Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I often wonder how it is possible that everything about the last six months with Peanut feels so intense for me, so unforgettable - and that she will retain absolutely no memory of all this when she grows up!

It's almost as hard for me to understand how my own mother seems to have zero recollection of my early months - or indeed, those of my elder brother or younger sister. How can you be so matter of fact about bringing up such beautiful children, especially me? Ok, whatever!

Anyway, this thought is what prodded me to write about my earliest memory. It's very clearly imprinted on my mind still. No question about it.

I'm around 3 and a half years old. My mom seems to have disappeared for a couple of days. I am standing in the hall of my house in Delhi. My grandfather has a really wide smile on his face, and he is telling me that my mother is coming home with my little baby sister. Clearly they have already decided on her nickname at this point because what he is saying to me is 'Mama aa rahin hai - Chanda ke saath'. I am quite interested in this piece of news. I also remember thinking something along the lines of 'What the heck is a Chanda?'

(My next memory is one of feeling intense hatred towards my sister as I stood next to the bed where she was being breastfed by my mother, but I will quickly pass over this - to my credit, I thought she was hurting Mom)

So that was my earliest memory. My most intense childhood memory however, is the time when I nearly died. I exaggerate not.

I am around ten years old. We are visiting family friends who have a farm in a lovely place called Kashipur. Their house is practically in the middle of a jungle. There is a chicken coop outside, always a source of great diversion for me. This particular morning is a sunny, crisp one and I step outside of the house, freshly bathed, to go have a look at what the chickens are upto.

As the door closes behind me, it clicks shut - one of those self-locking doors, new to me at that age. Just at this point, I note that I am not the only one interested in the chickens. Approximately 100 feet away from me, right in front of the coop, meditatively observing the nervous birds within, is a large panther.

At the sound of the door shutting, however, it shifts its attention towards me with a turn of its head. Even at that distance, I feel as if our eyes have locked together for an instant. I still have no words to describe that feeling. It was as if someone had pressed the pause button on my life.

Then my heart starts pounding and it flashes through my mind, some talk amongst the adults the previous day, about a man-eating panther causing havoc in the nearby village.

Everyone knows that when you are confronted with a dangerous wild animal, you make no sound and stay absolutely still. But a ten year old doesn't know or doesn't care. I turned around and began to bang on the door, completely terrified. I kept screaming 'Aarti Didi', the name of the youngest of the three kids in that family. Finally, after what felt like ages, someone, I think a servant, opened the door and I nearly fell in, weeping with relief. Before the door shut, I cast my one and only backward glance towards the chicken coop.

There was nothing there. The panther had melted away in complete silence.

I had no witnesses. I am not sure if I told too many people about it because all I remember is being dazed for a long time afterwards. I do know that I did tell my mother at some point - and she didn't really believe me. Later, she tried to tell me that I had probably dreamt it or imagined it. I have a feeling she still doesn't believe it happened. I have never quite forgiven her for that. But it's okay.

Now, what I am really, truly interested in is YOUR first memory. What is the very first thing you remember and how old were you then?

Also, have you ever had an experience where your life was truly in danger? Tell me about it. Did your mother also refuse to believe you?

I will believe you. Just try me.


  1. Hey Y,

    Something about this post moved me .. it's unlike most of your usual writing, the tone mostly.. you certainly know what I mean ...

    My 1st memory is of eating Dairy Milk chocolate in my dad's arms at a kirana dukaan below the hospital right after I was born (I KNOW!!!) and it's stuck with me for life ... I've never really told my mom this .. :)

    I came close to dying once in a swimming pool in Goa when I was 6 ... I sank in .. swallowed tons of water trying to say something .. but it never occurred to me that I might die (I was a rather stupid 6 yr old in retrospect!)... and amma believes me cause she saw her only child (then) almost die and screeched for my father to get me out ... wow .. i just realized .. i owe my mum my life :D

    It's a lovely post, might I just reiterate!

  2. Nice to see you showing a side of yourself other than the scrambly, I-laugh-at-daily-life-and-it's-crazy humour we all love :).

    I don't remember any of my babyhood... my first memory would be age 3, boarding the plane to USA with Ma. I'm sort of glad I don't remember my babyhood - it wasn't particularly pleasant I feel.
    Can't remember a time when I almost died, other than the depressed almost-suicidal times the three years before 2007 have been.

    My life ain't got no incidents, hehe.

    Boy, I'm glad you survived to tell the panther story!

  3. Bless the panther. Where'd your readers be if it had decided to..umm, you know what.

    My first memory ... really not much sense of chronology here, it all happened so, so far back... but one of the early ones is going to the pre-nursery at the age of two and a half, in a fur jacket, perched on the shoulder of the help (his name was Mansingh, and he seemed so HUGE) and picking the fur out and blowing it away.

    Near Death? Not so eventful as the panther piece.. all I can say is at age 15, I slipped on the rocks once at the Elephanta caves, before a deep fall. In those five seconds before I regained my balance, I remember thinking "Ok so this is how dying feels like. Hmm, not too bad, I really don't mind it much."

    Mum believed me, she was next to dad who was busy clicking photos of his brave (not) daughter.

  4. I believe u! also, i'm guessing u aren't wildly fond on panthers, Y!
    loved this post..

    my first memory is of when i was abt 3 yrs old... we'd gone over to a family fren's place to pick up a new kitten for me. i still r'ber the ambassador car, and d drive back home with the terribly cute golden, tiger-like, half-persian-half-siamese kitten :) i even r'ber what i wore that day!

    near-death experiences... can't think of any rite now... will do a post if i can think of any! :D

  5. Ohhhhh - pore the duh duh!

    Must have been an awful experience for little Y. It was probably more frightening for the panther to be confronted by a bawling Y who we all know is capable of much strength in moments of anger - but the panther can complain about that on his own blog.

    My earliest memory? Hmmm - Last Friday Federer lost. The grief seems to have blotted out everything that happened before that.

    Near death experience? Last Friday Federer lost. It felt like I was dying.

  6. Two years old. Asking the mother when I could go for a birthday party. Harassed mother says when the big hand goes to six. I sulk because the clock doesnt have any hands, all I see are sticks.
    And when a thunderstorm lights up the open ground in front of my building, when I was much younger. I still believe I saw a lady walking out of a flash of lightning. Or maybe the mother was taking in hallucinogens while feeding me.

  7. One of my earliest memories is of me going to Tirupathi with my parents. I must have been about three years old, and very very fond of my hair. So my parents decided that it was in my best interests not to tell me of the family tirupathi tradition ( which ofcourse is getting rid of your hair).

    I remember taking the bus ride and getting very very car sick as the bus went up those windy hills. Then I remember sitting in a temple courtyard next to a stone pillar. It was very sunny, and had an almost dream like quality. The priest, (now that I realise) was trying to distract me with questions about my school, etc ( "Oh LKG?? Very good Very good...". I had really believed that being in LKG was some kind of an achievement) while the deed was done. I still did not know what had happened until we went to this restaurant that had pillars made of mirrors. And thats when I realised I had lost my precious locks. I started bawling, and I remember my mother buying me false hair and assuring me that mine will grow back.

    Well...not life threatening...but thats how I felt at that time ! :)

  8. That panther incident really sent a chill down my spine... The way you described it, I could almost visualize it happening in front of me, and I felt that there was a scream stuck in my own throat! Scary stuff!

    I have a lot of memories from my early childhood, starting at around the age of about 2 plus. But I would say the earliest would have to be possibly at the age of 2, when I took part in a Fancy Dress competition at my sister's school. I was dressed as a Hawaiian girl in a scarf as a bikini top, and a multi-coloured paper "straw" skirt and strings of flowers around my head, wrists and ankles! I remember shivering in the cold... must have been Feb-March, and bawling my eyes out because I won the second prize... hehehe...Sore loser from a very young age, as you can see!

    Fortunately, no near-death experiences, but a recurring dream I've had since I was about 6-7 years old, about me going closer to a waterfall to have a better view... there's lush green grass from where I'm approaching the fall, and all of a sudden I'm too close to the edge and then I start slipping and fall in.... nasty dream, that one! I started dreaming this after we visited the Ellora caves in Maharashtra... there is a fall nearby... shudder!

    Sorry for the long comment! Maybe I should have just blogged about it :D

  9. Good for us that the panther slipped away! Where would I go to get my daily dose of laughter otherwise? And where would Vijay be, huh? And Peanut? Think about Peanut!!

    My earliest memoriies?

    1. I am in a rectagular room, maybe 10x14 or so (maybe bigger, maybe smaller, but who cares?), and I am running back and forth between two walls counting one, two, three... I was maybe 3 or 3 1/2?

    2. I was around the same age and I remember my dad carrying me down the stairs to drop me off at preschool and I am screaming "Maine chaddi nahi pahani hai!" OK - maybe more information than you wanted :P

    3. Around the time when my brother was born (again 3 1/2 years), it is night and after "lights out". I calmly inform my father that I have a nosebleed. He rushes me to the bathroom or something...

    Near death experience? Well, kinda. I was doing my Master's then. I and a group of my classmates were returning from college when an 18 wheeler comes up from behind us. I speed up my trusty Luna to get ahead of my friend who was driving beside me but she sppeds up at the same time thinking I will get behind her, so I have basically nowhere to go. the tanker's rear wheel hits my moped from behind, I am thrown off the Luna to my left, the Luna falls to the right, goes under the tanker, is crunched to tiny bits and i come off with minor scrapes and bruises. To this day i shudder at the thought "what if I had fallen to the right?" And I swear - I DID NOT make this up. My parents probably don't know all the gory details. Hey! you know I am going to write a post about this! Now that my parents read my blog they SHOULD be subjected to the visions of horror, no? :D

  10. I know, I was thinking about this too a few days back, infact I think after I read one of your posts, I was like, too bad Peanut won't remember any of this! lol!

    First memory? I'm not sure if the first memory I have is actually mine or has been reconstructed in my mind based on stories my mom tells me... actually if I think about it, there are many - the most interesting one is when I was 4 - my parents never raised their hands against me, but my dad sometimes "punished" me by locking me inside the bathroom (not locking, just shutting the door, but I used to think it was locked).. this happened maybe once a year... so one day he did that, and I was locked in, but our bathroom had 2 doors and he'd forgotten to shut the other one... so i calmly went to the loo, washed up, opened the 2nd door, walked out to the drawing room and laughed at my dad and said "hello papa!!"... and I distinctly remember how he melted and ran towards me and hugged me!

    Ok ok long story! :)) Wont start on the life in danger one!

  11. Everyone - this is really brilliant stuff! (Everyone except Ganju, that is)...Please, keep it coming, all...don't worry about your comments getting too long - and let me know if you do a post on it! This is very fascinating for me.

    Unpredictable: what do you mean right after you were born?? can't be RIGHT after obviously! Right??

    Suki: Am glad I am around to cheer you up for 5 seconds on some days! Hug to you.

    Stuti: The fur memory is so cute.

    Rayshma: No, I insist! You must have a NDE! I mean somewhere deep in your memory archives...

    Ganju: This is a seeyoorious post. As in see yooo later.

    Kiran: Much younger than two?? Wow!!

    Clueless chick: That's so sweet, that is. I feel for you.

    N: Bet you looked a bomb! Any pics?

    Cee Kay: That chaddi one is too cute and reminds me of something I will post about soon, so thanks! Look forward to your post.

    Still Searching: No, no - come back and tell us all about the life in danger one too...

  12. such a diff post from ur usual stuff!!!

    My earliest memory is of tagging along everywhere with my nanny1 her name was savitri and I was about 3....she wanted to go home for a day and I promptly started bawling...she really had to go so she asked my mom if she could take me along...my mom said ok, and I had fun going in a tempo ( a little bigger than the usual auto, found in small towns). Of coiurse my dad gave us both an earful coz he was so worried.

    I also spent the whole day getting dirty with the kids in her chawl and eating fermented rice :D

    Haven't had a near death experience...my life ain't that exciting!

  13. goodness! everyone's first memory is so much earlier than mine.
    mine is of school, of kindergarten with a girl calle Tina, of recess, in the playground. just like a snapshot.
    the first, live memory i have of an event is my brother's birth. of going to see him of seeing my dad there, of watching my younger sister almost bite him in an attempt to kiss him. a NEWBORN!
    and dude, your panther story's scary. i had a very real near-death experience, while driving to college on the last day of classes before fall break. and crashing into a bush hog at the top of a steep incline and then everything happened slow-mo and really loud. the axle being cut into, the car flipping, landing on another car in the opposite lane, and then into the ditch. of being upside down in the car, trapped, bloody and sore. the man, who said, i'd have to wait until emergency services for there to help me out. crazy. that mazda was TOTALLED. you'd never guess that the person in there got away with some really bad bruises and scrapes but alive. you'd never be able to tell the front from the back and top from the bottom!
    but yeah thinking about it, makes me feel really, really lucky. so there's my story.

  14. got senti and posted on mom :)

    go see

  15. my clearest memory- the smell of the old spice after shave liberally applied to all scrapes and cuts making me shriek. and ofcourse the lingering smell of the same thing every morning after my dad shaved and while vividh bharati would play next to his shaving mug.

    and near death/biggest con- well, its a bit dramatic. me,and the whole crew got mugged one night in trinidad. we had put our equipment away in our bus and walking around the block for dinner. and five, very young, and nervous boys mugged us, two guns and a pitiful knife/blade. the damn blade was an inch from my waist while he tugged at my waistpouch. i felt more fear when his hand touched me than when i saw the gun. ( when i saw the gun i was calm, we know this scene from a million films, just hand over the wallet...)

    the police said that the guns would probably have been real. half of us think they were toy guns.

    but we were intelligent enough not to test this one... : )

  16. Unforgettable memories... Hmmm... This is going to be a long comment!
    I have this very vivid memory... I am maybe two and a half... Dad is nowhere to be seen... Mom seems upset... She is packing... Most of the neighbourhood aunties are hovering around Mom... No one seems to notice me as I shrink, terrified into the nook behind the door, sandwiching myself between the door and the wall... Just then one Aunty calls out my name, locates me and picks me up as tears start welling in my eyes... I dont know why I am crying...
    I told this to Mom some 15 years later and she told me that this was indeed true... Dad had gone to book tickets on getting the news that Grandma had passed away and Mom was packing for all of us...
    Near death experience... I used to ride the bicycle to school... I was zooming away on a big busy road when a bus ahead was just about to take a U turn... No medians ... The driver was turning slowly so I sped up to overtake him... He did not seem to notice me as I sped up covering 3/4ths of the length of the bus, and just then, my eyes widened in horror to see a bus speeding towards me from the opposite direction... The bike would flip if I braked now... And in a split second I went through the space in between the buses... unscathed... I slowed down but my heart was beating wildly... I remembered how stupid and how extremely lucky I had been when I read in the newspaper a week later about a school girl who was crushed to death in between two buses under similar circumstances... This is the first time I am telling anyone about this!

  17. the panther story sure sounds is scary. wow.

    near death experience - on a trek, climbed a cliff wall next to a waterfall, it was all very slippery, made the mistake of looking down while descending!

  18. ok so you tempted me to de-lurk again :P this seems to be happening way too often recently :)

    I believe you saw the panther but I don't believe it was really there because if a panther could find it's way in and out of a coop of chickens without being noticed why would it turn into a man-eater? All the same, reality is what one perceives it to be and I know for you it will always be real :)

    ok!!! don't hate me now!!!

    I actually have a lot of vague recollections from when I was 3-4 so dno which is the earliest. The funniest that comes to mind right now is mom n me sitting in our family docs drawing room n me vehemently arguing with her that I did not want to grow up and become a doctor like her. I wanted to be a house wife (like mom I guess) because that's waht smart women are supposed to do - get married and have their husbands earn for them!! LOL! I was a little over 3 mom says :) And no I'm not married and very much earning my living :P

    As for NDE's I have had tonz of them! What can I say, I am a true blue Calamity Jane who is very lucky! I have fallen off a bus in full speed, slipped of a waterfall and fractured a rib, been in a car accident with the car running into a trailer full of those construction material steel rods, and about half dozen drunken incidents which I would prefer to forget ;) It's a miracle I'm alive really ...

    and hoping you don't kill me for my response to your panther incident :D

  19. Chandni: that's a pretty cool mom, that is...and trusting in a way i can't even imagine right now!

    Mona and Sur and PR and Choxbox: Wow, those near death stories are really scary!! Am actually surprised how many of us have had these experiences. Does make you feel pretty lucky, eh?

    Nutty: I dont quite get your logic. Read the story again - the panther wasn't in the chicken coop. It was outside it. And it doesn't really matter whether it was a man-eater or not - how does that impact the fact that it was there? Anyway, am hardly going to try and convince you if I haven't tried hard to convince Mom! Don't worry, I don't hate you.

    And that's quite a bunch of incidents, you live dangerously!

  20. o! my bad! The first time i read it I thought you said it was inside the coop a 100ft away from you!

    all the same .. it'll be real because you perceived it to be real :) that's all that's important acc to me :)

    I don't really live dangerously .. just foolishly I guess :D

  21. Earliest memory - I think it is being held upside down by the eldest son of our family friends and laughing uncontrollably (I still smile when I think about it)...I think that is why I am still very fond of him...all that rough-housing!!

    I nearly died in a car accident in Nov' 2003. Have the stitch marks to show when you have the appetite for them!!

    I am tagging you and this really was a wonderful post!!

  22. The panther story was terrifying. I believe you absolutely, Y.

    My earliest memories are of my mother standing near the mantelpiece, writing my (older)sister's name on a slip of paper and slipping it into the plastic label window of her first school bag. I must have been two and a half or so.

    No near death experiences, normal things like c-sections and other surgeries- I do have enormous scars, but I don't think I was in mortal danger, barring the risk associated with surgeries.

  23. Came across your blog thro pensive reflections. Nicely written. NDE - Narrowly missing the tsunami...guess this doesnt need elaboration :-)


Hi there. Go on, say it. Well? WELL?