By ILAKSHEE BHUYAN NATH
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again…” Only it was not Daphne’s Manderlay nor was the mood so gloomy and intimidating. On the contrary, it was of my home that I dreamt of, for the last six to seven months, much like the desperate seeking even the faintest signs of succour. Much like Scarlet O’Hara’s well of strength in Tara or the promise to herself.” After all …tomorrow is another day.”
Err… I may not be in as complicated a situation as the two protagonists whom I invoke, but let’s face it there are times when many of us just want to throw up our hands and scream. “Enough is Enough,” to whoever cares to listen to. And so I did. And no sir, I did not feel guilty of making my daughter bunk two ‘working days’ before the school closed for summers. It was a choice between waiting decently like a good mother for the school to break off for vacations or me breaking down. I chose to avoid the latter.
Having chugged our way past the bleak, desolate, sun blanched Northern plains and stalled midway on the tracks, we finally stumbled into the verdant North East. Finally, closing in on my Tara, home sweet home! The crowded railway station and it’s ubiquitous stench did nothing to dampen my spirit. We were already damp or rather drenched in all that sweat that a sultry weather can bring on. The familiar sights and sounds on our way home only heightened the excitement. Too many buildings, too many people, too many cars on the roads and along the roads. Never mind, we were almost there. It was the last lap to the finishing line. And when the car took the final bend, the very sight of home melted all the fatigue, released all the tensions building up for months. With a smile on our lips and a spring in my step, we were home at last!
Have you ever felt a home welcoming you, embracing and nuzzling you fondly as you walked around trying to see if everything is still the same way as it was in your last visit? The bean bag was still around, only crying for more beans, the chikoo tree had grown sturdier and taller, the kitchen smelt the same, the passion fruit climbed still higher onto the debdaru tree, more foliage enveloped the house, the well and the tap behind the house silently waited for the kids to come and play.
Oh yes! These books within whose pages my imagination took flights into exotic lands and fantastic possibilities, were stacked neatly to be devoured by our children. They already have plans of lazing on the hammock squealing away with Archie, Tintin and Obelisk for company and climbing the Faraway Tree. The younger daughter has already warned me she is in granny’s territory so my ‘no TV’ edict does not hold good. I let her be. It’s vacation time for all.
Waking up to the chirping birds, my mother’s friends whom she feeds religiously, as they flutter out of their new homes on our trees, is a pleasant way to begin the day. The old bird house of bamboo had given away and so my mother got these earthen pots for them to nest in. I could watch them for hours together, flitting in and out as they go about their daily business of survival. I could afford to. I was on a holiday, miles away from my daily rut. I could lie down on the floor, after a sumptuous mom cooked meal in the afternoon, and let the breeze caress and lull me into that rare siesta. Why the floor? Because it is much cooler especially when there is no electricity, which is a regular story for most part of the day in that part of the country. And if the leaves were motionless outside, the bisoni (hand fan) did the needful while fanning in the day dreams. A luxury when all year around, our lives are pivoting around the hands of the clock, mentally ticking off the to-do list.
As dusk set in, we sat in the verandah sharing the oft repeated anecdotes, never tiring of the repetitions. My father, of his childhood days about the self made bunkers, the World War soldiers travelling by, the Great Big Earthquake of 1950, the naughty antics. And me, of our childhood spent in our granny’s home, of loitering around her fields and fruit orchards like vagabonds, of catching fireflies in the evenings and squabbling and sharing secrets with cousins, of granny’s partiality towards the granddaughters and shooing away the grandsons. Old friends gathered and we talked and giggled away treading the leaves in the nostalgia filled lanes. Uncles and aunts descended to look up the girls and remark, “Oh! How they have grown!”, “Look at you, you have lost so much weight and colour!” although I weighed a sack more than I did in my last visit. Between the sips of the red liquor brewed from garden fresh tea leaves, (always a complementary for almost every household from a relative working in the gardens) hushed tones and sideward glances were dying to share the latest family gossip, scandal and politics. When there is an extended gargantuan family, be assured of interesting notes replete with the unmentionables and the ‘tsk tsk’ inspiring, straining to tumble out of the closet.
The days stretched languorously and peace descended with nights. Gradually, sanity returned. Amidst all this, and the wining and the dining, we managed to visit a few places, meet some interesting people and catch a special play. The play is very close to me aptly titled “Photo”. It’s a play that took me to Sibsagar, a place where I spent my first year of existence. More so, it’s a play where for the first time my girls and my husband watched my septuagenarian father perform on stage in his decades old pursuit of his passion for the theater. A geologist by profession and an actor by passion. I would cherish this memory forever. Memories of holding back my own lumps in the throat while answering my daughter’s tearful query, “Why does Koka have to die?”, of sniffling an indignation “she is so rude to koka!” and the resounding applause at the end of it all. Blessed did I feel to be a part of this moment.
This annual pilgrim to my home, my Tara, leaves me glistening, purging away all the dust and grime that settle obstinately in layers till a good shower shakes it all off, to once again resurrect the foliage and let it dance in the wind.