I remember my summer vacations as a child quite vividly, just like it happened yesterday. And after the final day of my holidays, mama would be running around the house, ironing my school uniform and gathering my books strewn across the veranda or on the dining table, screaming as if it was her last day of rest. Indian summers always transport me back to those days of past, and I can almost smell the aroma of my grandmother’s handmade mango pickles drying up on the terrace under the blaringly hot sun. Nostalgia is addictive and painful, for it creates an illusion, an interlude from the reality and takes you back to the days you long to relive the most, or forget.
My grandma passed away before I left the city for higher studies, and to add on to my sorrow, the house, my house, was reconstructed into an apartment by my father — and hence was left with no veranda to pass my afternoons in with my grandmother. We used to sit on bamboo chairs, which had pink, floral cushions on it and eat peanuts. She’d teach me how to count in Hindi or just admire the plants she very fondly planted and used to take care of. She had a variety of rose that bloomed all through the year and was “exactly the right amount of pink,” as she would claim. We’d pass hours there. Sometimes I’d do my homework, and at times Grandma would tell me stories about her homeland, a remote village in Bihar. “But what does it matter now,” she’d say. “My life is here, with you, in this veranda now.” And she would smile kindly, as if it really didn’t matter. But it did; it always mattered, because she was always able to recite her tales with the smallest detailing, be it the yellow table cloth she splattered her milk on, the blue window panes, or the guava tree out in her yard as long as her one-story home, always full of intricacies and exact locations; the first room or the left lane, where Komal lived, house no. 451.
It must have been difficult for her, parting away from her mother and father, being the only child of her parents, not even looking back once. All she had was a distorted, old, and torn black-and-white picture of her parents and her mother’s maang tika, which she kept in a small chest. Even after being a kid, I couldn’t not notice how her eyes twinkled when she talked about her own mother, who used to oil and braid her hair and tie it with red ribbons. “I never crossed the border to leave my ancestor’s house or my heritage behind. I didn’t suffer any great destruction once in my life, but I’ve been a spectator of all the mishaps that took place, and after thinking about it, I’m not quite sure if I really didn’t suffer. For I cry for all my sisters, unborn and dead (or rather, murdered), and it’s a shame because that’s the only thing I can do. What use are my tears to their dead bodies, or their orphaned children, or the family they never had?” That day, Grandma wasn’t sitting beside me on the bamboo chair; instead she was somewhere else, somewhere she could gather enough courage to fight back. I didn’t know what made me cry that night, before I went to sleep, but I knew I had to help my grandma and fight for my sisters, the women who cried themselves to sleep just the way I did.
Kriti Singh is an undergrad student of Literature from India. She has been published in online literary journals, such as Fiction Magazines and Textploit to name a few. You can find her on Instagram: @kritiaditi.