Memories and homes have an evergreen relationship. Roads that lead you home also lead you to a bunch of fond memories that bring a smile to your lips, or sometimes even tears of joy. While living a moment, we never cease to realize that the next moment it will become a memory.
For most of my childhood, I have been with my Nani (maternal grandmother). Mom & Dad used to be out for work, so Nani took care of me. I remember how every day she used to pick me up from the bus stop, and we would walk back home. I told her everything about my day at school, and she was so patient with me. The best memory I have from my Nani’s home is my time at the swing. Near the verandah, there was a swing on which I spent hours listening to songs from my iPod. I was always daydreaming while jamming to my favourite Bollywood tracks, swinging back and forth. It looked like I was in a music video; I used to lip-sync to every lyric. The pace of the music was directly proportional to the speed of the swing. My curly hair would be all over the place, yet I thought I resembled some actress in a movie. I am sorry to all those who had to witness that sight, but oh was I enjoying that! Nani would then call me inside for snacks that she always prepared for me. Every day was so simple and happy. Nani is and will always be my favourite companion. Her house holds so many memories, from my first steps as a kid to my very recent ones as an adult. I would never want to trade those memories for anything in this world!
Memories of my ancestral home? Well, now that I think about it, even my grandparents – both maternal and paternal – never really lived in their ancestral homes. Jaisalmer is where my ancestors come from, and I have visited it a few times; I even had the chance to see the old ruins of the property that belonged to my great-grandfather. Well, his was a different era altogether, and I have lived most of my childhood moving from one city to another, so many of my memories are just a blur now.
However, my favourite memory has to be from my grandparents’ house where I lived for the first 3 years of my life. I remember attending school with my house help, who I fondly addressed as Manna bai. Oh! I think I was the sole kid who enjoyed school. Others cried while being dropped to school; I cried because I hated going back home. There weren’t many kids around my age in my vicinity, so Manna bai used to play with me after finishing the household chores. I also remember going to the beautiful garden, in the backyard. I used to love seeing the papaya, banana, and lemon trees and roses during spring. Once, a huge papaya fell on my head!
Even as a kid, I loved being outdoors and enjoyed myself despite not having many friends. Another fond memory is when I used to sit by the window and wait for my grandfather to come back home every afternoon for lunch. The structure of that house has since changed, and I lost my grandfather two years ago; I never saw him one last time. Nevertheless, when I look outside a window, I feel like I see him come back, and that is enough to warm my heart. As an adult, life has completely changed, and with each passing day, I feel like my childhood memories are also slipping away. Wow! I have really lived and as time goes by, I hope I never lose the true essence of where I come from, and keep the legacy of my ancestors intact.
My memory of my ancestral home is the most memorable one for me. I never knew how nostalgia felt until my grandparents left us last year, as I have been living with them since my childhood. My grandmother, who was frail as a lily, always tracked down her happy corner in the kitchen while spoiling me with her palatable food. I remember how she used to feed me and play with my hair as I nodded off in her comfortable lap. On the other hand, my grandfather, always so indulged in his business, wasn’t even aware of how old I was, but never forgot to surprise me with my favourite sweets, or making a special tea for me every Sunday.
The most loved memory that I still cherish is the one where all my cousins, along with my grandparents, used to sleep together in a little room that only had enough space for 4-5 people. But when the 8-9 of us would adjust and sleep while giggling, messing around and cherishing this time, it seemed so much easier and comfortable. I really miss those times and wish I could live with them once again.
I have a list full of memories from my grandparents’ house; they lived in it most of their adult lives. It’s white with black trimming, but most of the paint has chipped away. In the back, the porch had firewood all year long, and my cousins and I loved to barbecue. No matter if it was winter, spring, summer, or autumn; the wood was always there. Red, yellow, and pink flowers grew alongside the house through spring and summer; my grandmother would collect them every morning to worship our 200-year-old goddess in the temple connected to the house; it has a rich history of its own. I would roam every inch of my grandparents’ house, running through and jumping over any log that would get in my path, only to end up falling.
There is something to be said about lying on one’s back in an open field hour upon hour staring up at an immense blue sky. With no one around and not another house for miles, it was a great place to be alone, to listen. In that field, we used to play badminton and I remember my Grandpa bringing hot piping samosas in the evening for all his grandchildren (I used to get extras for being the youngest). The best time of the year was during October when the famous auspicious Durga Puja used to take place when the family would gather to celebrate, and light up the entire balcony with bright lights. We used to dress in our traditional Bengali attire and have a great party together. After my grandpa passed away, it is now my Nani who has embraced the house and waits for us to visit her when it’s that time of the year!
I don’t have any recollection of my grandparent’s old home, but I have heard stories about it. I have grown up hearing countless stories about my ancestral home from my older cousins and my parents. They would talk about the house structure and verandah, that one room at the back of the house which was built entirely of stone, the self-made pool by my cousins during their summer vacation, and the garden of course!
The garden of my grandparent’s home was quite famous, and I have heard and seen a few pictures of it too. You see, my Grandma and my uncle had a knack for gardening, and my uncle being the crazy experimental person he is, would do bizarre gardening stuff that I don’t even know the technical names of, and would have a variety of plants. He would travel to different states and bring plants from there, and try to grow them in the garden. Some succeeded and others did not. But the talk of the locality was the fig tree. My mother and cousins swear that to date, they have never seen figs as large and sweet as the ones that grew in that garden. The fig tree was so famous that the kids in the area would call our house the ‘anjeer wala ghar’ (the house with the figs), and in a city where monkeys are not commonly found, they somehow had found the garden and refused to leave!
My definition of my ancestral home has more to do with Grandma and her exquisite recipes. However, one such memory is during Holi. I remember, the whole family would sit in a circle in the verandah with a huge plate of pital (brass) was placed at the centre. It contained a mixture of nuts, khoya (evaporated milk solids), and refined flour. We had a spoon with a roller-cutter as well. Everyone would be busy making gujiyas (sweet fried dumplings), samosas, shakkar pare (sugar-coated fried biscuits), and various tea-time snacks.
The vibe of the place would be like this for nearly a week, and on the day of Holi, everyone would get ready to play with colours yet not forget to oil our hair, hands, and legs. The ritual of applying ubtan (a paste of turmeric and besan mixed with water) after playing with colours was also a fun thing to do with kids making faces while elders ran behind them to apply the mixture on their skin. The sumptuous afternoon lunch with the whole family would be the highlight of the day.
As much as these memories bring a smile to my face and to yours while you read, it also dawns upon us a realization that this is all in the past now, and the rat race of the world has compelled us to leave behind our good old days.
Every good memory becomes a milestone in our journey. We never know what time will bring for us, but what we are certain of are the memories that we made with our friends, family, or ourselves.
So go ahead, and share with us your fondest memories.