For a change I woke up early on the morning of 11th march…before my exasperated mother could delegate the herculean task of pulling me out of my bed to my father. There was a time when even the faintest sound on my father calling out my name would shake me out of the deepest slumbers and almost instantly see me up and about making up my bed, folding up the sheets, the morning freshness(read Dad's Dread) taking charge and " Hey! I was awake all this time!" written all over my face. But this was long ago, a tad more of shamelessness can do wonders to your immune system!
It was Holi, I woke up with this good feeling…an anticipation of a great day ahead…as had been my custom for all these years. This 'feel good' lasted momentarily because I realized it was to be a boring one for me the second time, courtesy a bothersome biologically fragile constitution stricken with fever; yet again at the most improper of times. Besides, none of my sisters were home. Mom had, as is the tradition, prepared all these supposedly mouth watering dishes, something which could do little to comfort me as I am not a foodie(sigh!). I thought how the gluttons I have the misfortune of calling as friends back in campus would love them! This wasn't going good. I had planned to get the campus out of my sight and my mind for a few days and missing it was definitely not on my agenda!
With the cup of tea(Bless the noble soul who first discovered this heavenly drink!) in my hand I moved about the house recalling my childhood. The eve of Holi used to be dedicated to the assembling of necessary ammunition. Water balloons, steel pichkaris, packets of red and green colour were all kept ready. Both of my elder sisters were deputed the task of filling up the balloons for me.
It was turning out to be one of those sadly nostalgic days for me!
I used to wake up early the next morning, without the aid of any alarm(mechanical or human), filled with thrill and excitement at the prospect of the war ahead. My Mom had a hard time making me eat something! She would smear me in oil from head to toe( as best as she could contain me...) and out would I go all armed and set. I smiled to myself as I relived the friendly fight which ensued. We 'Gupta Kunj' (my colony's name) kids had a rule which said,
"We will first play among ourselves, leaving no scope for our enemy to target and then would move on to combat the 'peeche wali gali ke bache'."
Till date I don't know what it is actually called.
Forget about the street's name, I don't even know the actual names of the kids who inhabited those enemy lands! There was a girl we called 'Zimbabe' due to some weird belief we formed saying that she supported Zimbabwe in a match against India! I wish I could recall how we came to that conclusion. She used to call us names in English, and me being the only one going to a convent was given the task to reply back. Needless to say, I did a pretty good job! I wonder if she remembers this. Though all my hard feelings for her were gone the moment she handed me a soap from the counter of 'Naval ki Dukaan' when I couldn't reach it. She was two years elder to me mind you! I wish to have that innocence back! I refer to her as 'didi' now.
My sister called up from Orissa. She was laughing on phone recalling my crazy childhood. Both my elder sisters being vey 'sweet and agreeable girls' never indulged themselves in these stupid things, something my mother never fails to remind me periodically. Nevertheless, they all miss it all. This is all we have of that time now…memories. I wish we had a brain that would store all the gone by moments at a easily accessible place and delete the ones we wanted to.
As I looked of the main gate…I saw these kids, all boys, scurrying about, hardly colored, the girls were too worried about their skins I presumed. Sad! The kids now miss out on a lot of fun, a thought my elder sisters so frequently resonate when they recall their childhood, thanks to all this so called 'sophistication'!
I guess I was again having that woebegone expression on my face. I saw it reflected in my Mom's face who starting offering me various delicacies knowing perfectly well that I won't touch them. She finally resigned and left me to my own as I retreated to my room. I hate myself whenever I do that to her. So, I went out of my room, starting rummaging in all the dishes kept in the kitchen, taking a bite here, nibbling on something there, smiling, complimenting her on her cooking prowess. I forgot that she is My MOM!
"What’s the matter with you?" she asks with concern.
"Nothing…Just getting bored…I wish both the Didi log were here!", I replied honestly.
"It’s alright, Reshu will be here around afternoon."
"Hmm…I am waiting for her…what's in this one?" I enquired about a covered vessel.
"Everything fine in college? Things going well in section and all?"
"Yeah…everything is going great…btw…did I tell you I am doing nothing in our college technical festival?"
My eldest sister came with her husband and her daughter at around 12 afternoon. The sight of my 7 year old niece uplifted my dampened spirits by a great deal! She was completely unrecognizable! Soaked to skin, coloured on every inch she moved towards me threateningly (atleast that's what she intended to do…)…holding aloft her pink hands…
"Aap bahut saaf ho na! Main apko poora colour kar dungi! "
I shrank back from her afraid(I had to show her that)…finally willingly bowing down to her wish! I looked at her beaming child face. I saw my own childhood reflected in her…she is one of the few people I love without a reason, and the fact that her love for me is as unconditional and pure as it could ever be did soothe my nerves a lot.
I like growing up…but there is always a wish, a longing to retain the childhood, the innocence.
Mom then dragged me along to none other than Zimbabwe's house. She wasn't there but I met her younger brother. How people change! But then, so have I, I suppose. It's always a bit awkward when you are suddenly face to face with your childhood friends, or even foes as in this case, after a long time! I can never think up of anything suitable to say!
On our way back we came upon the 'Gossip Gang' of the colony. They wished Mom but thankfully spared me.
Di and family left after a while leaving in their wake a bit of cleaning up to do and a sleepier than ever, me.
After a necessary and a difficult bath, two sleepless nights finally took their toll on me and I thankfully succumbed to a dreamless and deep sleep.