday, and yet what I find to be the most bewildering of things is that, this was perhaps the most insignificant of moments, that would have had no impact whatsoever on the life I’ve led henceforth. I’m not a burglar (I guess), I haven’t even shoplifted thereafter, nor am I sick of ice creams anymore (although mint ice-creams do make me barf a bit but that is beside the point), and yet somehow this remains to be one of the most finely etched footprint in the relics of my mind. I stumble upon it ever so often. During conversations over a cup of tea, on lazy Sunday afternoons, on long drives and on insomniac nights. And yet, not one of these occasions could ever help me remember vividly the details of the moments I thought to be truly significant.
And this is what I learnt, that it’s never those large, significant moments that we truly remember. What we remember, what always stays with us, are those tiny details, those little moments of idiosyncrasies that only we know about- that friend whose laugh was like the yodel of a mountaineer, that girl whose eyes crinkled every time she smiled, the essence of hugging your loved one as it were the very last time and none of you would refuse to let go- this, all of this, remains, right? We set such high priorities for moments in our lives that we probably aren’t going to remember 10 years from now. And as important as these events are, as important as it is to score and good grades in your midterms or to get into a good MBA college, they are but stick doodles on the sand at a beach. So often are we enticed by the pot of gold at the end of rainbow that somehow we refuse to look at how beautiful the colours really are. So why not live in moments that make memories? Why not cherish the trivialities? The chai-time gupshup, the friend who rotates a flick of her hair on her finger, the laughing and remembering and the laughing and forgetting. That is the recipe, the good stuff memories are made up of.
I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’ll look back 10-15 years and go “I once nailed a so and so exam and got such and such salary package”. What I’ll always remember and relive, over and over until I get goosebumps on my arms, is the time I and a bunch of hooligans who meant the world to me, broke into a kitchen in the middle of the night to find 4 or 5 insignificant cups of ice-cream, and ended up stealing a carton full of happiness.