We were a small family of four members, our parents and two sisters. We also always had pets, two dogs, Tiger and Jimmy, 3 cats, Goldy, Kalu and Spoty and a parrot, Mitthu. My dearest and the closest pet was Jimmy because he was with me for my entire childhood. We literally grew up together and he was an adorable friend one could have.
Maa and baba were government employees and we lived in the government quarter that maa got. We lived there for around thirty years and I feel a part of us is still there, in that house, in our home.
Those were quarters, four houses in a block, small rooms, gardens and a terrace. We had two rooms, there was no separate living room so our bed, sofa and television were all placed very neatly in the so-called living area. The other room had another bed, a study table, a showcase, two cupboards and a temple. Both rooms had inbuilt racks full of books and magazines. We never had a refrigerator or a washing machine. The dining table was also added very late to our lives.
We had our meals sitting on the floor and my task was to place four mats and four glasses of water. The rule was, that whoever finished last would clean the area. It was always me and I hated that rule, more because of the weird cleaning cloth (pocha) and my sister loved watching me and would also complain that I didn’t clean the floor properly. Sisters you know!
There’s an interesting story about how we got our sofa. I was very young and we didn’t have a television at that time at home. All the nearby children would go to our neighbour’s house to watch television shows. That neighbour had bought a new sofa set and when we reached her home, she made me sit on the floor and allowed the bigger kids to sit on the sofa. She was afraid I might dirty her new sofa as I was very small. I returned home and said to baba that I did not like it. I have no idea what did I say and how did I even feel bad at such a young age but that incident was the reason he decided to get our very own sofa. The television followed soon and we started enjoying our family times in the comfort of our own house.
Maa, however, was not a fan of television at all. Mainly because it was not good for our eyes and she was very strict with the time that she allowed us to watch cartoons. We didn’t like the strictness then but now I am really thankful to her for taking such good care of my eyes that even to date I can read and write without spectacles. My sister loved decorating the house and had made beautiful covers for the television, table and sofa. The television was placed on top of a showcase where our parents kept all the tiny art and craft we made. It had a train and a sofa set made of matchboxes, a teddy made of wool, a duck made of glitters a pot that was painted by my sister and a few beautiful keepsakes. Baba had this amazing quality of keeping things in place for years. What I created in school when I was in kindergarten is still kept nicely in his drawers and cupboards.
We also had two gardens, one in the front of the house that had beautiful flowers and shrubs and the backyard had trees of mango, papaya, neem and other plants of banana, cabbage, curry leaves and some flowers too. Maa took very good care of the garden. We kids would love to water the plants and also made the water beds.
In the morning, he would take a basket and go to the garden to pluck flowers that were used for worship. We had beautiful flowers, the huge branches of yellow casablanca, pink and white periwinkle, marigold, rose, hibiscus, jasmine, night queen and our gardens were rich with the floral aroma. He had made a makeshift stick to reach to the tall branches to pick flowers. He enjoyed the morning time in the garden and would return home when his basket was full of fresh flowers. They both enjoyed decorating the temple with flowers and what we kids kept waiting for was the prasad. Baba would bring a variety of sweets every day, laddu on Tuesdays, sondesh on Thursdays, peda, rasgulla, barfi, kalakand and we would wait impatiently for them to finish the puja so we could eat the sweets.
The television had an antenna that was placed on the terrace. Whenever there was a problem with the television, baba and I would walk upstairs and he would climb up to adjust the antenna. My sister’s task was to stand in front of the television and shout at the top of her voice so I could hear from the terrace that was two storeys above. I would then relay the message to baba to stop and come back downstairs to watch the shows again. It was one of my favourite moments from childhood and I had to write about it.
We had a very spacious veranda and a few stairs attached to it that led to the garden. That was the spot we spent our evenings with all our neighbours. Everyone loved sitting there and talking till late at night. Most of the evenings were spent outside the house mainly because we had power cuts for long hours, sometimes the whole night. There was a lantern at home that we would light up and also a small oil lamp (dhibri) which was used almost every night. Our study time was also during the evening and we have actually studied in that dim shaky light of the lamp. You had to fill it up with oil and there was no chance that smell would leave your hand.
Such were the days, that was the home and certainly the best one. Later, in life, I haven’t seen power-cuts, lanterns, such small rooms and also the kind of relationship we had with our neighbours. Even if I buy a new bungalow now, that quarter, that house, that home will always be my Home Sweet Home.
Coming up next –
I – If Dadu was Daddy
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