Cadbury Eclairs. All I wanted was Cadbury Eclairs. I was nine. I would pop one of these in my mouth and suck on it till the insides of my mouth became sore. The outer caramel layer crumbles and the chocolate filling would come gushing out like the first rain of the season. I would have barrels and barrels of it when I grow up, I thought. One for each day for the rest of my life.Years passed. Now my students give me these for their birthdays. I don’t have barrels of it but I have quite a few stocked in my cupboard. I am planning to give it back to them as rewards. I don’t like to eat them anymore.
We had a room full of pictures of various Gods. I used to spend half an hour every evening, praying. I touched every God’s feet or anything that was ‘Godly’ and took its blessings. I was careful that I took blessings from each and every one. If I felt I missed someone/something, I would start over. I did not want to be a victim of their spite.
My Grandma took me with her to every temple she visited. I was her sidekick and we roamed the town, day and night, to strike off temples from her bucket list. Fast forward to the present, I rarely go to any temple or participate in any kind of religious events.
Every Sunday morning, I used to wake up early, brush my teeth and sit front of TV to watch Rangoli on Doordarshan. My favourite shows were lined up back to back. I would only get up from my seat, late in the afternoon.I skipped important family functions and was infamously known as the child who watches a lot of TV. Grandma and I were devote followers of a series called Jai Hanuman. On the day when Hanuman was to be born, we had no power in our house. It was night and rained heavily. My mother, grandma and I huddled under an umbrella, walked to a nearby house where there was power and watched the show. It has been a decade since I stopped watching TV. I do sometimes, but I find myself mindlessly changing channels and not watching any content.
I had an old cycle. It was beyond repair. Tubes had holes. Tires worn out. All metal parts rusted. Brakes not working. Pedal pads broken. It would wake up the whole neighborhood when I take it for a ride down the street. So much noise it made. It was unfit to do anything that a normal cycle would do. But it had an advantage over others. I can use it however I want without worrying of getting it damaged further. Off I went. Over the hills and rocks and bushes and muddy paddy fields. Trying stunts, I could never do. Bashing it against trees and boulders and walls. Why? Because I could do it! I did every possible nonsensical thing my 10-year-old brain could think of. Best days of my life by the way. When I got my first salary, I bought a cycle. Rode it to my heart’s content. Some things don’t change.
Other day I walked through an old path which I used when I went to school. Few old houses still stand. But people living in it have changed. The lonely mysterious house on top of the faraway hill still beckons me. My desire to go to that house and look back at this stretch of road, still remains unfulfilled. I pass the house where a girl whom I liked used to live. I wonder where she is now. The auntie who talked loudly, still exists. You can’t pass her house without the trademark shrill voice damaging your eardrums.
In summer holidays, we played cricket. My cousins came down for a month or two. Paddy fields turned into cricket playgrounds. We dug up the pitch, put water and beat it flat. Made wickets out of bamboo sticks. Bats out of coconut branches. Fake trophy stands from leaves and twigs. Drew a pot of water from the well. And started playing like there was no tomorrow. We all grew up. We don’t have summer holidays anymore. There are no paddy fields.
My father used to stay in Mumbai. Only means of communication was through letters. Until our neighbors got a landline telephone connection. We set up a structure for my father to talk to us. My father would give a missed call every Monday evening around 8.00 p.m. Neighbors inform us. My mother accompanied by my brother or me,would go to their house and wait. My father calls again and we talk. So much for a simple conversation.
I remember all the small details. The smell inside our cowshed. The sound of cattle gnawing the hay. Its warm breath on my hands. Big innocent eyes staring at me. The taste of the well water boiled in clay pots over firewood. Taking out hot cashew seeds from fire, smashing the outer layer with coconut shells and eating the world’s most amazing cashews. I remember the moment just before I jump into a flowing stream. Swaying with the trees when a strong wind blows. Time has this amazing quality of making the past look glamorous. Maybe the past is not what it seems like. It might have been shaped into something that I want it be. I am seeing it through a filter. A morphed reality. A trick to convince myself that I had a good time.