In Ten Sentences or Less [14] – Memories Should Be Left Where They Are – Part Two

Returning to the narrative begun some days ago, there we were, then, travellers in search of Culinary Paradise or, at least, Paradise as we remembered it, our faltering enthusiasm at seeing how much of that heaven had been eroded by the exigencies of modernity and the new-fangled marketing notions of subsequent generations of owners momentarily revived by the invitation to the first floor, air-conditioned annexe. As the fat man from behind the cash counter, wearing a checked shirt - missing a button at a belly of magnificent proportions - a smarmy smile and a fawning disposition was insistent upon telling us repeatedly, we’d be much more comfortable in the room upstairs, less disturbed by the constant to-ing and fro-ing of a clientele of lower repute (or, as he probably meant, lesser means). 

      A spiral staircase that would have challenged the fitness of the finest athlete and navigational capabilities of the most refined global positioning system took us to a room that, after the neon-lit blaze of the main dining area, seemed entirely engulfed in shadow, the ceiling at a height that had even the shortest among us stooping. It didn't need an IQ of stratospherical proportions to determine that the first floor was not a floor at all but a mezzanine construction, in all likelihood, unauthorized, though we had to concede that the air conditioning was more than perfect even if the lighting wasn’t. Running the risk of a particularly painful form of spondylosis the longer we stood around with our necks bent in supplication mode, as if offered up for decapitation by guillotine, we hurriedly seated ourselves the best we could, unfazed by joined tables of uneven height, concrete pillars that had no business being where they were and a tablecloth of uncertain colour and dubious cleanliness that a waiter of similar traits whisked out of nowhere like a vaudeville magician and covered our tables with, almost simultaneous with his placement of four faux leatherbound menu cards, which, though wrinkled and stained with abuse, he positioned with symmetric precision and loving care. Having already visually sampled the fare on offer and decided on reliving our memories exactly as we’d first created them, we had no use for menu cards however ornate and voluminous, for it was predetermined, nay, preordained, that the sole purpose of this culinary voyage was to revisit Chacha’s famous fowl cutlets - the very same over which many years ago, accompanied by frequent refills of masala tea, some of us had debated politics, others cinema, some existentialism, others ennui, some love, others angst, but all united in the belief that the best of life lay ahead of us if Chacha’s culinary expertise, manifest in the cutlets that carried his name, were anything to go by, although none of us could say with full certainty whether anyone called Chacha actually existed and if it all wasn’t just a potent marketing idea ahead of its time.
     Suffice it to say, that day, at New Chacha's Hotel, one of the more treasured memories of our college days died and, with its passing, was buried our collective intent to rediscover and retrace the culinary trail of our youth. Chacha’s legendary fowl cutlets, when they arrived, borne as far aloft as the confines of a low ceiling permitted by a waiter with a most unfortunate choice of sartorial style and a completely misplaced sense of joi de vivre, were, in a word, foul, bereft of the ability to trigger anything but remorse and regret, empirical evidence, if empirical evidence were needed, that memories are best left where they are.
    And if there is a learning, it is this: that a memory, good or bad, isn’t comprised of just one thing even though we tend to recall it that way - as a single, overwhelming experience; in truth, it has perspective, context and relevance, either to a specific time or a specific state of being; its strength and durability lies in its ability to trigger a veritable videostream of events, peoples, places, thoughts and feelings each time it is recalled and when it can no longer do that, it ceases to be a memory.

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