Once upon a time, I was a little kid and World was tinier and Eyes were bigger and Day was shorter and Stars were harder to see (because I’d be in bed at night).
My mother used to say that it was better to forget the absence (and the reasons for it) and instead, enjoy the presence because it wouldn’t last. I shouldn’t waste that precious time in sulking, asking unnecessary questions or forcing out of his mouth unrealistic promises, she told me.
So, we used to play.
‘Pakdam-pakdai’, ‘chidiya ud-maina ud’, carrom, ludo, ‘barf-pani’, ‘Hockey’ on the terrace, Atlas, Monopoly, Life, Scotland Yard, Cluedo (progressing with age) or of course, my favourite-
Hide and Seek!
For once I could be sure to find him if I searched well enough. There was this special thing we did- when I ‘found’ him, he would go “AAAAAAA!!” and would start running and then I would also go “AAAAAA!!” and would start running after him, and then both of us would be “AAAAAAA!!” all over the house, from the bedroom to the front door, around the Maruti 800, through the the narrow gallery that led to the back door, and re-entering the house through the kitchen, screaming and giggling, until finally mumma went “AAAAAAAAAA!!!!” and scolded both of us and ordered us to sit down for lunch.
Of course there would be only one plate for the two of us. I would watch him tear the chapati ‘his’ way(like adults using just one hand without lifting it in the air), dip it in the curry that mumma used to prepare only when he was home(and which was his favourite and mine too), and then blow to cool it before placing it in my mouth. Of course, I would bite his finger. He would feign both, surprise and pain and I would giggle victoriously with half chewed food in my mouth.
I never studied on those days. He would ‘save’ me from mumma’s threats and would switch on the television for me despite her protests on the pretext of wanting to see the news. I would tell him about Bear Grylls’ unconventional diet and he would pretend to believe me.
Oh and yes!- unless we were playing, my feet didn’t touch the ground on such days- I was either in his lap in his arms or sitting on his shoulder. I llloved to sit on his shoulder, holding his hair and pulling them occasionally to hear the animated squealing noises that he would make in response.
And and!! I would love to tie his short hair in an inch long ‘pony-tail’ if I may call it and I did that while he slept and he would wake up with 3–4 such ‘pony-tails’, all tied with rubber bands of different colours. It wasn’t funny. It was like, stomach hurting funny.
At night he narrated stories of Prithvi Singh Chauhan and Shivaji and Maharana and Kalidasa and Shakuntala and other people whose names I don’t remember.
What I do remember is asking him repeatedly if his arm hurt, after I had been resting my head on it through six such stories.
I could count them on my fingers but I did have such beautiful days.
I’m trying to keep this post positive and happy but…
Isn’t it amazing how the best of our memories are just the worst ones flipped?
And well, they can flip any time churning up emotions that took so long to settle in a place I no longer wish to visit. But often there are pits and trenches on the path of my daily life that I carelessly fall into and inevitably end up there.
Sometimes I’m immersed in the beautiful memories while strolling on the terrace, looking at the setting sun. I turn and suddenly the bad ones are right there painted on the darker side of the sky staring back at me..
Sometimes I’m lamenting over the horrible ones while sitting on the balcony floor, staring at the stars. And when the tears in my eyes convert the stars into blurred rays, it’s the good ones that shine through..
I’m better at anticipating those trenches now but there’s a long way to go.