Those memories are back!
The ones that were kept neatly hidden in the crevices of my mind reared its head out like an unwanted guest in a party. Those are some of the memories from my growing up days, the moments which I wanted to forget for reasons that seem super shallow looking back. Those moments have played a key role in defining my childhood and in an integral way, unbeknownst to me has defined me.
To me for a long time, childhood just meant summers spent in Mallur, maternal grandparents’ place, and the days spent in paternal grandparents’ place in Bhavani is not something I fondly recollect of and to be reminded of them in a different light shook me in ways unimaginable.
Unlike my peers who spent their summers holidaying and camping in fancy places, summers to me meant being packed up and sent to grandparents’ for the entire two months. “One month in Bhavani and one month in Mallur”, were my Dad’s strict orders. While I mostly enjoyed the days in Mallur, I did not enjoy the Bhavani days as much.
For starters it was very hot compared to Coimbatore, and being a privileged kid among the other not so blessed kids meant answering basic questions on spoken English, school picnics, concept of fancy restaurants and hotels in cities to name a few – the questions which my tender mind couldn’t fathom as being asked out of genuine curiosity and hence ended up annoying me terribly. Most of all I used to miss my mother a lot and I always hated that she would take me there under the pretense that it would be a 2 day visit only to sneak out at the end of day 1 when I happen to take my watchful eyes off her for like 5 seconds. Year after year, she successfully managed to fool me by being extremely good at sneaking out. She never did that when she took me to her parents place, she was more than willing to stay there for an extra day or two to make sure we would be ok with her absense. Obviously she can’t be as comfortable outside her home. But the little me did not realize this and used to cry for her at the drop of a hat and wallow in self pity for being abandoned. Yes that’s what I used to think whenever I missed her, that she abandoned me. I was that dramatic!
I remember being handled very delicately and kindly during such tantrum filled moments- everyone right from my grandparents to my uncle to cousins, took an extra mile to make sure I cheered up in no time. To them cheering me up meant keeping me distracted lest I start crying for my mom. The visit to the Bhavani river used to be the biggest and best distraction of all despite the fact that it meant having to wake up in the wee hours of morning even during holidays.
I was always allowed an extra 10 min of sleep, since unlike others I had a ride to the river. My paternal uncle allowed me some benefits despite the unfairness met out to others (even to his own children) who would have to walk a mile or two to the river. Rivers in Bhavani in 1990s used to be very clean and were fast moving streams of water. I loved playing in the shallow part of the river with a few of my cousins who like me did not know swimming then. Every year the crew in the shallow side used to get smaller and smaller and before I knew it, everyone but me advanced to the deeper end of the river, splashing around showing off their swimming skills while I was still stuck at the shallow end enjoying the waters while knee deep in it, I wouldn’t want to move to even chest deep sections. I was happy being where I was – content at the shallow end, not wanting to know the other part of the river and in a way complacent – for in my mind I was better than others. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Today I have come a long way, I can swim in 15 ft pools without breaking a sweat and I am more empathetic than my childhood self (I guess), but when I was knee deep in the cold waters of a Colorado creek today, I was unexpectedly transported back to my childhood non swimming, extremely complacent days. Before I knew it, the memories hit me with full force, taking me back to those days that I did not make a big deal of as in my mind I did not enjoy them at all. Looking back now, I feel those days weren’t too bad, in fact they are filled with a lot of love and affection, a lot of which went unnoticed and even if noticed were plainly ignored.
After splashing around in water when our hungry crew entered home with enough appetite to eat a horse or multiple of them at a time, Grandma’s delicious smelling food used to warmly welcome us. I remember her having enough food for the entire lot and not once did the food get over despite us wolfing down one helping after another. The extra dollop of ghee that uncle used to sneak into my plate made the food all the more delicious making me go for several helpings.
A couple of hours after breakfast, the oldest cousin of ours would take us to his home where another grand feast would be waiting in name of lunch every single day. And evenings meant catching up on new movies whenever possible. Bhavani being a testing ground for tier 2 audience even today has the latest movies play in their theatres well ahead of their release dates in big cities giving us opportunities to boast about the same back home. The movie snacks were also well catered for, uncle made sure I had the best quality ice cream lest I fall ill. He did go all out to ensure I was comfortable in their place – as comfortable as I would have been back home if not more. His generosity towards us knew no bounds – even as recently as last year, when my sister in passing mentioned about a shop from where we used to get a tastiest snack, he immediately sent someone to get enough snacks for the entire neighborhood. But, not once did I notice it all enough to appreciate him for all that he did.
Talking of food and Bhavani, the key celebration days which called for a lot of non vegetarian food requires a special mention! Bhavani being located in the banks of the river going by the same name, is primarily a fish and meat devouring place. Still ,the lengths my aunt and grandma used to go to make sure I had good vegetarian stuff to eat and enjoy meant extra hours of sleeplessness for them. They did it all without a word of complaint and I do not ever recollect thanking my grandma for all the efforts she put in for me.
When I chose GCT (Government College of Technology, Coimbatore) after high school I remember being met with contempt by most people for choosing a Government college over other fancy private colleges. It was my paternal grandfather who not only said that he was extremely proud of me for clinching admission completely on basis of merit but also went on to say that people can say a lot of things and judge my decisions but none can doubt my hard work and aptitude. Although I was moved by his words I did not thank him for making me feel good about my decision. Nor did I ever thank him for the other sweet things he has said and done for me!
People in my extended family have subtly and not so subtly shown their care and love for me in ways I did not appreciate of before. Now that I look back I see a lot of good and positive things about them. Heck, I no longer see anything negative in anything about them anymore. They have always been nice to me. It’s me who has had pre conceived thoughts and perceptions which led to perceived superiority that distanced myself from my extended family members.
It’s quite late to have one such realization as I have lost many of them who loved me dearly and had my best interests in their hearts. My Aaya, Thatha and Chitappa loved me a lot and I couldn’t reciprocate the same to them when I had the chance to. I am sure in their eyes I was always a baby who could do no wrong and was loved despite all the things I said and did not say, I am sure I am continued to be loved and blessed by them even today from up above. I hope they know that if not back then, I now appreciate all that they did and none of it went unnoticed. I can only hope! 😦
Rest in peace Aaya, Thatha and Chitappa.