As a kid, I would anticipate my cousins' summer visits with a lot of excitement. Summers were so much fun, having three siblings to play with, instead of one. For six weeks, everyday would feel like Sunday. There would be endless playing, swinging from trees, getting dirt and mud everywhere, with very little monitoring from mom.
Mom would be very busy attending to more people in the household. Grandma would fry endless rounds of sweets, while fancy fish and meat dishes would be cooked every day. During the evenings, the elders would get busy watching movies, renting VCRs and videocassettes from the stores. This would give us even more time to play, with no school and homework. Once a day, there would be reminders about taking the shower on time, or finishing that Math chapter, but as long as you did not do something pretty drastic like set the room on fire or break a bone while jumping from the sofa, one could pretty much escape being constantly monitored.
Sometimes, we would all visit the nearby market for rounds of chaat and tandoori chicken resplendent with artificial red color. The memory of the smell of burnt meat in iron griddles still makes me nostalgic and hungry. We would hop on to rickshaws, and often wave to the cousins in excitement, my hair flying in the evening sea breeze as mercury dipped.
The older people passed, the cousins grew up, and we moved out. Summer vacations became meaningless after school. People got busier, the big homes turned into high rise buildings with matchbox apartments, and the thrill of computers replaced the joy of swinging from the trees and collecting raw mangoes in our skirts.
But I relived the excitement in my adult life every time someone visited my home. There are many friends who visited me during my eight-year long stay in the US. And instead of the childlike excitement with little responsibility, I saw myself doing some of what my mom used to do back then- cleaning the home, planning the food, and planning where to take my friends. The era of the childhood is gone, and what remained is the excitement recreated with different people, in an almost different life, in a different country. And as I write this, I realize that Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, or even the phone can never replace the thrill of anticipating somebody's arrival in person. Nothing can replace the joy of meeting someone in person.