I was recently cleaning up my room after what seemed like had been aeons. And as always, I found myself in troubled waters, surrounded by all sorts of dear old things. Books with yellowing pages, half-written notebooks, diaries, albums, pencils, crumpled bookmarks, candles, neatly folded gift wrappers, CDs, cassettes, letters…. All covered with a thin layer of dust; still covering a deeper layer of nostalgia.
Soon, I found myself to have completely abandoned the task at hand. Instead, I was lovingly taking all the things in my hands, dusting them gently, smelling them, opening the books, notebooks, diaries, albums and letters with a smile. And getting soaked in a sea of memories.
My eyes fell on one of the spirally bound notebooks made of handmade paper. I smiled, instantly.
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I remember how I had immediately fallen in love with it when I got it. The feel of the handmade paper is so intimate; it’s fragrance so ravishing. I couldn’t wait to open it and enter a whole new world, mounted on my then-new fountain Parker. The girl I loved had gifted both the pen and notebook to me, and had etched a phrase on the first page in her soulful handwriting, ‘for your musings.’
As I opened it now, I saw that the notebook had witnessed many of my musings. Short ones, longish ones, attempts at stories, finished and unfinished poems. Almost all of them were addressed to her, all written for her as an audience.
I smiled at a short poem and turned the page. What I saw suddenly arrested my attention.
I felt a floating sensation permeating my being… I felt light… as if suspended in the breeze, freewheeling lazily in the air…
I smiled, again.
I realized how good I was feeling while looking at what was on that page. A huge, dried leaf of an unknown tree from a far-away land, carefully stuck on the handmade paper.
When I had first gone abroad, she had asked me to collect leaves of various trees for her instead of buying any gifts – “collect them, do not pluck them,” she had said. Every time I saw a leaf fallen on the ground, I would consider it. She had asked me to pick up any leaf that would remind me of her. And when I would pick one up, I would smile, instantly.
Over time, I had collected several leaves. Many of them had been snow-covered as I had picked them up. And all of them had been green.
This one was now brown. But it was as beautiful as the time when I first picked it up. I had given her all the leaves I had gotten along, except this one, which I had kept for myself. As a souvenir maybe. And was I glad to have done that!
It’s been a long time now and we aren’t together anymore. Earlier I would often ask myself what went wrong, what could I have done differently and things like that. But now I don’t. And time is not the only reason for that.
What matters more for me now is that I have known a love like that. Of which one could always dream and only a few would be fortunate enough to have lived through. And that knowledge makes me happy and content.
What now remains are memories. Beautiful memories that make me feel blessed to have known and experienced an emotion so warm. Memories that I would always want to nurture in my heart, so that they may help me in the process of becoming a better human being. Memories that make me smile, instantly.
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Like that leaf. So old, so brown, yet so beautiful! Just as it had on the day I had seen it first.
I held and kissed it gently, and looked at it one last time before placing it safely back into the book.
Some years down the line, when my hair has turned a silvery shade of grey, I will open that notebook again. And see if that leaf has turned a deeper shade of brown.
And I will smile, instantly.