Updated: Feb 14
Mummy can go on and on with her stories, especially about the vacations she spent in her village. When she was three years old, my grandfather had relocated to Lucknow with the entire family. She often recalls how my aunt and she would look forward for the summers to go back. Most of their time was spent running around the fields pleading farmers to allow them to sit on their bullock carts, while they ploughed. Some joy it would have been, for every time mummy remembers those moments, she giggles like the young girl she must have been back then.
I have been to her village just once, when I was four. Nani, my grandmother, passed away when I was seven. Post which, I never heard of my uncle, aunts or my cousins going to the village to stay. Though it was my grandfather's village, where his parents grew up, it was always Nani who would throw a fit for a visit. It was her who the neighbors would wait for. Nana had happily settled in the city but Nani's heart had remained in the house where she was welcomed as a little girl, after marriage. I have often heard mummy saying, 'jab tak mummy rahin, gaon ka ghar raha.' It might have been this way because Nani had stayed in the village with Nana's parents, when he had been in the city finishing school. Sohna, the village, was her home till she lived and is still 'NANI ka gaon' whenever it comes up in our conversations.
Though not very clear, memories of my visit still exist. I made a friend there, a year or two elder to me. I am unable to recall her name and no one else in my family seem to remember her, maybe because I used to wander the village on my own. Everyone seemed to know each other and no one used to question me for walking out of the house alone. Such was not the case in Tundla, my home town where Mummy would never allow us out of her sight. This contrasting behavior confused me but I was happy this way.
As usual, one afternoon I went to meet my friend in her father's shop . From there we would have gone to roam about the streets but that day she could not come out. Her father had gone for some business and wouldn't be back till evening. She was to take care of the shop. This got me excited, as to me it meant the entire shop left to us. There were candies and some biscuits but what interested me most were the colorful hair pins. Mummy would never buy me those as she would say my hair was too short but now we had the entire shop, so I could surely have them.
I asked her for a few, she replied with a price. I was confused as back then I didn't understand that things had to be bought. She asked again if I had any money. I couldn't answer, I went back home hurt, assuming that she didn't want to give them to me. I could hear her calling after me, foolish me had understood wrong. We stayed in the village for a few more days but I never met her again.
I didn't know anyone in the village, apart from my family of older people and my siblings, who were too young to play with. I had stopped visiting the only friend I made, so I started wandering on my own again.
Once, a powerful aroma caught me and following my senses I reached a house. The door was opened so I walked in. I do not clearly recall how many people were in there but they were eating. They asked me if I was hungry and then offered me some food. I relished it and walked back home. The next day, I repeated it. I went back to the same house and asked for food, this continued for a few days until one day mummy asked me where I had been roaming. I got scared, as back home I was always told not to eat from strangers. I had forgotten all about it as home rules didn't seem to apply here in the village. Crying bitterly, I told her about my daily routine. Her child walking into someone else's house daily, asking for food, must have been embarrassing. I recall her and Nani going there to apologize. That day too, the food was ready for me which they parcelled when Nani insisted on not staying back for lunch. The next few days weren't easy for mummy as I would throw all types of tantrums to go out alone, which was not allowed anymore.
Boundaries were set now. I could not cross the well without an elder, so this is where I started being, right next to the well. Vishnu Bhaiya would usually give me company, he was Nani's house help's son. One day he told me that he was going to the pond for lotus seeds. I sketched a lot of lotuses in my drawing book but had never seen one for real. My mind was set, I told him I was coming along and stormed inside the house. Either Mummy was tired of me fighting with her daily or she thought the pond would leave me some memories of the village, I don't know the reason, but she allowed me to go with some usual instructions. I danced out and gave this good news to bhaiya, though he didn't seem very happy about it. It was only many years later did I realise that taking along a four year old on an adventure trip, is not an exciting idea.
He started telling me how scary the path would be and described the monsters that lived on the way, without realizing that this was just motivating me further. With not much of a choice, he took me along. A little ahead, his father joined us and carried me on his shoulders. As we neared the pond, the land got marshy. I was put down on a big stone and told to wait till they got back. I insisted on going to the pond but was told about another monster who lived there and did not like children. He would put them in a bag if they got down from the stone, let alone come to the pond. They definitely could not have carried me further for my own safety. My memory is a little fuzzy here but I remember being very still on the rock, lest the monster would hear my movements. My thrill for adventure was gone and all I wanted now was to go back home. It must have been a few minutes though it felt like forever, bhaiya and his father returned back with a bag full of lotus seeds. I was crying bitterly but they had a surprise for me. They got me a big lotus bud. A REAL lotus in my hand, I danced all the way back.
I wish this was not the only time I visited the village and there were many more times that existed. Now, the house is gone and so are the people who waited for Nani to visit. Mummy and myself keep planning to go there. She doesn't care if there are no more familiar faces. She just wants to see the eight mango trees she planted as a child, one for each member of the family. Hers bore the sweetest mangoes, she says.