Childhoods are such funny things. One retains so many powerful memories from their childhood. Simple ones, definitely, but so very powerful. The kind that stop you from doing what you’re doing and put you in a trance, where you get glassy eyes, and smile that small smile, thinking about the smallest of things. Like now, when I suddenly stopped studying and had my mind immediately take me to my grandparents’ home in Pune, the sound of my 8-year-old feet running on the mosaic tiles, in little chipped shades of grey and green and blue, racing my younger sister to reach the red, embroidered sofa first, to get the better sofa to watch T.V. from.
Such funny things, childhoods. My sister, she remembers lesser little things like this than I do, and I wonder if it’s a generation gap between us, in just our 5-year difference. Maybe because I grew up with lesser gadgets around me than she did, and that let my body breathe in memories. Memories of the tall chair that I used to sit on, watching my cousin brothers play games on the white, box computer. Games about warrior princes, and The Lion King. Memories of Aaji (grandmother) telling us that lunch was ready, and we’d say we were coming in two minutes, every two minutes, till our dads came and yelled at us to listen to Aaji. Memories of how every meal had different flavours yet the same taste; the taste of Aaji’s food. The classic Marathi yellow daal, and the salad that, sitting here, I can’t remember the name of, despite hearing it so, so often, and the soft rotis that had that lovely sweet aftertaste.
It is so strange that these memories bring tears to my eyes, but then again I cry quite easily. They’re not sad tears, but, they’re not tears of joy either. Though, I do have that small smile on my face. Maybe they’re just the tears that come with remembering. Remembering things that you have lived, and are now in the past, only to revisit you as thoughts in your mind.
The nights in Aaji-Dada’s (grandfather) house are so easy to recall, each night being almost identical to the one before it, and the ones to come. Thinking back, I feel as if I’m the little toy bird in the toy cage that hung from the ceiling above Dada’s work table, chirping every time the bell rang, and I feel like I have this bird’s eye view of Dada sitting at the dining table, reading diaries filled with things I never read, but looked at and immediately thought “Yeah. That’s Dada’s diary. The one he sifts through every night.” And that’s what he would do, and does till day. My mind tells me that they contain both, work things and prayers that he reads, sitting directly under that tube light, as Aaji sits on one of the armchairs that faces the T.V. and watches her serials. The ones we were never allowed to watch because they all came on past our little-child-bedtime. But some days, I’d stand behind her armchair, pretending to be on my way, watching, engrossed at the drama-filled scenes. We all did it: going around life, saying, “Hatt! Serials! I don’t watch them!” but we’d be transfixed as the joint families in big houses went about their daily dramas.
There are some little things that are so very easy to think of, almost like they’re trademark Aaji-Dada things. Like Dada doing his rounds around the house to see if any extra lights and fans are on, and asking you, “Yeh light chahiye kya?” (Do you need this light on?) and Aaji shaking her head in humorous exasperation as Dada does some classic, Dada thing. Aaji, sitting on the tall chair in front of the computer and gossiping with her sisters on the landline, Dada getting up early to do some stretching and yoga in the living room, something I don’t see very often because I’m always late to rise. Aaji following the maid around to see that she cleans every nook and cranny properly, Dada getting up on chairs to do some extra dusting, or light-bulb-changing, despite Aaji and all their children telling him not to because they’re afraid he’ll fall or something. But Dada refuses to believe his old age will stop him, and honestly, it doesn’t. Never have I seen a more hustle bustle grandfather, so ready to keep on his feet. These are just a few of the things that symbolise Aaji and Dada, and make home in Pune, home.
Honestly, no matter how much I write, my words can never be enough. How can you capture so many lives’ and humans’ worth of memories-some not even made yet-in just one piece of writing? Heck, I haven’t even brought in Aaji’s puranpoli (this sweet Maharashtrian delicacy which is like a mixture of flatbread and…jaggery? No, that can’t be right, I’m bad at this) yet. Or shrewsbury biscuits, or budhani wafers, or blue folding chairs, or Medimix soap, or picture albums, or the showpieces in the living room, the magnets on the fridge, Aaji’s coconut oil, the green washing machine, passage-writing punishment for being naughty, heating rods in buckets before baths, the wall clock, the wall hangings, cricket with cousins, my 8th birthday, or the multitude of other little things that I cannot name because I’d never stop otherwise.
It’s ironic that I’m typing this on a laptop, all while feeling resentful that the arrival of technology stopped me from collecting even more of these little things. I’m looking forward to the next time I go there, so I can consciously put my new-fangled gadgets aside and live a little, as if I’m little again.
It’s strange but of late, ever since I’ve turned 18, I’m thinking about my childhood more often. What’s this, eh? Not that I’m complaining, I love memories. But I also sound like I’m closer to 80 than 18. Ah tHe GoOd oLd DaYsSsSs. Geez, Arshia, what is up?