Of broken china, cracked tiles and unwelcome bygones – Rahul Surendran, Kerala


Today morning, as usual, I was sipping my morning tea and pacing around the living room, preoccupied with some pending tasks at office.  I walk around pretty fast and when my mom entered the room holding some washed porcelain cups and saucers, I collided head on with her.

The cups and saucers went straight down.In a second, the three hundred square feet living room was strewn with all kinds of broken bits of china.

The scene, inspite of the mess it created, seemed quite beautiful to me, as beautiful as a floral carpet; maybe because it was solely my handiwork.

The bits came in all sizes. Plain and white. White with flowery patterns. Some slightly discolored. Some exquisitely shaped as if by some strange design. Some shaped clumsily, with jagged corners jutting out. Some with their insides out. Some big, some small. Some nearby, some at the far corner of the room. And as if to add to the china’s paisley design, there where cracks in the floor tiles too, cutting a criss-cross pattern across three or four of them.

Mom was palpably angry, the china being new and quite expensive and the floor tiles relatively newly laid. But I was so immersed in the spectacle, that her high octane tirade went in right through one ear and straight out through the other, like an express train through a tunnel.

I was thinking of something else.

The broken porcelain, I felt, drew a parallel to our memories, scattered across our consciousness.

Some of them were vivid and could be gathered with minimal effort, like the bits of china which had fallen near my foot.

Some of them, faded like an old sepia toned photograph, are hidden away deep under layers and layers of the past. Hard to recover, just as the bits which had fallen to the deep corners of the room were.

There are colorful recollections as there were pretty broken pieces- the anticipation on holding a wrapped birthday gift; the pure joy as a kid on the homebound journey after the examinations with a long awaited vacation ahead; the mindless indulgence of first love; the first smile from your newborn kid on his hospital crib.

And then we have the painful and less pretty recollections like the oddly shaped discolored pieces of porcelain – the memories of separations; of death; of rejection and failure; of being left out; of taunts and ridicules; of the many tears shed in loneliness – which leave wounds in the mind. Wounds, more prominent and lasting than the cracks on the floor tiles.

The short philosophical mood was cut short by a few more extra decibels from mom, and the whole thing had to be cleaned up soon. The fountainhead of my imaginative juices were cruelly swept away, gathered in a dirty, crude sack, and dumped away in a remote corner of our courtyard.

Some time later, when I spotted the sack, sitting desolately in a corner, I felt it had another story to say.

Maybe memories, aptly symbolized by the porcelain rubble, be it good or bad, happy or sad, are always a burden, an unwelcome and heavy baggage. Like the rubble of china in that crude sack., its better to be dumped and forgotten. Dump them and move on. My mom had moved on; the breakfast was already steaming on the dining table.

After all, as they say: Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.


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