I must have been around 3 years old at that time, young enough to still have that cute accent that all little kids who are new to talking, have. Old enough to walk up to the neighbors house on my own. They were 2-3 men, I suppose in their early 20s. They were running a small scale photo development lab, sort of a darkroom out of an empty house in our street.
At first I must have gone there accompanied by my older cousins. The ambiance would have looked fascinating to the eyes and mind of a child yet to see the wonders of this world; photo films submerged in a colored liquid, some clipped to a clothesline, interesting and even scary images peeping out of the plastic film.
My next memory is of a quiet summer afternoon while I was being showered with chocolates and attention, my mother climbed up the steps of the empty house cum workshop, out of breath and tired looking, at the same time emitting sighs of relief.
It so happened that I was missing from my home for quite some time. My mother and other folks were searching for me in the homes and shops of relatives and acquaintances all around the neighborhood, no one thought I would be in the empty house with a bunch of strangers.
Anyways it all ended well except I don’t have anymore recollection of those friendly strangers. I came to know much later that the photo lab was operated from the neighboring house only for a brief period of time. Either they did well and moved to a new place or the enterprise failed to take off, no one knew with certainty.
This incident remains special to me to this day for two reasons, first because it’s one of the few memories I have of myself that young. Secondly even in my overall hazy memory of the incident, the genuine affection and happiness of those youngsters while interacting with me, emerges crystal clear. That’s a rarity growing up in a place that’s overfilled with children one cuter than the other and grownups with limited bandwidth to truly appreciate each one’s zing.