As I sat about covered in the musty smell of old books and diaries, a thought struck me.
"Let's have a look at some of those old photo albums, Ma!" I called after my mother who, as she always is, was busy in a world of her own.
"We don't have time for that nonsense, just pack up your things in neat stacks, your father will be here any minute now, wanting to take them to the raddiwala and those books are not going to recycle themselves, now are they?"
I huffed and puffed and went back to work, knowing there was no way I could convince my strong-headed mother to an afternoon down NostalgiaTown "Oh well" I thought and began leafing through the yellowed pages of old forgotten diaries, knowing all too well, I wouldn't get rid of them. 3 generations of handwritten stuff just given away? No Sir, I'll be keeping them. Call me a hoarder but I do have a thing for old belongings and the vivid memories attached to them. As I sat there with thoughts of quiet summer days in the 50s, filled with hours of creative activities and long walks down tree-clad lanes, sipping mango drinks on the lawn-swing as the radio blessed our ears with familiar melodies, in a cotton dress and bare feet, I quite forgot what I was originally meant to do.
"Ow!" A conk on the side of my head broke my blissful reverie to the eyes of my mother staring down at me.
"You lazy little girl, why don't you ever do anything in time?" Well, that wipes the idiotic grin off my face, as I start organizing all the books that are way too used to be of any purpose anymore and collect this giant pile beside me and knot it down with a bit of rope.
Now all that's remaining is this sorry little mess of scattered books, files, diaries and journals.
"Where do I adjust you?!" I murmur.
The school session just ended leaving me free to do all I can, and this is where my mother assigns me to first. Oh what a shame!
I open my book shelf and tidy it up and add the newly found old books to the back, making room for newer ones to come in the front. As I am frantically adjusting the last of my mother's diaries to the back, I look on top of the computer table. A bundle of papers stare back at me. They were supposed to go in here! Sighing, I try to yank the diary back out and in doing so it lands with a thud on the floor and it's loose contents come flying off. Amidst the chaos of postcards and letters I've already gone through, I recognise a face peeping from beneath one of the envelopes. Taking it out, I stare at it for a good, long while. Three ladies, one I believe is my grandma, or nani, as we call her, another a young lady I don't recall, and the third, the very object of my curiosity. A girl. Not much older than me, smiles back. The photograph is cut off on one side, the lack of a continuous white border suggesting so. There's something about this girl I can't put my finger on, she looks too familiar, almost as if I see her everyday. I turn it over, and written, in what I can only assume is my grandfather's hand, are these words,
32 years ago from today
Another moment passes and I look up at the wall clock, it's almost time for lunch. Sticking the photograph to the inside of my cabinet's door, I gather the piles and arrange them in bags and take my towel to rush to the shower.
I space out at lunch, the girl's face playing like a movie reel in the back of my head all the time. My parents are talking about something, I tune it out till it's just white noise. After barely touching the food on my plate, I take the dishes to the sink.
As I am washing mindlessly, an image catches my eye. It's my own reflection on the kitchen windowpane. I gaze at it and in a moment's spur, I drop the bowl, it clatters against the plates, as I run off, past my parents, to my bedroom and stop by the mirror. After just a glimpse, realisation hits me and I burst out laughing.
"How could I have been such a fool!" I yell. My mother comes running to my room, shocked to see her daughter standing with soap-soaked hands, just bellowing manically.
"What is it now, huh?"
"You wouldn't believe how much of a fool I am, Ma!"
"On the contrary, my dear..."
"I forgot what I, ..MEEE.. looked like!"
"Oh dear" she sighs.
I look at her puzzled face and immediately all my laughter ceases. Another realisation hits my funny little brain.
"The message! The message on the back! The photo was taken 32 years ago from some day!
I wasn't around 32 years ago from that day, heck, I am not even 32 now, am I?
How could that possibly be?
If not me, then who is that girl who looks exactly like me? Why does my family have a picture with her? Is it a case of identical twins? Woah, what if I'm a time traveler, and I just haven't realised it yet? Wait no, that's impossible."
As these thoughts were swirling around my head, I must've had some wonderfully incoherent emotional display on my face, for my dear mother took me by my arm and worriedly asked
"Is everything alright? Are you okay? You haven't uttered a word since you stopped laughing! What's the matter with you, beta?"
"Ma, you have got some explaining to do about something that's been bothering me"
"Anything, dear" she says affectionately.
"There is this old photograph I found today in one of our old diaries, there are 3 women in it. One of whom I think is nani, the rest I'm not so sure about, but what struck me most is that there is this girl who looks exactly like me, but the back says photo's 32 years old. Who is she?"
"Let me have a look"
We both crouch on the floor as I open the door to my cabinet, on the inside of which is the mysterious photo containing my mystery doppelganger.
Mom gives the photo one look and lets out a tiny giggle.
"Oh dear! How did you find this? Ahh, this brings back so many memories..."
"Get to the point, Ma!"
"Well, you remember how in your preteen years, wherever I took you, people always said you looked like my exact copy?.."
"Yeah, it got so annoying at times, but, what's that got to..... Ohhh!....Wait, No! That's YOU in the picture there?"
"Well, ofcourse my dear, who else would it be? Did you think you could time travel or something?"
I sheepishly look down at the photo again, and feel a stupid little smile creeping across my face. Ofcourse it was Mom, who else would it be?
"Oh you know what?" Mom interrupts my thoughts and suggests ,"let's look at those photo albums you so wanted to see today. I wouldn't mind going down memory lane after this.."
Minutes later we sit with a stack of fat albums and glasses of chilled lemonade, smiling and laughing at all the paper memories as the evening passes away.
- B 🎈