Eye Catcher

Long time ago, my teenage gang saw a pretty girl whom we called the Eye Catcher. One of my friends in the gang insists that he came up with the name, although I distinctly remember that it was I who first used it. I remember because it was from the last page of India Today of the time, which had a column titled “Eye Catchers.” But my friend has always been more articulate than me, and it is quite possible that he coined the catchy name without any help from India Today.

Time has flown, and today has become yesterday. During the years spanning that age of innocence and now, whenever our gang met up (once a year or so in the beginning, once a decade of late), the Eye Catcher was a topic that always came up. And once, one of us wondered if we would talk about her if we met at the age of fifty, which was incomprehensibly far away then. (Again, I think I was the one who came up with it; may be I like to take credit for every witty thing that happened around me.)

Now with the distant fifty just around the corner, I wonder. Was it the prism of adolescence that amplified beauty, or was she really that eye-catching? Now, of course, the ravages of time would have surely dulled any beauty she may have possessed, and made cynics of the beholders prompting them to consider prisms of adolescence and ravages of time. I think I prefer not to know the answer. Often the blurry pictures with fading colors are more beautiful than the garish reality in high definition.

It is similar to the scratchy Malayalam songs I listen to in my car. My English-speaking family laughs at me whenever I do. To them, the lyrics don’t make sense, the beat is silly, and the sweet melody of Yesudas is almost gross, like cold pancakes swimming in stale syrup. I don’t blame them. Even to me, it is not just the words and the sounds that bind my heart to the songs; it is the fading colors of the past. It is the faces and scenes that the songs bring to mind, like the smell of June rain, the orange hue of the muddy potholes, and the tall coconut trees against blue skies and white cumulus, gently swaying their heads in assent to whatever adventures the day had in store. And the faces of the simple souls who played out their part on that stage of life and bowed out. Memories of a paradise lost.

But those players played their part well enough to imprint themselves on the songs for good. And with the twilights peeping over the horizon now, I often wonder — what am I going to leave behind? What are you?

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