Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Something there is that doesn't love a wall - Robert Frost

One day, while stepping out in the afternoon sun, my gaze falls on the garden ivy in my landlord's house. I see it arduously making its way through the slit in the dividing wall to reach the neighbour's side. I am reminded of a conversation that happens a few days ago: "We need to mend the wall", says the neighbour to my landlord.

Suddenly, flashes of another incident from the past come to fore. I go down the memory lane to see a guava tree being chopped down. I go back further. It is my naniji's courtyard. The guava tree grows in the neighbour's house, but most of its branches lean towards ours, crossing the un-cemented little wall of loose bricks that separates the two houses. Every year the rows of loose bricks on the wall increase. Every year the tree, unmindful of the increasing division, bears and shares its fruit. This season, the tree looks more generous than ever. We are euphoric as we look at the countless fragrant spheres dangling from the tree - luscious and inviting - in colours of green and golden yellow.

As the initial excitement settles down, I gradually register some conversation filtering in. I hear naniji's neighbour planning to pick all the guavas from the tree and distribute it among the neighbours. I am confused. I don't like being confused, so I am unhappy. I do not want to eat so many guavas at one go. I do not want them to be given to me. I want to climb the tree to pick them. I want to beat the branches with a stick and catch the guavas before they hit the ground. There is no fun in eating a guava, all on your own. Why don't these grown-ups understand? I try to concentrate on what the neighbour says. They want to increase the height of the dividing wall. They want to cement the loose bricks. Even as a child I know what it means. Filled with a deep sense of foreboding, my eyes well up.

My beloved guava tree is gone. There is a high wall in its place today. The courtyard is empty except for a nostalgic shadow.

Last month, I happen to meet two friends from school after seven long years. I realize, as do they, that we have changed - for each other and within us. We have changed in the way that distance changes us; in the way that time offers replacements. We know that we have not kept in touch. We know that each shall blame the other. Yet, we know that silently each feels guilty about blaming the other. Understandably, there is an initial awkwardness due to the physical and the emotional barrier that has crept in. A mysterious and invisible wall has come up. But soon enough we drown years of separation in the lemon flavoured ice-tea. The ice melts, the barrier breaks. So does the misunderstanding that has accumulated over the years. grudge and complaint. In our giggles, we hear once again, the three best friends who sit eating lunch on the first bench, while our History teacher discusses the first World War.

Time comes. We bid adieu over promises of staying in touch.

We have accepted the replacements that time has given us. Still, in these two-hours of re-lived memories – of the extended sessions of curfew phone calls, of the concomitant mischief, of the first rushes of teenage love, of the silly insecurities, of the shed tears, of the reassuring words, of the knowing smiles, of the shared laughter – we are irreplaceable for each other.

I remember reading Robert Frost’s, ‘Mending Wall’, in standard X. Frost’s context is universal. It is as human, as it is socio-political. We set this wall between us: A wall, which is much more vicious than that of concrete – of assumption, competition, ego, insecurity, intolerance, judgement, misunderstanding and perception. As I think of my naniji’s neighbour, of my landlord and his neighbour, of my friends and me, I can not help but laugh at our hypocrisy. We speak vehemently against division in society. Yet, we erect this unspoken and treacherous wall in our everyday lives and relationships. What is it that we are trying to ‘wall-in’ and ‘wall-out’? I wonder!

There are things that do not love a wall. They are shared times, shared spaces, and shared memories. Sharing is such a beautiful thing.

I look at the garden ivy in my present. I climb the guava tree of my past. And, they smile.


  1. I wonder what I like more here.. the writing or the thoughts. Very fresh post. Perhaps, reading this does make us think for a while.

  2. @Divesh: Putting words to these thoughts has been therapeutic for me. Thanks for liking it. Your feedback, as always, encourages me to write more, and more often!:)

  3. Well written Nivedita.. Definitely a food for thought..
    Though a bit (might b more!!) out of context but your "Wall" reminds me of two lines which I used to insert in my school essays:

    "Kya hua jo faasle itne badha liye,
    In do gharon ke beech mein deewar hi to hai."

  4. Thank you for this post and for bringing back some great memories. I would second Divesh, as beautiful as the thoughts are, for me, the writing style is mesmerizing.

    Revisiting old times, the simplest of occurrences, brings a smile and a tear simultaneously. It also makes me wonder, Kitni choti choti khushian thi tub. So much has changed now. I won’t delve too much further (I could go on and on about that).

  5. @Lifewith13: Thank you! Beautiful lines. Faasle deewaaron se nahi mann mein hote hain. So true!

    @HJ: Badi khushiyon ki chaahat mein hum chhoti-chhoti khushiyon ka mol bhool jaate hain. Thanks for the encouraging words.
    "I could go on and on about that": Please do...write...

  6. http://blogspot.sharedbook.com/blog2print/googleblogger/index.html

    Thought this might be of some interest.

  7. Sorry for the tardy response. I have been traveling and just got back home after a month.
    Here are some of my thoughts.

    Re: Friends
    I feel as time passes, circumstances change, responsibilities accumulate and we all change. It is an inevitable and necessary change. I don’t quite agree with using the word ‘replacements’. If these replacements are any less than their predecessors then why have we allowed them into our lives?
    With each stage in our lives our aspirations change and the drive to achieve these dreams sometimes takes us away from some of our close ones; and near to others. Often when we reminisce we remember the good old times but forget that moving on was necessary to our evolution. I believe that subconsciously we make a trade off on what we want and what we are willing to forgo in return. Perhaps the conscious mind can’t fathom this choice but it plays along because it knows this path leads to our ultimate destination.

    Re: Old Friends Reunion
    I had one of those a little while back. While we remembered the good old times, we had a good old chuckle at the futility of some of our actions (endless hours of loitering around, frivolous conversations that now seems so childish and the little disagreements that later became major arguments). Most of all what I miss is the absolute joy of doing nothing and just being around friends. After we left school / Univ, things changed and we drifted apart.
    And then years later came the reunion. After the initial bickering over how no one bothered to keep in touch (like you mentioned deep down we know we are all guilty), a comfort zone was reestablished. The reunions have followed the exact same agenda each time namely: Reliving past stories and a catch up segment detailing what each one has been up to since the prior meeting. We follow the same agenda each time and leave with promises of keeping up. No one does. But there’s an interesting sub plot here. All our conversations center on the ‘past’, we have subconsciously detached each other from our present. Nostalgia is great but those memories will not be recreated again; At least not with the same individuals. It’s sad but true. However, this also opens up exciting new opportunities to meet new people and create new memories. Unfortunately, I have been slow to grasp the ones that have come my way.

    Hmmm...this is a rather long comment.:P

  8. @Ved: Thanks!:-)

    @HJ: It was really nice to read the 'long comment'. Thanks for finding time from your busy schedule.

    I agree with your take on the 'replacements' and the 'choice' that we make. In fact, on reflection one realizes that the choice is always conscious. Most often we choose to ignore it in order to justify the choice that we make and the 'results' that it produces.

    "Nostalgia is great but those memories will not be recreated again; At least not with the same individuals. It’s sad but true. However, this also opens up exciting new opportunities to meet new people and create new memories." - Beautifully worded!

    Its always a pleasure to get notes from you. Keep the connection on.