That Summer, That Year

It all used to start off the day we went to school for collecting my final report card. Then along with a yellow sheet full of ticks and marks, the teacher would attach a list of books for the next class. Did I care about the list then? What do you think J? For me the list would be forgotten during the all too short eight weeks of summer holidays. The scorching hot afternoons scented damp by desert coolers, the balmy evenings spent watering the plants in our backyard, watching clods of soil soak up water and decompose in effervescent bliss? taking my dogs out for walks all over the school campus where we stayed? and endless games of monopoly and Ludo? the holidays could not have seemed shorter and more inadequate !

Then one fine day? around the first week of July every year, standing tall in the front of the scooter, I would lead my parents to the local bookshop. I guess we bought stuff from the same bookshop every year, for me as well as my brother.

And as I would peep over the counter, the uncle at the shop would haul over a readymade set of books,? Class 4 Na, Colvin College???. And suddenly, I could not wait to get back home.

Its not that I was in love with all my books, I mean who wants to look at yet another book on arithmetic, or science, or grammar !! It was the literature books which I could not wait to read from cover to cover. I still feel that some of the finest stories I have read were found in my text books, Hindi and English. The Radiant Readers, Gulmohars and Hindi Sahitya Shrinkhalas? But I guess, the opinion could be just mine?

And finally, one afternoon, my mother would dump a large pile of books and notebooks on the carpet, and the entire family would be busy for the next couple of hours, covering the books with brown paper and sticky labels. Guess it was a scene repeated in every home with kids at school? the entire family sitting in a circle, the hum of a cooler and snips of scissors punctuating requests for passing the tube of glue, or a label, or a fresh roll of brown paper. There was always a dispute between my and my brother, about which labels were meant for whom.

Eventually, on a (usually) wet July morning, I would find myself standing in front of the school gate, suitably attired in the school blue, smelling of shoe polish and boroline, hair neat parted and a shining new water bottle in hand, weighed down by my school bag but excited on seeing so many of my friends at once.

The first day of school after vacations?.the welcome address in the morning assembly, the choir singing ?Vande Mataram?, the sequential reciting of names in the class, a new class teacher, a new time table, a new class room and the same mad rush for the gates when the final bell rang?

When the focal point of the day would be a plastic toy one got free with Binaca toothpaste, and a relaxed evening would involve playing hopscotch with the local gang till the time our mothers threatened violence?.

When a trip to the market meant excitement and a toffee was something you saved money to buy? I guess all of us are some distance away from it all.

Sigh?

Let me get back to my work now ?..

Comments from the past:

Sanjay
29 Mar 2007, 3:37pm

Hey really gud one and it?s very true. This happens in every summer vacation in every house:)

Samved
29 Mar 2007, 4:34pm

Yo..Nostelgia!!!
It can’t be any different for me also:)

coretta
29 Mar 2007, 5:30pm

Its the story of my life too :)…Seems like u wrote about me..lol. But what amazes me is how you could bring it all out from the back of your mind and like an artist with his brush,bring back all those memories, as if it happened yesterday—Refreshingly fresh!!! lol (please don’t kill me for my garmmar,Literature Champ) 😉

vani
29 Mar 2007, 7:26pm

Ah! Got too nostalgic ….At once made me remind my summer vacations…Wondered how could it be the exactly same everywhere(aftr reading the fellow-comments). Reading all the literature books, non-details(donno wat u call it) and enjoying the class when u know all the suspense at the end 🙂 Lol

s?
30 Mar 2007, 10:31am

same feelings here 🙂

Pallavi
31 Mar 2007, 3:40pm

Am nostalgic!! i loved those days & we are really far away from those days now…
Its really written well!!

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My Mother

I still remember the way she used to call out my name. Her voice ringing with exasperation at my repeated refusal to have breakfast in the morning. I just had to have something sweet in the morning, or for all other meals at that? but the ritual drinking of milk in the morning was something on which me and my mother never agreed upon.

Thus used to start my day, and hers, with a pitched battle being fought over the dining table. With threats emanating from the kitchen till I downed that disgusting tumbler of milk. I was not a kid then, I was Sixteen, old enough to carry my own ego around on a pedestal.

And there were times when I made her cry, well almost. I knew I had crossed a boundary beyond which a son hurts a mother?s sensibilities, when her threats fell silent, and things became unbearably silent at meal times. All I can do is to smile wryly when I think of those days now. What an ass I had been.

Sixteen, the age when you are a man enough to take a girl out, but not a man enough to hold her hand in front of her father. I was just getting to know my mother, as a person. How I used to envy my elder brother who used to have long conversations with her, sitting next to her, while I was still treated the like kid in the family, which I was.

At sixteen, I think my mother started treating me like an adult for the first time in my life. She spoke with me of things which only a mother can say and get away without making you realize that she actually knows what you have been up to while she wasn’t around.

She used to teach me Hindi and Sanskrit, in preparation for my class 10th board exams. She had been a University topper in Sanskrit, and she left it all to go and marry the man she loved, against the wishes of most of her family. I won a medal for the highest score in Sanskrit at my school? I lost that medal, don?t know where it lies amongst the debris I have strewn across my various dwellings in India, but I do remember the special meal she cooked to celebrate the medal.

She was a beautiful woman, and the first thing you notice in all her pictures is her smile. At times, I think back and try and capture what would have been the lasting image of my mother for me, but I have always failed. There is now way I could confine her to a single lasting impression.

She died when I was sixteen, suddenly and without explanations, and 12 years hence, I am still unable to comprehend what life could have been like had she still been around.

Her death rocked our family to the core, and things took more than a decade to stabilize. But I still find myself thinking of her when I do something good, or when someone says something nice to me.

She died convinced that her youngest son will become a doctor, while I went on to do something entirely different. It?s a strange feeling to be cheated out of a chance to love someone back , to be able to hold someone in your arms and tell them exactly how much they mean to you? and to know that when dad took her to the hospital that night, her tired face was to be my last glimpse of her. I felt very very alone then, standing alone in the lawn of our house, with our family dog running circles around me. Next day, she died in the morning, a day before Valentine?s Day, and I was deprived of even a last chance to say goodbye to her.

Guess, its never too late to write down something I should have sometime ago.

Comments from the past:
s
9 Mar 2007, 4:18pm

Very sorry about your loss. How awful it must have been, and still must be. Some situations make one feel so helpless, there is nothing except acceptance that can follow.

coretta
13 Mar 2007, 9:14pm

A sigh, a smile and a hug from my side..:) Needless to say, u have done her proud.Look at what u have established for yourself dear. God Bless U

pari
14 Mar 2007, 8:05pm

This is the first time I visited your blog…..Very touching. I liked the way you wrote and the way you expressed your thoughts….. Iam really moved!

ariza
15 Mar 2007, 8:09am

Hey. Keep writing.

Amar
19 Jul 2007, 1:24pm

Very touching.. Men dont cry.. but u made one shed a tear right now!
Hugs!

Arul
26 Jan 2008, 2:13am

Sorry about your loss. Very touching blog entry.

God bless you and your family