Monday, September 22, 2008

Gambling on memory

The flame of the match did a brief, lively dance before it was snuffed out by the strong beach breeze. I lit a second one. Cupped with both hands, it lived the few moments it took to light the cigarette.

I took a long drag and looked over at my friend.

"Do you remember," the words were exhaled with the smoke,"the time we used to play cricket on this road? We used to spend entire afternoons here playing game after game."

Another long drag and more words came out more smoke,"That monument thing used to be the boundary. They always made me field there."

"Because of your exceptional fielding skills, I am sure," the friend offered slyly, and added,"And it's a memorial not a monument."

I glared at him and continued."I know every brick of that memorial", emphasizing the last word more to indicate annoyance. "I've climbed up and down those stairs so many times while waiting for someone with superhuman powers to come to the crease and swat the ball there."

"So you must know about the guy they built it for. I bet you a 100 that you can't name him." Words spoken by his confidence in my observation powers. The lack of those powers that is. But he was in for a surprise.

"That's the easiest 100 I've ever earned. His name was Schmidt. K A J Schmidt. Cough up the 100."

As he reluctantly pulled his wallet out, he asked,"So you really know all about that memorial?"

"Yes," I answered absent mindedly. My eyes were on that crisp 100 rupee note making its way out of his wallet.

"So for another 500, can you tell me when Mr.Schmidt carried out his heroics?"

I hesitated. I had never been good with dates. History class had always been a blur. The Industrial revolution while helping nations progress had also left an indelible low mark on my 10th standard marksheet. Maybe I should turn this offer down. Then I remembered the plaque on the bottom corner and blurted out, "1984. It was in 1984 that he drowned rescuing others from the sea."

The 100 rupee note started receding into the wallet like a turtle head into its shell. He smirked.

"Hah. He saved those souls in 1930. The monument was renovated in '84. Now how about that 500."

I remembered the other plaque on the inside clear as day now. I glanced back up at the vandalized memorial.

"I hate nostalgia."

This snap is from a while back. Some kind souls have since given the memorial a makeover.