Last week was Saraswati Puja. There was this unmistakable heady scent of ‘kuls’ in the air, and everything wore a paint of yellow- bringing back memories of all those days spent here, all those Saraswati Pujas we always looked forward to…the paper chains to be made, the goddess to be adorned… the ‘alpana’ to be made without any delay…
I have grown up in this four-storied building with about five or six people roughly the same age as mine. Every evening, we would descend to the basement and play. Be it basketball, badminton or even carom- play we must. The walls would echo our laughter, and there was so much of sunshine in our lives! Every occasion was looked forward to, and every little thing made us happy… we gave roses on ‘Rose Day’, painstakingly made friendships bands for each other along with hand painted cards… little tokens of appreciation and love. Picnic would be one of those halcyon days… we would be up before the sun itself, filled with energy as we pushed our heads up sweaters too tight for us and wore sneakers caked with dirt. Who cared? All we wanted was fun.
There came a bus and we poured in, trying to get a seat near the hallowed ones:
All ‘DADAS’ and ‘DIDIS’.
The little attention they bestowed on us would send us into spasms of delight. And why not? After all, we were six school-goers, hardly qualifying as teenagers while they were all college-goers then. They were the ‘cool’ people. Besides we wanted to spy on them, and find out who was dating whom. Theirs was a larger group- about six boys and seven girls in all.
Impromptu feasts would keep taking place throughout the year without rhyme or reason, and enjoyed immensely! We were infamous for having weird games up our sleeve for every occasion. Be it a game called ‘lalure’ (something we made up ourselves, and I would rather not burden you with its details), or dumb-charades (where we ended up talking, coughing, spluttering and what not)
Today almost nothing remains. All the didis are married, and have left the city… all dadas too busy with their office work to even care about petty things like feasts… and even our group has scattered. Some gone to different engineering colleges, some busy preparing for their board exams. And others who do not care. Every year at least during the Durga Puja we try to interact… but something is still missing. These people have been able to break the bonds holding them back. I have not. There is no sense of security in the fact that I belong here. No one else does.
No longer can you see us midgets jumping up and down trying to retrieve the ball that got stuck in someone’s kitchen pipe. Or dipping our hands into a plateful of ‘biriyani’ during the feasts, to get the biggest piece of mutton… or perhaps the running wildly…freely… and hiding in the dirtiest corner ever, only to hear someone call “I spy!”
I miss those days. I miss my friends. I miss laughing my head off at stupid jokes. I miss those evenings when we were made to clean up the basement walls (as we had scribbled on them- a prank)… hauling buckets of water and splashing them on the walls...
I miss the warmth that this building lent me once; it was a cocoon, a shelter for us all…
How I wish I could go back five years and relive those days again!
I am an emotional dork.