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Fossil footprints: If stones could speak what would they tell?

- By Paramita Muller Lahiri from Munich Germany, 25 February 2021 | 10 MIN READ


Binspired

Fossils are the footprints in the page of lingering memory. A leaflet in the tale of history of the earth. Remains of ancient times preserved in stone, rocks.

Imprint of a fern on a stone found near Garampani, Kopili River half a century ago by my late mother & used as paperweight on the writing table.

The veined stone fossil found near Diantheln. 

Memory of a picnic when all of them were alive. The family. They have gone but their spirits dally, invisible but tangible, as the stone with touch and sight turns alive. I happen to chance upon this veined-fossil  near a stream flowing downwards from the hills to the plains. 

The remains of ancient times. 

The stone breathes. 

Memory gives it a new birth. 

The beauty of the place has a haunting charm.  The rocks with deep pools speak of relentless time. The battle of elements; water & wind, sun & rain. They contain the tale of antiquity, of ancient days, of volcanic eruptions in a long- forgotten past in the tattered page of history. Like a gentle shadow it casts its glow in the inner recesses of my mind. 

Conjuring memories.

Erosion & fossils. 

Continuity & decay. 

Preserved and destroyed.

What turns to dust contains invisible energy and finds a new form in the course of time. Before that too becomes a fossil or crumbles to dust. 

Chorus: Fossils are the foot prints in the page of lingering memory.

Layered past buried in the entrails of mother earth. With father sky keeping a watch that all is not destroyed.  Stones dug, boulders grinded, fossils smashed into splinters of modernity. Asphalt street and Highways need raw material. Bedded rocks torn out of the womb of the earth. 

Sold. 

Fossils paving the road to modernity.

Within the span of a life time memories become fossils in our mind as one grows older. The journey of life’s experience leaves its spurs and layers of sediments form a pattern entwined in the tapestry of space in the lap of time.

If dug out what do fossils tell us? 

Time past:

Fossilized memory, pictures, landscapes, places, varied & familiar. Multifaceted and singular. 

Strange, near.

Far & close.

Family, friendships, love and goodbyes. Casual meetings some deep some insignificant. Some leave a spur, others fade. Layer upon layers of memory. Sedimented & fossilized.

Meeting & partings. 

Some broken some sealed. 

To remain in a page of the book of life.

Some vivid, some fragmented, disjointed. 

Some sealed. Etched like lines in sand dunes when the wind blows.

High and low. Skimming its surface. Leaving its spurs that slowly faints & fades. Shadowy with age. Frail silk spun cobwebs that curtains the past.

Time future:

Palimpsest, of all that was. Fossils of continuity. All the paths that lead to the unknown to shape and form a new meaning. A new shape and form that surfaces from the past. To move on. The fossils buried deep in the bosom of the earth find a way to the surface and tell us of ancient times. Like memories which surface once in a while. The foot prints of the past follow the path of the present and tread the path of future which again becomes a past. The cycle continues.

Time present: 

The stone fossil with an imprint of the fern. 

As I look intensely in the half conical surface of this particular fossil I see in my mind’s eye the people involved around this object.  The story of the stone found by my mother. Now at my writing table in a far- off land. Stone speaks. 

Talking fossil.

From the dense forests of Garampani more than half a century ago to my mother’s table in Shillong to mine now in a far -off land. 

The stone has travelled along with me.  A keep -sake of the past till it finds another table, another space. 

If stones could speak what would they tell? 

Before the hydro -electric project, Kopili River with its magnificent waterfall was a source of wonder. One could find fossils; of shark teeth, plants, sea-shells, fish and plants. One could see a rainbow spanning the wide width of the torrential water fall. As the sprays of the water body split into thousand glittering drops, glinting and gleaming as it splashed, leaped, lapped and fell. The mighty power of water. The prismatic rays, refracting hues of the rainbow turned the space into a magical wonderland. Time stood still. Breathless in its beauty.

Deer fed abundantly on the leaves & fruits of the Amla trees. ( amloki or gooseberry) Spotted deer. A river full of fish. The colour of the river was like a sheen of jade. A few were caught and roasted on the sand banks of the river, on sticks. A bit of salt, green chilly, a dash of mustard -oil and an onion to complete the heady taste. The taste of it still lingers in my memory. The unpolluted river, free of poisonous chemicals. The aroma is unforgettable. Childhood memory of good times when trouble was a strange unknown word. When all that mattered was to hold the fishing rod for a while which some kind uncle or father allowed  A dangling worm as a bait when the shadows of the jungle fell upon the river. The precious spools from “foreign” were out of bounds for children, not to be touched but to be seen. Precious objects collected with care. Anglers pride.

To reach the circuit house one had to cross the river by ferry. Even the vehicle had to be ferried across the pristine water of the river. Manoeuvreing the load was a work of skill which the ferry men handled with great expertise. 

Once in a while my parents took us there for a holiday. The circuit house was pure luxury in the midst of no -where, nestled amidst dense forests. As a child, a warm shower in the jungle was a source of great delight. Unthinkable in early sixties. Tucked in the heart of lush green jungle the noise of civilization was a stranger in this part of the world. The forest had Blue Vanda growing on tall trees. There were countless varieties of butterflies. Calls of wild birds pierced the silence once in a while. We were warned not to leave the place after sunset since there was bear in the forest. 

One late morning we went for a walk in the forest and my mother found this fossil. She was so delighted! The stone was washed clean and one could trace the remains of a fern. Who knows how old it is. 

Ageless in its mystery.  

Ancient in its pattern. 

Antiquated in permanency.

Here the past, present and future is reflected as I see the beauty of the footprint lingering in my memory of a place, people and bygone era. The water fall is destroyed, most parts are flooded and the fossils have disappeared. All those who were there with me are no more. The truth of mortal existence. 

Once upon a time this region was a part of the ocean. The fossil reveal, tell a tale of ancient history where some parts of the earth was under water, sharks, sea- shells, plants all turned to stone. Sedimented memory in the vista of timelessness.

Chorus: Fossils are the footprints in the page of lingering memory.

 

About the Author: Paramita Muller Lahiri, a citizen of the world, Bengali by birth who grew up in Shillong, and now lives in Munich, Germany. She calls herself an Indian, a foreigner, an outsider. A globetrotter, she traveled to France, UK, Italy, Greece, Germany, Switzerland & had a rich experience meeting people, visiting famous Museums, varied landscape. 

 

 

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