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The memories we leave behind

white wall with photos of the family in various photo frames

white wall with photos of the family in various photo frames  

Be the beloved for those around us, be the light of someone’s life

Most people don’t know that one of the fiercest battles during the Second World War was fought in Kohima. The invading Japanese Army was forced to retreat by British and Allied troops in Kohima and Imphal.

Today, on the ridge where the brutal fighting took place is a beautifully maintained war cemetery. There are some 1,420 graves of British and Allied troops and 900 of Indian soldiers. Though many Nagas also fought to save their land, sadly, there is only one Naga grave — of a 21-year-old man.

Each grave, though just a slab of grey stone, tells the story of a young man far from home and the memories he left behind for those who grieved for him. The words used on these graves — beloved, cherished, selfless, pride, joy, adored, the light of our lives, irreplaceable — tells the story of each man buried there.

I could not but help think of the memories each one had left behind in those words. I remembered my two music teachers, Misses Wroughton, during my childhood in the U.K. who had large pictures of handsome young men on top of the piano — brothers, lovers, fathers and uncles who did not come back from the war.

Though it was 20 years later, they still spoke of them with shaking voices, eyes brimming. Now standing by these graves, I remembered some of the words they used, the words inscribed on so many of these graves.

Priest and writer Henri Nouwen in his book Bread for the Journey often emphasises the need to deliberately make good memories for our friends and family. Take the time, he says, give surprises, create time for togetherness, rejoice in everything, knowing that our loving actions are the memories our loved ones will have of us one day.

Be the beloved for those around us. Be the cherished friend. Be the light of someone’s life.

How does one do this in our busy time-bound lives? I took a day off from my tightly packed schedule and invited my daughter for a day at the beach. She was alarmed initially, then happily joined me. We sat on the warm sand and played our favourite songs. Then we read poems to each other, and finally sat holding each other’s hands watching the waves crashing into the sand. We saw the first stars come out and much later a beautiful crescent moon.

“I’ll never forget today,” she said. “Good. Maybe 20 years from now, you will remember a day when you sat with your mother on the beach and did nothing but listen to music, read poetry and saw the stars.”

ushajesudasan@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:09:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/making-memories/article31259392.ece

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