Legend has it that as soon as my father was born, he said to the midwife, “You know, in the old days...” Ever since, the one thing he has tried to din into me repeatedly, starting from my juvenile delinquency to my present third midlife crisis, is that there was no time like before.
Every morning, while I have my idli with coconut chutney, without fail, Dad slyly tries to add a dash of nostalgia which he carries with him in one of those quick-release dispensers wherever he goes.
Whatever the topic of conversation, in two ruthless, diabolical steps, my dad will steer the conversation to the old days turning my UHD live-stream world to a grainy sepia one rolled out of a creaky projector.
Me: How are you feeling today?
Dad: Okay, just a tiny ache in the index finger of my right hand.
Me: You probably slept on it.
Dad: In 1953, I think it was when I was in Vizag with your grandfather, our host Veerasimhula Varada Rao garu, very nice man, used to work with AIR, complained of the exact same thing. Except it was his left hand and it was the little finger.
Dad: They had to amputate his entire arm fifteen days later. Unfortunately, they removed the right arm. Ironically, his little finger became fine.
Me: You think we should go to the doc?
Dad: I don’t think so. Where is the clinic now, by the way? You said they’ve moved.
Me: Yes. To T. Nagar.
Dad: T. Nagar. Sigh. You know, in 1941, most of T. Nagar was just fields. Fully green. Just acres and acres of betel. Paddy, too, I think. Not Paddy Briggs, my childhood friend who drowned in the Cooum. Rice paddy.
Me: Do you want to go to the doc?
Dad: Not necessary, I think. I’ll just ring up my homoeopath, Dr Nahata.
Me: But isn’t your guy Dr Chenchulakshmi?
Dad: Nahata is Chenchulakshmi’s contact. And just because she has a moustache doesn’t mean she is a guy, okay? Nahata has gone to the US to see his daughter. They live in Dallas. Dallas is where Suri Babu was from.
Me: Who is Suri Babu now?
Dad: In ’71 ... or was it ’72, if you remember, this gentleman Suri Babu came to visit your Thaatha. He was carrying a brand-new Canon camera...
Me: Your finger, Naanna, can we get back to it?
Dad: Of course. What do you think I was getting to? I could click several pictures on the Canon because my finger didn’t hurt then.
Me: Naanna, hasn’t that camera been defunct for thirty years?
Dad: Thirty years, yes. Do you know what happened thirty years ago in Pithapuram?
It’s taken me very, very long to find the nostalgicide I’ve been looking for all these years but I think I’ve finally found it. It’s called Blame. This is how things proceed these days.
Dad: You know, at Jaffar’s near New Elphinstone, they used to sell a Peach Melba so big you couldn’t eat it.
Me: How come you didn’t buy me any?
Dad: You were not born then.
Me: Well, you could have bought a few and put them in the fridge for me. You knew I’d come along.
Dad: We didn’t have a fridge back then. But I did take you to Woodlands Drive-In and get you Peach Melba.
Me: Yeah, but the portions at Woodlands were small. Little itsy-bitsy ones that were never enough. They made me feel sad.
Me: And why did they shut down Woodlands Drive-In, huh? Why?
Dad: The lease ran out. You know, when Sadashiva Rao and I used to go there...
Me: You mean you used to go to Woodlands Drive-In without me?
Dad: Er ... yes. You were in Hyderabad then for a month. Don’t you remember, your grandfather had some programme there?
Me: Why did you send me to Hyderabad? Now I know why I suffered from separation anxiety.
Dad: C’mon, your mother was with you. Also, you stayed with Chinna Maamma. She used to make those special rava laddus for you...
Me: Wasn’t that when I fell violently ill?
Dad: I think I hear the phone ringing...