There’s a lot of your past you wish you could forget – like erased blank… swish… wiped off of your memory slate. Then there is your past that you just can’t forget. Not that it affects you but its a huge burden on your brain to carry and you wish you could just write it off onto your blog for good. The latter is what this post is about.
A huge house.
Lots of people.
The compulsory siesta.
Kulfi (Sweet Indian summer delicacy).
A lot of people around will find these dots really easy to connect. I want to write it out ’cause I don’t want to retain them yet remember them forever – kind of memoir to myself – only for my personal use. These are recollections from (last) – a 13-year-old fat boy who diluted a relationship on a very bad note and will regret it forever for he never got say the final adieu.
His summer vacations would last for about 75 days as these were the hottest months in his part of the country. All he knew was it was time for indoor afternoons and fun & frolicking evenings with no homework, coolers, mangoes, lychees, lots of sleep, lots of cricket, ludo, carom, puzzle, TV, cartoons, video games. Just him and his brother enjoying and playing with each other. It was a time for all heavenly stuff. Things he never knew, he would love so much but that he would get berated off forever. These days often arrived after he had received his gift for his stand-out performances in school exams – HotWheel cars, cycle, carom board and many others like these. He would be very happy to board the train for that familiar destination. No matter how many times he had been there, it was always fresh for he knew no other world and these represented the only two worlds that he spent his childhood in.
You gotta give it to the place – Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India! Place which gave the world one of the most beautiful scenery in Bhedaghat on the river Narmada. A river bank located purely on marbles! It’s beautiful – the air itself is pure – rather was pure (just been to the place after 11 years and felt a bit let down).
Lets start off with the journey to the place. He couldn’t wait to get inside the train. To get the smell of puri-sabzi at the first station and to feel the wind on his face. To look at the train engines which according to him were a miracle that he could watch everyday on his drive to his school. The rails and the train itself were such a mystery for that small, young mind that he couldn’t (till he got Google) ever fathom how the trains even turned!! The sound of the wheels chugging below his feet, the smoke from the engine entering his nostrils (no matter how gross it would feel to others, he would forever relish that smoke), the sight of the trees passing him by at the speed of light, occasional huts, fields and rails cutting each other running along his train. And then would come the sight he still dreads – a bridge on the river Tawa. The bridge apparently had been labelled dangerous by Indian Railways standards and he would always feel that the train would fall off especially as the bridge had no rails on both the sides. Nothing but a very tall height to fall into. And in between this, a far away sight of a dam. He would always wonder what that dam would look like when in full flow. Never to be experienced though. A lot of stations would pass through for that young mind to remember but he would remember things that made a direct impact on his coming life. He would remember each bridge, each platform, each fort and the smell of each one of them distinctly fresh.
Once he started to near the destination, the air of anticipation would raise the anxiety in his heart for what new and novel would surprise him this time in his second world. Nothing, nothing ever. For nearly 9 years or more on a trot, he would see no significant change. The same route always led him to the same house. The same marketplace, the same buildings, the same under-bridge greeted him. A perfect example of sustainability and persistense.
The house which still stands tall and huge – it reflected the late 80’s Indian modernism. It has seen various colors – white, pink, green and at one instance, he could also remember yellow. Six rooms on the ground floor divided by a wall with 2 doors to connect the 2 sections built with 3 rooms each. The first floor, built quite late is a replica of the section below from the ground floor with rooms that were larger. But no matter what you did and where you were in the house, it always gave the same feel everywhere every single time (wish I had some pictures).
Their welcome was always the same – Nani (maternal grand-mother) would shower them with holy Ganga water and then the entry. Keep the luggage at the proper place and room. Then go about the chores in the house according to time you make an entry in it.
Coming to the chores, a typical day in that household would be something as follows:
Wake up… roll up your bed… place it at its proper place… brush the teeth and freshen up… then it was a choice to either sit with Nanaji (maternal grand-father) and Naniji or go upstairs and have tea with a younger group which included Mama (moms bro), Mami ( Mamas wife) and their children. It was a happening group and he would prefer spending time with anyone but would prefer a place where his mother would prefer to be. Then after a heavy breakfast would be time for a bath in the cold water in the Indian summer… somehow the water always suited him more than any place else. A very clean feel after a bath. Then was the time for indoor games played between all brothers and sisters. This would normally be the time women around would engage in their household works, men would leave for office and Nanaji would spend time reading the newspaper. Games would often include Boggle, ludo, carom and sometimes if the noon was cooler, some cricket as well. He would never forget the days when all of them brothers and sisters would play together in the small porch and the sisters would just cower into corners so they don’t have too get involved in the game. Fun times they would stay. The afternoons comprised of a mandatory siesta. No exceptions for anyone in the household. No sounds. No lights. He hated that period. For he could hardly wait for evenings that would include a heavy dose of cricket, dust, dirt. No matter who would play against him, he would have had to face the boys wrath with the bat. Then return home, for now would be the time for watering the garden and the plants using the water from the hand pumps. This was the best part of his days. The freedom that was allowed to him to perform this chore would be something he would sorely miss all through his life – but he didn’t know it then. All he knew was porch was hot and plants needed water. Water the plants. Then would be turn to get drenched in the same water. This was time to get wet. To get wild with and in water. Unforgettable freshness. Change and then would be the time for dinner. Supper supper supper… super super super… nothing could beat that food for it was his mother that would cook the rotis, dal, veggies and rice. This was normally the time when Mama would return home and after dinner, he would often buy us kulfis. This would also be the time when the entire family would come out into the porch and walk for a while all the while laughing at jokes cracked. In the mean time, the siblings would find time to swing in a swing. It was built to carry at max 4 people at a time, was sturdy and brought with it the feeling of a drowning night. An awesome day was over. Now was the time to show the mosquitoes the power of Baygon. Complete house would get a dose of it. Satisfied with the results, each member would bring their bed and would face absolutely no problem in laying down and sleeping but not before Mama would make his presence felt again. He would make each of the siblings kneel in line on the beds and make them repeat the mantra – La Ila… Il Lil La… Mohammed-e-Rasgullah. Fun it was and it would repeat 60 of the 75 days he would spend there.
He particularly waited for Sundays. They were usually the days when Mama would take them all for a swim in the river Narmada – Gwarighat. Back then, the way to the river was through a jungle, a sparsely populated area. Upon arrival they had to cross the river on a boat which was an absolutely out of the world feeling. To feel the river on his palms would heighten his anticipation of how water would feel like. It was truly amazing! Take off all your extra clothes, get down to your bare essentials and jump into the river. This was where he learnt to swim and he would forever respect the man who taught him to swim (Mama) and the river for letting him learn to swim in it. A good 2-3 hours of frolicking in the water would barely leave him with any energy and when out, they would all dress again and cross the river again on a boat. The sinking feeling of the separation from water would forever lure the boy. But life had to move on and to the next shop upstairs on the ghat. The shop where Mama would make each one of them indulge into Bhajiyas and laddus. He would then be totaled. Even with absolutely nothing left in his body to endure the remaining of the day, he would remain jubilant and never know that he was tired to shit pieces. The first foot on the bed when home, would cover his body with the most tantalizing freshness of a sleep so richly deserved (or thats what he thought).
There had to be days when he had to go and meet his father’s family members. It was normally a day worth of affair and spent peacefully. They were nothing special except for some cricket that he would get to play with his elder brothers.
He loved it and would forever love it. Those days would define his character for the rest of his life. He would learn a lot from those days but the best lesson was – hard work always tastes bitter but reaps sweet rewards.
The child has grown up to be 29 now but nothing would make him forget his longing for the water and he would still dream in red!