Our childhood fortress was the grandparent’s home. Summer vacations meant all the cousins and their parents assembling at the “Fort” for almost one month.Children of all age groups and not less than two born of each couple. No matter how many rooms were prepared, spare cots had to be adjusted in each room and children mixed and matched with the most patient couples.
Elder girls had their own group who could be heard whispering and giggling throughout the day, teaching the younger ones to either learn discretion about what they heard or be chased from the room. Bollywood movies would be narrated scene by scene in the most astonishing and visual way.
Boys were more tolerant and would talk about school all day long. Some truth mixed with a lot of spicy lies to make the stories grand. The younger ones used to look up to them as heroes.
But the best group was that of the younger kids, brave little soldiers protecting their fortress during afternoons while all were napping. Each afternoon they would arm themselves with swords of papaya branches. They would maintain watch in the brutal sun circling the boundary wall of the Fort. Skin burning, eyes watering. They braved dense jungles of mango trees which used to harbor dangerous monsters in the form of black furry caterpillars in abundance on them. Shuddering and silently throwing them away with the sword if they got stuck to the clothes or hair. looking out for the neighbor’s children and warning them if they even thought of stealing a single mango from the Fort’s trees.
They were the ones subjected to most scrutiny, even an inch of height would make them objects of wonderment to elders, how they had grown? How they had started looking like their parents or how they did not look like their parents but some ancestor.
The endless visits to different households. Some very boring and quiet homes, where people were so well disciplined that while talking also their homes seemed quiet. We just waited for that moment when all the chatting would pause and snacks served. The restraint that needed to be displayed and the much-awaited permission given by mom’s eyes that we could go for the second helping.
Some households cheerful and sophisticated with peels of laughter arising from one and all. All this becoming truly worthwhile when the gifts or money were distributed amongst the children at the end of the visit. Adding the savings to the piggie banks. Oh ! how summers made the children rich.
The food, the variety of desserts, the never ending mango eating sessions. Grandmother never raising her voice at anyone and controlling one and all while mothers going berserk, not being able to control even two.The Arabian Nights storytelling sessions by the grandfather.
The evenings had very tired and quiet sessions with television when no one could utter a word in the presence of the grandfather while he watched Krishi Darshan ( a farming program). For after his retirement he had started taking interest in farming and grew award winning vegetables in his front yard. We could not increase the speed of the fan as he being an engineer, told us sternly that the sound got dispersed.
Nights were peaceful quiet and gave the satisfaction as if we were resting after winning the whole world.Sleep came easy and quickly, dreaming about the day’s experiences which were as precious as the most expensive gems…..while our grandmom would get up in the middle of the night and check all rooms to make sure everything and everyone were fine.