Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Farewell Of A Nomad - Part 1
It was time to say good bye.
I had lived in this house ever since I could remember. I had no memory of any place before this. I had just completed 1st standard in Teresian primary school. The foundation had been laid. And a good one.
The soil was fertile and our garden had flourished. My father had himself planted all the plants and trees when he bought this house four years ago.
The croutons, the Ashoka trees and the Christmas tree were growing well. The bougainvillea had grown wild. Its boughs laden with pink flowers had claimed most of the front portion of the house. The pomegranate tree had given healthy, tasty and great looking fruits.
When I had found this resting place, my father had been transferred to a village called Nagamangala. There were no English schools there. It had been decided, after a brief consultation with me of course, that I would stay in my grandmother’s home in Hassan, for a year.
On the day of departure, I stood in front of my house, looked at our home and our garden with a keenness and with a fondness I had not felt before. I looked at everything as if it was for the last time. With complete Innocence and devotion, I prostrated before my home.
The time for reunion had come. My father had taken transfer to Sira, a town where there was an English school.
As I got into the auto with … who had come to fetch me, my heart felt heavy. I waved my hand, hoping that I would come back to live here.
I would miss my grandmother’s home that stood at the centre of a sprawling piece of land 100 by 120. I would miss the huge garden. The house was full of people; my grandparents, two of my aunts who had not been married at that time, two of my uncles, cousins and many guests. My aunts had taught me, bathed me, combed my hair, dressed me up, pampered me and sometimes, censured me. I would miss all that.
There was a cowshed in the backyard. I had got so used the sounds of their calling which were answered by either the cowboy or one of the family members with a bucket of water or some straw. The cows would be milked every day. I had even seen a cow giving birth to a calf.
When one of the cows had died, all of us had stood together to bid farewell as it was dragged away by a bullock cart. Everyone was in tears.
I would miss the calling sounds of these cattle.
I had spent one year in this place.
My father got a promotion. He had been transferred to this place called Bharuch in Gujarat, a place that I had never heard before.
I felt nothing. It had been a dry, arid place. Literally and figuratively.
My father was transferred to Ahmedabad, another city in the same state.
Those two years had been really eventful.
Our independent house in the small town of Bharuch was a charming thing.
Green grass grew all around the house. I looked at the stone benches in our garden. Our family had spent many an indolent evening after dinner on these benches, sometimes biting into roasted corn cobs, sometimes enjoying the messy Seethaphal, what with spitting all those seeds one after the other, while looking at the Gopura of the temple that loomed before our house from a distance. The red flag on top of the Gopura fluttered tirelessly in the air day and night.
There was the Parijata shrub next to the gate. Those early mornings, when I would wake up to go to Hindustani music classes, I would walk by a bed of Parijatha flowers, delicate looking, cream coloured petals with a tinge of saffron in the center. Their fragrance permeated the air, filling the surroundings with a divine scent. For one last time, I looked at the humble Parijatha that stood by the gate like an innocent offering. I don’t remember having seen a Parijatha shrub after that till today.
As I stood there, I thought of the playground in front of the temple where thousands of colourfully dressed men and women played Garba and Dandiya Raas during Navarathri. Throughout the night the beats of dandiya sticks could be heard in perfect rhythm.
I thought of my music classes and teacher. Our guru had become so fond of my voice that he would ask me to sing before everybody else in those early hours of the morning. As I sang Shyama Sundara Madana Mohana Jago Mere Lala…, he would close his eyes, smile with satisfaction and nod his head this way and that as if he had been transported to another world.
I thought of those voices that sang the proclamation “Saugandh Raam Ki Khate Hai Hum Mandir Yahin Banayenge”. Curfew had been declared many a time during the Hindu Muslim strife and schools had been closed, much to our delight.
I said bye to Urvi, my friend and daughter of Sharadaben who lived across our house. Urvi had half taught me how to ride a bicycle. Little did I know then that my riding lesson would become complete only after 14 years.
Julie, her sister was much younger. Kamlesh, was younger still.
I had not said bye to Sakeena, a Muslim girl and my best friend in school.
I turned and walked towards our backyard which had been the scene of most of our activities. There stood the almond tree. Thick and strong, about 7 feet tall, casting a dense shadow. When we had arrived here, it was just 2 feet in height. A fugitive cat had jumped on it in a hurry to escape and the slender stem had broken into two with just a thin bark holding it together. My mother had tied it to a pole. And look how much it had grown in 2 years. I could still see the scar.
As if to repay my mother for her kindness, the tree gave her its shadow as she washed vessels under it in the afternoons.
And the backyard! Me and my brother had divided the land into two. We had planted pink, yellow and orange flowering creepers, some groundnut plants, lentils, tomato and what not! It had become the purpose of our living. We ran to our respective plots all the time to discover new developments – the first thing after waking up in the morning, the first thing after returning from school…and so on. A newly blossomed flower, a new bud, a new twig, new leaves and new fruit…all brought such excitement. Once we had been able to harvest enough lentil from my plot to prepare sambhar, which I had been so proud of.
For one last time, I looked at our garden. And one more time, my heart felt heavy.
Dad had been transferred to Bangalore. Mom and Dad were happy to be returning to family and relatives.
I had a heavy heart as usual.
Vora aunty, our neighbor had invited us for a farewell dinner.
How I had relished all that she had prepared! Dhokla, Muthiya, brown dhokla…I have forgotten the others. Nimita, Vora aunty’s daughter and my classmate had enjoyed Dosas, Idlis, Rasam and Bisibelebhath that my mom had prepared. We would exchange lunchboxes during the afternoon recess.
Me, Murali (my bro), Nimita and Nishita(Nimita’s sister) had played the game of Business(which in think is also known as Monopoly) for hours together.
I had started making a Business set with the help of cardboard and colour papers. Even before I had finished, Vora aunty presented a new Business game set to us on the occasion of Murali’s birthday. It was a dream come true!
Nimita had taken a special liking to Murali as she did not have a brother of her own.
Once, when playing games on the terrace, Murali had hit Nimita and she had run home crying.
The time of departure arrived.
I went to the terrace and looked at hotel Patang, the revolving hotel where we had never been in those two years.
From the same terrace we had flown kites during Uttarayan with other children in the apartments. Although the festival was only for a day, kite flying happened for a season. On the day of the festival which was the last day, an expert had been invited to fly special kites. He first flew the kite and once it became steady, he began to attach, one by one, paper lanterns which had candles inside them and let go of some more string. In the end, there flew in the dark, an invisible kite with an invisible string and all you could see was a series of paper lanterns floating in the air. How incredible it had been! I had flown kites too. My brother would hold the spindle for me and I would hold it for him.
From our balcony on the second floor (on top of which was the terrace), the tall and beautiful Neerav and Neeldeep apartments could be seen. All of us had passed so much time just looking at the grand buildings, while devouring liters and liters of Vadilal icecream.
For one last time, I stood on that balcony. And one more time, my heart felt heavy.