Sunday, 23 February 2014

Summer holidays (1998)

"You have two months holidays: for one and half months we are going to Kerala"said Geetha to her sons. twelve year old Arun and nine year old Varun. "No amma,we are not going"said both of them in unison. "We don't want to go.We want to play with all our friends here.Besides, we will miss all our favourite programs on cartoon network as there is no cable TV in grandma's place."

Arun and varun are living with their parents at the National games housing complex in Bangalore.Being a huge complex with number of families, they had many friends to play.Naturally they did not want to go to Kerala which was also a hotter & sultry place.

"This time we are not only going to Perunbavoor to see grandma & Grandpa.We are also going to Pudukad."
"We are not coming"
"But everyone will be there.Abhishek and abhinandan are coming from Mumbai. Swetha from Vadodara,Ramesh & shyam from Chennai, Akhilesh & malathi from Ernakulam......"
"Abishek will be there?"asked the younger one falteringly.
"I am certainly not going said Arun firmly."

Geetha was mentioning the names of all her cousins'children hoping that her sons would change their minds about going to Kerala for the holidays.However she found that they were not budging an inch from their stand.She was reminded of the summer of 1969 when she herself had refused to go to her mother's ancestral home in Pudukad during the holidays.But her mother had simply ordered that "she jolly well had to go whether she liked it or not!"
Pudukad was not a big town but it had a couple of cinema theaters, shops, green fields and tiled factories with long chimneys.Geetha's grandfather owned a tile factory and was engaged in agriculture near his big ancestral home.

Amidst protests,Geetha landed up in Pudukad to be greeted by her many cousins.Her mother had six sisters and one brother.Her uncle was only nine years older than her and the youngest aunt just six years older.And what a summer that had turned out to be ! A summer holiday packed with so many lively incidents that she was actually sorry she had to return to Perumbavoor after the holidays.

Geetha called both her sons "When Amma was 8 years old, I also refused to go to Pudukad" she began......   "Since your uncle Ramesh and I were the only two kids in our house and Ramesh studied in a boarding school, I grew up mostly alone.So I was shy & uncomfortable with people, even with my cousins."
"Did Ramesh uncle come with you on that holiday?" asked Varun
"Oh yes, he had come directly from the hostel for the holidays.In fact he was making fun of me for all the protests"
"What happened on the first day?" Arun was curious
"On the first day I kept mostly to myself but by two days I was enjoying the games with my cousins.During the mornings after breakfast we roamed about in the fields,climbed mango & guava trees."
"Did you pluck mangoes?"
"Oh yes! we liked it raw with salt & chilly powder.We also ate the ripe guavas. At 11 o'clock we girls used to come back and help our aunts and the servants  with the cooking. Oh, it was such fun,so many of us sitting in circles and shelling peas. Leela  aunty was a great cook.She enjoyed feeding us with different delicacy each day.While in my house, we prepared only vegetarian food, here there was mouth watering fish, meat and special veg dishes to choose from."
"How about Radha Grandma? "
"Oh she used to love fun & entertainment.In the evenings at 7 she would make all of us sit in a big circle.Then one by one we had to sing, dance or mono act. She also liked story telling.We children used to go behind her and wait patiently until she was ready to begin her wonderful stories of kings, queens, princes and ghosts.....
But Kusuma aunty would not let us start the evening entertainment until all of us washed our face,hands & feet and sat down to recite prayers for at least half an hour. She also arranged two visits to Guruvayoor Krishna temple during our stay of two months."

"Did you have fun all the time Amma ?" asked Varun

"Well, it was mostly fun but we got in to trouble as well.One day four of us children wanted bathe in the pond. Prema aunty who is normally quiet by nature offered to come with us. Apart from 8 year old me,there was 7 year old Asha and , 5 year olds Unni and Rajesh. Prema aunty sat on the steps leading to the family pond and watched us  with her one year old baby in her lap.
All of a sudden. Asha started going down.Unni who was the nearest tried to catch her but he also started sinking.There was panic all around and all of us started crying loudly. Prema aunty left the baby on the ground and jumped."
"Then what happened?!"asked both the boys in unison
"She managed to pull both of them out.She pressed their belly and a lot of water came flowing down from their mouths! "
"And then?"
"And when we went home , all of us got a solid scolding for being careless. You know, Amma got in to another trouble during that holiday.....
There was a pet cat kitty who was very cute & liked by everyone.One day after playing with her I put kitty in a wooden cupboard upstairs,locked it and took the key with me.After that I forgot all about kitty and was playing with the cousins.After about two hours grandfather was asking,"Where is Kitty? She seems to be not around." Suddenly I remembered.And boys, was I scared! I was looking frantically for the keys but could not find them.I had lost it somewhere!Grandpa was getting more & more angry and impatient.
slowly, with faltering steps, I went to Kusuma aunty and told her the whole story.As the cupboard could not be opened ,Grandpa called a carpenter who broke open the door & rescued Kitty.But Grandpa was very angry.He turned around and gave a stinging slap to my youngest aunt, 14 year old Rema. I felt very bad and sorry for her.It was as if Grandpa had slapped me. I went out to the terrace and wept inconsolably..."
"Amma, you were a very naughty girl!" said Varun
"And a little bit of a buddhu as well. You know, our uncle Govind was the pampered one, being the only brother among so many sisters.And he often played pranks on all of us.One day he asked us to look closely at the smoke coming out of the chimney of the tile factory.As we looked, he said  "The smoke is coming from the cigarette of a rakshasa (demon) who lives below." Being a simpleton, I believed him for a long time, although now & then doubts would arise in my mind  as to whether this was really true. "
"Ha. ha ha you were tricked Amma.you were tricked!" said Varun

"Hey, just a minute, looks like Achan has returned from the office"said Arun.
Both the boys ran to the front door to greet their father. "Acha... our holidays will begin soon.Please book our tickets to Kerala immediately.Otherwise the tickets for the Kanyakumari Express will get sold out!"
Their father Rakesh smiled  and asked in surprise "Hey, why this sudden excitement boys for going to Kerala?"
"That's our little secret, isn't it boys? said Geetha and winked at them.

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