Summer Pondering

My grandmother sat in the squat position holding her walking stick in one hand. She gazed at the areca nut palms and mumbled something about the yield. Cows grazed nearby. “Do you remember the day India got Independence?”, I asked. She remembered fireworks and people shouting in the streets. “What about school?” She remembered the teacher who taught her Math. I asked about her late husband. “He was a drunk and good for nothing”, she said and moved on to other topics.

It is sad to hear about the death of a person that I have not kept in touch with. It feels like a library burnt down and I did not get a chance to read its books.

My teacher listed, on the blackboard, all the things that we needed for the scout camp. I copied everything in my notebook. One of them was ‘nightclothes.’ My mother told me to just carry the normal clothes that I wear at home. But I pointed to the notebook and said that we need ‘nightclothes’, not normal home clothes. On the TV I had seen people wearing nightclothes. The shirt and pant had the same patterns. We went to the city. Searched multiple stores. Finally, I got what I was looking for. Both shirt and pant had blue and white stripes. At the camp, I saw that nobody was wearing ‘nightclothes’. Everyone wore the normal clothes they wear at home. I never wore it again. Recently while searching for something in the cupboard, I saw the nightclothes tucked away at the back.

My brother and I sat in the parked car beside the road. We were waiting for my mother who was shopping. There was a barbershop in the front. A familiar-looking guy with oily hair, gold-rimmed glasses and a paunch was cutting the hair. He walked with an air of solemnness that brought back many memories. He is the same guy who cut our hair when we were kids. That was more than two decades back. What does it take to do it for all these years?

We spent the beginnings of summer scouring the hillside, bare feet, in search of perfect bamboo to make wickets. We wrapped one side of the hacksaw blade with a cloth so that it’s easier to hold when we cut the bamboo. Smaller twigs became bails. We filled the kodapana from the well. And we played cricket. We played till we were not able to see the ball in the evening. When I reached home, my mother wouldn’t allow me inside the house because my legs were completely covered in dirt. It was as if I was dipped leg first into a bucket of clay. I had to wash my legs outside and then enter the house. My legs have a lot of dry skin and wrinkles now. I hopped once recently and my knee had pain for a whole day.

In the Kannada film Kaviratha Kalidasa, Rajkumar transforms from being a dimwit to an enlightened scholar after Goddess Kali writes the Om symbol on his tongue with a trishula. Whenever that scene came on TV, I come running to see it. Afterwards, I stood in front of the mirror with my tongue out, wondering if it was big enough to write Om. I could then have all the knowledge in the world.

Just a photo of toys hung for drying on my terrace

4 thoughts on “Summer Pondering

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts, maybe because I’m able to connect with them a lot. The library analogy is very apt, and reminded me of an older post I wrote after my grandfather died –

    And when I read about the barber, another instance came to mind. There was a private bus I always took while returning from school that had a grumpy conductor, who shouted at us to make room for the paying passengers. A couple of years ago, I happened to be on that bus again, after a decade. The same conductor was there, older, with greying hair and balding patches, shouting at students, while I had grown up and gone on. I remember thinking the same then, what it must feel like to be in his shoes, stuck in time, in a way.

    1. Hey, I really enjoyed the post about your grandfather. I love the way you have described your experience. This one was a gem – “I was too busy growing up to notice he was growing old.” Thank you for sharing:)

      I do understand how it must have felt to see that conductor after a decade. This reminds me of the conductor in a bus I used to take. He too shouted at students!! Thank you for sharing this experience of yours. I am looking forward to read more of your posts.

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