The first & undoubtedly the best storyteller I’ve known is my mother.
Her tales of her parents, herself, her husband & her kids is how I’ve come to define my world. Since childhood I’ve seeked escape from boredom & homework in her stories. I’ve heard the story of how her father(my Nanaji) had to choose between getting married as a teenager or his father’s(my mother’s Dadaji) second marraige and how he chose the later option for a chance at walking 40 kms daily to study. I know how her mother(my Nani) was raised by her mother(my mother’s Nani) because her father (my mother’s Nana)- an affluent moneylender was killed by the same people he had lended money to on a remote road in the jungle while he was on his horse. My mother’s nani had cooked sevaiyan that day & that’s why they never cooked sevaiyain at my Nani‘s place anymore. I avoid an argument on the logic here because firstly, I don’t think any logical argument will be crushed down by the strong emotions in this case, & secondly because I’ve always had this aversion to sweet milky flavor.
However, when I needed a stronger dose of escapism, I used to steer her into talking about her own life, her childhood & her youth. How she grew up in this huge house where they had cows, a private kitchen garden on a hillock situated on the outskirts of the village where the villagers used to gift them extra produce, milk products. How they had a servant who used to give amazing head massages when he used to be high on bhaang. She tells me of the time when her family finally moved to Udaipur. How she used to go for ice-cream & movie every week on Wednesdays with her 2 best friends during college, because Wednesdays meant no uniform. How she took a bus to Bicchiwada- her Dadaji’s village & also her destination wedding venue- from Udaipur, straight from her last graduation exam. How mischievous kids from the village had sprinkled khujli powder on the reception chairs because they were awestruck by the chairs & the wedding overall.
She becomes happier when she tells me about the adventure, that living with my father in an altogether new city was. To this day & date, her willingness to agree to that without having a common past or passionate love; is something that I’ve not been able to understand. But the way she tells her story has made me open to the idea & the possibility. The way her story intersects with Daddy’s story is something which makes me believe in the randomness of story plots to keep on unearthing interesting developments. It’s a story which made ‘me’ possible after all. It’s a story which neither of them ever tire of retelling on anniversaries- marriage, engagement & the first time they met each other.
It’s amazing listening to both of their versions of meeting each other & the seemingly old-school romantic courtship that they had. I’ve spent many conversations deciphering what made them say yes to each other, each time being more convinced that- you can only connect the dots looking back.
My mother’s stories about my early childhood are so detailed that I no longer know what my first memory is. Because even the incidents that she has narrated & re-narrated seem clear as a memory. I could tell you of the time I was born & how my Nani & Nani‘s sister were worried that the doctors would change me with some other kid because they thought I was so cute! When I was 2 years old, I was standing near a door & it banged shut on my finger. My mama(mother’s brother) , to take my mind off the injury told me that I’ll have to search for the chopped part so that the doctor could sew it back. To this day I don’t know whether it is an actual memory of mine or is it reconstructed memory from the subsequent stories.
If my mother’s story is how I identify myself, people & other things, my father’s stories are how I know him and also the fact that our experiences, how we look at them, or how we tell those stories- is what defines us.
From his stories of mornings spent diving in the village pond, I know that he was not always this cautious. His responsibilities have made him that. From his school & college stories, I know that he has never been the one with a huge friend circle, but almost everyone who he’s crossed paths with, has fond memories of him. I also know that this is something he’s proud of. From his first experience of coming to Ahmedabad for schooling from his village, being awestruck by the vastness of the city & then renting a bicycle to explore the city on weekends I know that he’s a happily unsatisfied explorer. I know that he’ll always be so.
I know that he’s a dreamer & works patiently to achieve them because he’s told me about the time he first heard the almost silent engine of the Hero Honda CD100 & how he told his friend that this is the bike he was going to buy. I remember my mummy telling me that she has only seen him ‘almost dance’ on very few occasions- when I was born, when my sisters were born & when he bought that bike. I remember him telling me about the first time he went to a readymade garment shop in the city. How he promised himself that once he started earning, he’d buy a new shirt for himself every month. I had a similar plan too myself, but the difference is that he tells the story while laughing off his naivety whereas I as initial signs of failure.
Within these stories I’ve tried to find similarities between the 2 of them & have only found I- honesty. No matter how a story would make themselves look, or their loved ones look; the stories have been true. And here is probably where one of my most fundamental inner conflict & guilt stems from.
Personally, what fascinates me about stories is how they make the listener feel. How the reactions can be manipulated by slight changes to the story. I for one do not believe in honest storytelling, but in being inspired by reality to create a sellable & a memorable version of it. I am gradually coming to terms with the fact that just like them I also love telling stories, but unlike them accepting my dishonesty is all the honesty I’ve got to offer.