I am shocked. I have got it wrong. Yesterday I rang my father in Delhi to ask him about his Revrobes. He was surprised.
`Why on earth are you thinking about that?’ he asked.
`Because,’ I replied, `I was thinking about the time when you left Madras to go to England and…’
`What do you mean?’ he cut in. ‘I didn’t have those cases then!’
I was silent for minute
‘ You didn’t?’
‘No,’ he said, ‘you’re mixing things up. I bought those Revrobes in Singapore. Long after my stay in England. As late as 1956.’
‘Then …’ I was lost for words, ‘why did I think all along that those were the suitcases you took to England?’
He laughed. ‘My dear, you were probably too young. Well … actually, come to think of it, you weren’t born as yet. I used to have a beautiful large trunk, a cabin trunk as they called it those days that my parents gave me to take to England. I had it with me on the ship and then I brought it back and travelled with it to Cairo and other places. Then it fell apart and I couldn’t get it fixed. So, when we were in Singapore, I got the two Revrobes instead. I had my initials put on them because the cabin trunk also had my initials engraved on it.’
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to tell him that he had just shown me that the memories I held most true might well be fictions.
‘Hello!’ he said. ‘Are you still there … ?’
‘Yes …’ I tried to hide the sense of shock.
‘What’s the matter? Why are you, of all people, thinking about all this?’
‘Just a bit taken aback. That’s all. I thought the Revrobes had always been with you.’
‘Well,’ he replied, ‘they’re very sturdy. Still in good shape, actually. I could still use them if I wanted to. Though I have to say they need a good clean. They’ve been up in the loft for so long. I was very sad, though, to have to give up my old cabin trunk. I was very fond of it.’
‘So what did you do with it? Did you throw it away?’
‘No,’ he replied. ‘We made one more trip with it back to your grandparents home in Madras and then we left it there, I think.’ His voice trailed off a bit. ‘Now I don’t know what’s happened it …’ He paused for a moment. ‘Who knows, maybe somebody has it and is making use of it.’
‘What do you mean?’ I asked. I hesitated to carry on, lest it bring sad memories to him. ‘The house was… sold, wasn’t it? What happened to the things inside?’
‘You know how it is,’ he replied, ‘Here, in India. people don’t just throw things away. There are too many people needing things. Someone must have found it. That’s what usually happens. People come looking for things, when they know a house is about to be sold. They take what they can find. Then they recycle them and somehow use them again.’
[Text by Parvati Nair, © 2008]