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Tracing the Hazy Past #1 Introduction

When I was working in Calcutta in the early 1980s, I remember reaching the Howrah Railway Station just in time to see the rear end of the train I wanted to catch, pulling out of the station. The next train to Bolpur Station for going to Shantiniketan was scheduled several hours later. I reached Bolpur a little past midnight and had to wake up the caretaker of the University Guest House who had allotted me a shared room where a Japanese scholar was already fast asleep. The point I want to highlight was that even though I had missed the train, there was another one I could take later to reach my destination. There was a second chance there.

My present effort is to put into print some of the accounts of events and unique experiences of a bygone era as told to us by my parents, grandparents and other elderly relatives, as these could be of interest to the younger generations of this big family. And perhaps, beyond. At the age of 63, when my memory sometimes falters and functions like a blinking light, this can indeed be a challenging task. Much to my dismay I now realise that when we were young and our minds were bubbling with so many things, we would hear all that our elders said to us but had failed to listen. Consequently, much of these memories of the older generation would look like fill-in-the-blanks sentences in my mind. How I wish the elders were still around so that I could ask them to repeat all the stories and ask as many questions as I wanted. But my parents, grandparents and elderly relatives are all gone. The enquiry counter is now closed. Permanently. No second chance.

Nevertheless, I have set out on this journey, following the trails of the older generation like walking through the fog. With the help of those siblings and relatives who can also recollect hearing similar stories, I hope that the trails will become clearer before they fade away. And memories will be finally caught in print. This is how Tracing the Hazy Past has come about.

Some of the interesting things I will be writing about in forthcoming articles will include why Mom wore a red saree at her wedding ceremony instead of the traditional Manipuri “potloi” ( the big round drum shaped dress you see in Manipuri Raas Leela dance), who rode elephants, how our family left Imphal for a remote village as a precautionary move to avoid the Japanese air bombings during World War-II (known as Japan Laan), how Mom discovered only on her 50th Wedding Anniversary that she had passed the Matric (Class X) Examination which she had appeared in, 50 years back during World War II, and much more.

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