I found this piece of advice, rummaging in my uncle's desk.
He passed away last month, after a decade of mild dementia inflicted gently on him from a lifetime of psychiatric practice in a frenetic city. I had volunteered for his care, the other relatives unwilling to take care of a loony old widower. I am a middle aged bachelor seasoned with self-imposed abstinence from familial hazards, on the verge of a sabbatical from journalistic career in Mumbai and living atop a weather beaten building close to the Gateway of India.
He died an old - very old - child. I'm sure he approved living with me, though I have a ticklish suspicion that it was more because of the deep love for chocolate I shared with him.
I was his favourite nephew. Ever since I gurgled in his lap, his cheerful directness had always disarmed me without fail, as did his unabashed hugs on all my birthdays. Wherever he is now, he stills holds in good confidence my confusion over career choice, and my first painful jilt.
He was a gentle, intelligent and accomplished man who could not father children, who had deteriorated in loneliness after his wife's death. That was when I decided to bring my surrogate father home.
He was so well mannered, clean of habit and well ordered that I had no qualms bringing up my colleagues and friends for nightcaps. They were all deceived in the first meeting, until they were led into the bright, festooned party halls in his head. A few returned to renew acquaintance with him, their deference to his whimsical wisdom only growing. A likely emotional response of tired middle aged hacks in the unrelenting, frantic melee of life in Mumbai.
Some time back, he had discovered the internet, and with a child like glee, graduated rapidly to creating a blog with a pseudonym in which he argued about the primacy of matter over mind. His poor online audience was enthralled, knew no better and offered him great traffic. He was so abstruse, so obscure in his monologues that I used to indulge in them myself whenever I needed to unwind the knots in my writer's head.
I had put him to sleep many times fighting between tears and laughter over his ideas expounded during dinner. This was to be his latest update. And I decided that the last post to his blog shall go online.
Pre Script: I remember, he had so enjoyed the little satchel of peaches I brought home two months back. I thought it was somehow charming to see this wizened child slavering over them, endearingly silly. Had I known better - which the following last update of his reveals, I would have filled my pad with fruits of every kind, every day, all within his arm's reach. It would have made him happy, I think.
EATING A PEACH FOR THE FIRST TIME
You should try it, eating a peach for the first time.
Not again, not after, not now if you have done it before - simply for the one and only 'first' time. You could never enjoy a peach the same way again, trust me.
Try it, with any fruit, I dare you. I might have eaten a million bananas,
but the very first one should have been one of the most important experiences in my life.
But now it's gone, inaccessible, irretrievable, forgotten - overwhelmed completely by all the subsequent tastes, smells, textures and the mighty meanders of growing up without spontaneous awareness of simple things in life...
If one'd done it already, then it's over, beyond you forever. The leading edge of one's faculty for sensory REdiscovery is blunted, in the case of something you have eaten once.
Tasting something for the first time happens only once, doesn't it?
It is an irreversible process, unrewindable, unrecordable, unrewritable and unburnable for posterity. You cannot bring it back, in other - simpler - words. It can only be done once, and once done, stays done, and becomes undoable thereafter - the first taste of something. For example - a peach.
TO WIT, ONCE:
It is odd that innocence is never recognized till it's lost. Take the case of a child. Everyone knows that. Which is why everyone loves them, and envies them for their delicate, simple, sincere, guileless ways. Classically, is it that one loves a child for something one lacks or has lost? Or is it tacit acknowledgement of a virtue that once existed in oneself? Or is it a convoluted transaction where by an adult could somehow hope to transfuse their dark life fluid with fresh innocence, while the young is bled of it to decay towards adulthood?
TO WIT, TWICE:
Capture is exciting, rousing, invigorating; recapture is yawn, humdrum, ho-hum, glum.
Pioneers are about climax and discovery. And then, followers walk in in hordes, turn a single delicate experience into a collective stimulation, turn an experiment into a fad, trend, tradition and orthodoxy. Theory is laced with superstition, added to perversion, shaken with ignorance, stirred with ego, poured into punitive preaching, delivered on iced dogma.
The world is force fed thus. And the meek shall inherit.
NOW TO THE MARROW OF THE MATTER:
The peach is a fascinating fruit: I found yesterday.
The delicate blush makes the colour a celebrated favourite among women. Skin velvety to touch; when licked - a curious coarse powder coat on your tongue; rich, sumptuous inside, firm and full outside, a certain self-possession with a tinge of lividity - voluptuous; prise it apart, a quiet yielding in your hands; the heart - the crimson and calloused seed - is a mild visual shock, nestling safe, wet and sticky in the juicy loin; tiny flecks of red (from seed) in the centre of the other half; the texture is thick, lumpy, golden fibre, the smell a pleasant, secretive acidity; sink your teeth into the deceptively dry flesh and you can hear faint snaps as the little live fibres break; the syrup is faintly abrasive, makes you want to grate your teeth.
A little surprise, for it feels like a mild, gentle version of a pineapple, but with a neater, drier and just as rich soul of its own....
Ah....should try the Kiwi next.
But I lose my case with Lemon, Orange, Pineapple, Sugar Cane, Water Melon, Apple, Banana, Guava, Plum, Papaya, Grape, Pomegranate, Sapote, Jack fruit, Mango, Custard Apple, Cantaloupe, Pear, Berry, Cherry, Fig, Date, Strawberry, Gooseberry...
Eating fruits is healthy, and should be done at a distance from a meal.
Distant in time, not in space. So there.
Eating fruits in season is better. Eating them regularly is much better. The best part is there's tremendous variety in them. The so-so part is we get only those more suited to our tropical climes (I live in India).
Come to think of it, there's not much to choose between humans and simians suffering this experiential angst.
TO UNWIT, FINALLY:
Serendipity is simply superb, as long as one holds up the torch of ignorance long enough. Put it down, sup on a peach and put it up again.
Ignorance can be a useful thing, if you are blessed with good memory. There could actually be a case for maintaining it, but of course, with programmed relapses to knowledge, to allow for functioning in survival. To not know yet is a blessing, as long as you enjoy the experiences that life rations.
Live life, long or short is beside the point.