Friday, June 26, 2015

Memories from a childhood home

I often fondly remember visiting the home where my mother grew up. I used to spend a significant amount of my summer vacations here, doing "hurohuri" and "dushtumi" (childlike mischief) with the first cousins. We played with flowers plucked secretly from the neighbors' plants, broken pieces of earthen pots used to drink tea, pebbles, and other assortments that I used to have a lot of fun throwing into the well when no one was looking, watching the ripples in water expand. There was a hand pump behind the well, and my favorite activity used to be pumping water from it, my three feet form almost hanging like a monkey, it took so much effort to pump water. The domestic help led a fascinating life back then according to me because she could sweep floors, go to the nearby pond to wash clothes, and play with water all day.

This house used to be full of people. My three grandpas, three grandmas, and a bunch of uncles and aunts, the sons with the daughter-in-laws, and the daughters visiting with the son-in-laws. During a certain wedding in this house, I had gone missing one hot afternoon, only to be found next to one snoozing uncle, dancing to the music from the blaring loudspeakers by myself. Renting wedding homes were not in vogue back then.

There used to be a big wooden table in the balcony that led up to the well. That used to be my favorite hangout spot, where I would climb the table, lie on my belly, and watch the ongoing of the household, the grandmas lighting up the coal-fueled stoves to cook, the domestic help (Mongola'r ma, or Mongola's mother) scurrying around, and the men of the household busy eating rice and fish curry before they left for office. I always thought that the domestic help’s name was “Mongola's mother”, not understanding that her daughter's name is Mongola and we never knew her real name. Since I was too short to climb the table, I used props like chairs or hang on to other adults standing nearby to climb the table like a monkey. Once there, I used to get a good vantage point to see the entire household. Buri pishi, an old widowed grandma, used to sit near me, watching other people as well. She used to tickle my feet when unaware, something that really annoyed me.

After seeing better days, this house was locked for years, before meeting its expected fate, being sold to a Marwari contractor who eventually demolished it and raised matchbox apartments in its place. Most of the elders passed, and the other people moved on to newer and more modern homes closer to the city. And while this house met its expected fate, the many sights, smells, and sounds of my childhood remained locked within its doors. Waking up to the sound of the dhobi beating up the clothes in the nearby field also known as the washerman's field. Being warned not to go upstairs without an escort because the "chhele dhora" or the child kidnapper would vanish with little children hiding in his bag (a clever ploy to prevent children from venturing to the attic with low brick walls). And visiting the nearby Kali temple every evening, with a three-storied tall Kali goddess sporting one thousand hands, a sight to truly behold.


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