My dad told me a lot of stories. Stories from the mythologies, supernatural thrillers from his ancestral home, story of his life and many more. He was a great storyteller. And one of his stories was about the ‘Sunday Markets of Pondicherry’. It was a ‘love story’ from the late 70s or early 80s- a love story between my dad and his Jawa motorbike.
The stories would usually begin on a lazy Sunday morning and my dad waking up to a freshly brewed cup of coffee and to the sound of the newspaper boy’s bicycle. ‘Care-free bachelor days’ he would often say as my mother rolled her eyes! He would get ready and take out his ‘Jawa’ and ride into the city, searching for motorcycle parts to customise his bike.
The Sunday Markets of Pondicherry, he would say, was a treasure chest. You can never imagine what you might get. You could probably find about anything there. This one day, he came across a Vinyl collection of Elvis Presley or a Carnatic musician of great renown! And the story would then be about the purest sound of music which comes from the vinyl. From autographed books to Burmese wooden cabinets- the Sunday Markets of Pondicherry were the answer to everything. Of course, he customised his Jawa too!
My dad’s adventures always made me wonder if I would ever have such adventures. I travelled within India, quite extensively, to see if I could find such treasures. I sure found souvenirs, but no treasures. I grew older and grew tired of looking for treasures.
I moved to Australia. I began volunteering as a shop assistant in a charity op shop. From clothes to books, games to music CDs- it was a shop full of life! A ‘Cup of tea’ rituals in the afternoons, were full of stories of a city that used to be. Regulars who visited for new souvenirs of the ‘Royals’, mums who wanted dresses for their daughters for a play. There were old cameras. I always wondered what kind of pictures they had taken during their life! How many arrested moments of time it had held! Handcrafted jewellery boxes, crystal earrings and rings- who had they been gifted to?!
I eventually ended up in the books section of the shop. Reminded me of George Orwell’s essay, “Bookshop Memories”. I would price them. Sometimes, I would just flip through a book and end up reading a few lines. I learnt about ‘bush poetry’, Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.
One day, I came across a book. It was a book from one of my dad’s market stories. One of his treasures. It was a book, my dad often claimed, that changed his life. It was a book titled… Well, it didn’t matter! I held it in my hand- this withered little book. It had been a gift to someone. It had a few scribbles. But I held it in my hand, and I could hear my father breathe.
My treasure rests on my bookshelf!