“Summer”, what pop’s up in your mind when you hear it. Beaches, cocktails, pools, ice-creams, vacations, playing out with friends. Well for me, it's pretty the opposite.
My father was in the Indian army medical corps, so he used to get posted from city to city after every couple of years. Whereby I and, my siblings had to pack our luggage, leaving our school, friends, home, and everything behind as soon as get ourselves accustomed to that place.
Still, we never complained, for those unsaid goodbyes, broken promises, tears behind our grinned faces, and waited for the train, almost at every station.
Every summer vacation, we used to visit grandparents in our hometown Ajmer. The only permanent friends and teachers, I had in my childhood were my Dada-Dadi. So, the most engrossing time of my whole life was nothing but “the summers”. My heart used to get filled with immense ebullience and ecstasy, for I had a plethora of stories to unfold about each city, its traditions, cultures, and people to my Dada-Dadi. I've almost narrated a dozen of it, in all of these years whenever we moved into a new city.
As soon, as we reach home, all the restlessness of the journey would fly away, with a glimpse of them standing and waiting at the door with so much of the elation, grin from ear to ear, and longing eyes to meet their grandchildren’s after a whole year. We would jump onto them telling, “How much we've missed you, and your warm hugs”.
Do you know Dadaji, how would I ask you “What's your name?” in Marathi... “Tujha nav kai hai” doesn’t it sounds interesting. Dadiji, you just can't miss out on Bhakarwadi we’ve got you from Pune, but still, I miss litchis and mangoes of Dehradun more and more this time of the year. But Pune is beautiful too, although it doesn't have snow-covered mountains..., but, can you imagine, I made two new friends on my first day at school.
Dadaji would take us all near the Anasagar Lake, early in the morning, for the yoga and running. But the most fascinating part on our way back home was that he used to treat us with “The Ganne ka juice”, which just feels like heaven after drenching in sweat. The only bribe to make us, get up, so early from the bed.
After lunch, the whole cousin-gang would gather with Carrom-board in Dada-Dadi’s room, and as per the tradition, whosoever lose would make Rooh-afza for the whole family, “The best way to beat summers”.
We used to spend our whole afternoon, fighting to sit in front of the cooler and playing chess, ludo, snakes, and ladder and running with so much exhilaration, chasing one another, whenever we would hear the bell of ice-creamwalle bhaiya coming in the gully and trust me, there's no sinful pleasure as great as pulling the leg of your cousins, mocking, teasing with weird monkey faces and gulping their ice-cream. Ohh... I want to revisit my childhood summer days!!
Past suppertime, Dadaji would make us all, sit in a circle, and hands us over ‘The Ruskin-Bond’to read aloud and passes it on to the other cousin story after story. I still remember a few lines very vividly which goes like; “A great book is a friend that never lets you down. You can return to it again and again and the joy first derived from it will still be there”. “It's courage, not luck, that takes us through the end of the road”.
The only annoying part was, at the end of storytelling sessions, he would make us write an inland letter to our address, jotting down our mistakes, and how we spent our summer vacation. "What stupidity..."? That's what I used to think back then, too.
I still have that Ruskin bond with torn, folded pages and underlined moral values I grew up with, the Carrom-board with cracked, crevices and missing strikers, crumpled letters I posted to myself with pencil strike-outs to expunge all of my unpleasant jiffies and mistakes.
Today, all that I don't have with me, is my Dadaji, to spend my summer with, to scold me on every mispronounced word, to underline my grammar mistakes, to make me read-aloud stories, to treat me ice-creams and Ganne ka juice, to make me write letters old school way, to watch her little girl, who used to lose every Carrom match, and stumble upon words that has actively participated in every co-curricular activities at school and college throughout.
She has participated in plays, scripted some, and directed few. She never let anyone walk past with extra points in debates. For she never wondered where all this talent came from, As now she stands strong with confidence in front of your portrait, But she still misses you the most, to boast about her achievements, failures, and again tonnes of stories to spill like a kid.
I do remember your last words; which go like, listen Chotu, “You truly are, for what decisions you take in your life, far beyond your abilities”. “Chase your dreams, it makes you feel alive, or else we are just a corpse, inhaling, exhaling, lacking, and ignoring the potential and fire within us”, and The Passion is the driving fuel, never run out of it”. “Never let anyone tell you, what to do”. Be the kindest, humble, yet the brave and courageous girl, and I, as always be watching over you."
So Dadaji, your little stubborn yet the kind and brave girl, has turned into a 23year old lady, who's going to start her journey, to find all the answers on her own, to follow the fire within her, chasing her dreams of being a curious scientist in a whole new country, the solo Euro trip which she promised to you.
To explore this beautiful, miraculous world called ‘life,’
“With letters of mistakes, morals and etiquettes that you gave, memories in pockets and a backpack of your summer lessons”.