The mind is an amazing thing. It holds a plethora of memories, good and bad, and has the most advanced file retrieval system that could out-do even the most sophisticated software and technology that will ever come to exist. All it requires is a whiff of that cologne or hot bread baking in an oven or a taste of chocolate cake that is reminiscent of what Grandma used to make, or a song that plays in the background and WHAM, you’re instantly transported to another time and place, sometimes a completely different era.
This happens to me often. Maybe it’s because I have a fantastic memory, provided that I have the will to remember something. I was listening to the radio yesterday, and Ricky Martin was singing a song featuring Christina Aguilera “Nobody wants to be lonely” and I was instantly transported to the year 2002, my second academic year at Varsity; the year Jennifer Lopez became J.Lo. I remember wishing that I was Latina purely because it was in fashion at the time. It was the year I decided to take my studies more seriously but still spent way too much time on the roof at C-Les counting the planes flying by, and guessing their destinations whilst desperately wishing I was on one of them. It was the same year 94.7fm almost killed my auditory canals by over-playing Vanessa Carlton’s “A thousand miles” 12 times a day and Spider-man became one of the movies to watch along with LOTR: Two Towers and the Harry Potter sequel. The world was still reeling from the shock of the surreal events of 9/11; I was introduced to office politics when I began working part-time to pay for my Varsity books and other essentials and I officially became a Linkin Park fan. It’s difficult to believe that all that was 7 years ago, still feels like yesterday.
The saline taste of China-fruit overloads my sensory glands and instantly takes me back to 1996. Those formative years in Junior High School, when I ruled the world with R3.00 in my pocket as a daily allowance, were some of the best and worst years of my life. I was madly in-love with “R” at the time and would pray religiously that someday we would get married. I loathed going to school with enough malice and rancor to make Satan envious. Ironically, I was quite popular but not in the “Cheerleader” sense…I was more like the art student/prankster who told everyone to fuck off and use to hide their bags when they weren’t looking and they’d always come back for more. I hated the institution of school because I always believed that it was a prison of sorts and that it inhibited my capabilities…it prevented me from “becoming”. My convictions were justified because my imprisonment eventually contributed to my general lack of interest in life. I was not motivated to great heights nor was I motivated to achieve some astronomical goal. Instead, I was intelligent enough not to study and still come in the top 5 and I was usually the clown laughing my ass off everyday, waiting in agony for my eventual emancipation. Mariah Carey’s duet with Boyz II Men “One Sweet Day” ruled that year, for me anyway… TuPac died after being shot and in Hollywood there was a Tom Cruz overload with Jerry Maguire and Mission Impossible.
The stench of freshly painted walls reminds me of 1988. It was the year we moved into our house, the same house we live in today. I was six years old and it was my first year at school. I should have known then, what the next 12 years had in store for me, since I cried like a freaking baby that entire first day. It was a year of many firsts. It was the first time I learnt to read in Arabic, the first time I learnt to read and write in general, the first time I participated in some form of extra-curricular activity called sports day, the first time I wrote my name without any help from the teacher or Mother, the first time I fasted in the month of Ramadaan. It was the first time I wore a uniform and it was the first year of my 12 year sentence. Hollywood was very busy because some of my favourite movies were released in 1988 including Cocktail, Who framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, A fish called Wanda, and Beetlejuice. Life was lived to the soundtrack of hits from Phil Collins, Tiffany, New Kids on the Block, Sade, Bobby Brown, Rick Astley, Paula Abdul, Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson.
There are many other memories that are evoked by various snippets of music, fragrances and flavours embedded in my taste buds…all a part of my history. I could give Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty Mcfly a run for their money. Some memories are more significant than others. There was Celine Dion’s “Falling into You” that captured an era filled with theme-park rides at the Rand Show and a catastrophic and hilarious trip to Cape Town in 1997. There’s the smell of hot donuts, washing powder as well as Keane’s “Everybody’s Changing”, The Verve’s “The Drugs Don’t Work”, The Black Eyed Peas’ “Don’t Phunk with my heart” and the Scissor Sisters’ “Filthy Gorgeous” that filled many summer nights in London in 2005. The cupboard in the corner reeks of the scent of Jasmine incense sticks, and reminds me of my Grandmother just before she passed away in 1993. I can’t eat jelly without remembering how my aunt used to add whipped cream to the top in the Summer months of 1995.
Then there were the pesky years in between, like 1998 and 2003 when things were quiet or less meaningful. They were still important in the evolution of Azra, each contributing in their own way. And I’m sure there are subtle nuances that echo those passages of time, but none too significant to remember at present.
I sound like a broken record but I can’t help advocating my cause for this year called “LIVE”. I’ve spent most of my life always looking back, and in anticipation of the future. But that has changed because I’m willing myself to live in the present, really truly LIVE. I feel the meaning, now more then ever before. It feels like a new chapter…no…a whole new book. And it begins now, well on Saturday, when I intend to keep to my promise to try something new every month. I shall brave the waters off the Coast of Inhaca Island while I snorkel for the first time. I’m shit scared but quite excited too. After all, a life lived in fear, is a life half-lived.