One Summer Day

Human being is fond of turning back from the present to the past again and again. Nothing is more pleasant to him than memories of his childhood. Childhood is free from worries and has infinite capacity of enjoyment. We cannot remember everything that happened in childhood, but certain events are stored in our sub-conscious mind. I grew up in independent house. We had Mango & Guava Trees in our garden. There was also a small and beautiful tree of Plumeria. Branches of this tree are not very strong; regardless of that we used to climb on it as it gave the best view of the road. It was kind of a ritual for me and my brother to sit on the out wall of our house in the afternoon. The moment mom and grand ma would go to sleep in the afternoon; me and my brother would slip out and play. We were as imaginative, inquisitive and adventurous as any other child would be at that age. There wasn’t a single person whom we didn’t find interesting enough in our colony. ‘I am bored’ was yet to be featured in our dictionary.

An old lady used to come to our house in the late afternoon to clean the utensils. We called her ‘Bai Ji’.  She was very old and her legs were inverted. She wore thick silver anklets, probably her only possession. There was a small water tank with tap and an elevated patio under the mango tree for washing purpose. My brother and I would see her wash dishes with keen interest. We were pretty sure a genie would appear one day as she scrubbed them so clean. Many times we had discussed how amazing it would be and what should be our three wishes!! She was our confidant as well as informer. One day, while cleaning the dishes, she told us that Mr Sharma, the old man from the corner house has a peculiar habit. He collects stones. “Is It?, But what would he do with the stone collection?”, my brother asked. She said, “ Lagta hai usko patthar se sona banana aata hai”. She was obviously joking. The information was not taken lightly and we took it as a mission to find out whether Mr Sharma is a ‘stone picker’ or not!

Next day, when the streets were deserted and all front doors were closed for afternoon siesta, both of us went up to his house. Undecided we stood on the front steps for a while. The door in the house was firmly shut. “He is not in”, my brother said. “Let’s cycle around the colony to catch him in action”, he decided. We peddled off on our little bicycles for a quick round. After about half an hour out in that sultry afternoon, we came back without the thrill we were looking for. Disheartened and exhausted, we told our little adventure to Bai Ji.  She smiled but kept on scouring the dishes. Suddenly there was soft thud on the road. All three of us peeped from behind the tree. Mr Sharma was on the road.  Our excitement was sky high. He had a stone in his hand and was trying to scare a cow on the street.  He kept on making sounds and scare the poor cow but would not throw the stone at it. The cow started moving and so did he. Unable to contain our curiosity, both of us followed him too. Bai Ji, despite of her short height and declining years, dangled from the wall. Mr Sharma kept on his antics till his house came. After standing there for a while, he turned towards his home. The stone was in his hands. Our little hearts were beating hundred times a minute. He was still standing facing the street. He raised his hand and threw the stone, but in his house!!

“He is a stone-picker, he is a stone-picker”, we shouted while running towards home. Bai Ji quickly ducked behind the wall.

Collecting moments

The idea of a New Year is an appealing one, that with another sunrise we are somehow in a different situation than we were the day before. Of course, tomorrow will not instantly change us. But there is no harm in hoping against all odds that the new year, if not just the next day, might bring fresh flow of laughter and an exceptionally bright future to all of us. To celebrate and welcome this New Year, we went for a three day sojourn to Ravangla, Sikkim with our close friends. Ravangla has it all – from unspoilt nature, stunning scenery, waterfalls, mountains, colorful monasteries, unique but extremely affectionate and helping people. It is still blissfully untouched.

We were staying at a beautiful ‘Home-stay’ with adorable hosts. The kids from the family played Football and Cricket with us. Many a times, while playing, the ball would roll off the cliff. These kids would talk in their language but would not expose their displeasure. Our kids had a joyful time playing around with them. One of these days, while we were at a local market, I saw my friend buying shoes which were slightly bigger than the foot size of her son. When I asked her, she said, the kids back at the hotel play barefoot or with borrowed unmatched sandals, these are for them. Honestly, I was little bewildered at my own ignorance. Probably I was too busy to see if a glove had slipped off my daughter’s hand or capturing them playing on my smartphone. She gifted two pair of shoes to these kids. The true value of the gift is the sentiment behind it. Next morning, the younger one of the two kids was all dressed up in football uniform, with new shoes! She not only gifted priceless jubilation to those kids, but also in a way endowed me a new outlook to pursue in the coming year.

On the new year’s eve, we were sitting in front of the bonfire enjoying this little getaway. These couple of days had been spent roaming around and visiting local attractions. In evening we had played cricket, after ages of having forgotten how much fun playing is. Surrounded by lush greenery, we felt energized. The night was dark. The lovely, old trees seemed ghost-like with large shadows dancing across their branches. We were chatting, laughing, reminiscing the passing year. The fire in front of us was crackling. The wood was slowly turning to ashes but was giving it all just before the life fade out of it. Staring into the glowing embers, my thoughts turn to my kids. Their habits, interests and sensibilities have changed as they are growing up. And so are we! In routine, with kids busy with studies and us in our respective works, we hardly had time to take notice of the maturity in our relations. These little getaways, undisturbed  and placid times bring you more closer to each other. There is an immense joy in watching the spontaneity and happiness that a child exhibits just looking at a star filled sky. I wanted to seize the moment of that beautiful clear cold night.The mind and heart was at rest; the soul felt satisfied. It was a perfect beginning of a new year.

The money we spend on experience is always better than money spent on stuff.  Travel can gift you magical moments and lessons that last a lifetime. Unlike last year, 2017 has plenty of long weekends. Let’s promise to use them for the things that really matter—spending quality time with friends, family, even by ourselves. Go on now, start planning!