As I am getting older, the memories of childhood are becoming more and more dear to me. There are some bitter memories (which I am not interested in discussing) and there are many sweet memories.
I have been reading "Kaghazi hai pairahan", an autobiography of Ismat Chughtai these days. In the current chapter she is visiting her phoophi (father's sister). The description of the home and the ambiance reminded me of my grand-father's home at Bhagalpur, Bihar. We used to visit there every year during our summer vacation. Two of my phoophis and chhote abbu (father's brother) used to stay there too. So, in all we were 7 kids. If the timing was good then 2 other cousins from Patna would join us.
There were fights as well as fun. I remember once we organized a cultural evening with a short skit and some song and dance too. I don't remember my contribution though.
Bhagalpur was a little (actually more than a little) short on electricity. And that compelled all of us to stay in the courtyard from early evening till the next morning. The courtyard, which then seemed like a boundless expanse of land, had a coconut tree in the center. On one side of it was the kitchen and other 3 sides were 3 different portions of the house. Chaarpai used to be laid in the courtyard and all of us brothers and sisters used to huddle together and either tell each other stories of ghosts or the bermuda triangle (and other interesting stuff) or listen to stories from our kahaani-waali daddu (grandfather's sister).
Certain things which i remember clearly are the sound made by the rustling of the leaves of the coconut tree, the smell of the coal or cow-dung cakes burning in the angeethi, the chaos created by the pet goats, chicken and cats (the house was a mini-zoo), the clear sky with innumerable stars (very visible in the absence of electricity), the smell of kerosene lamp, the smell of itr and the hustle-bustle of burkha-clad women on eid, jumping from one terrace to another and an occasional movie show on the VCR (sometimes it took more than 2 days to see one complete movie).
Na poori tarah yaad hain woh lamhen,
Aur na hum unhe bhool paaye hain.
Hawa ke sang jo khushboo aaj aayi hai,
Humein us waqt mein ya us waqt ko humaare paas le aayi hai.