A couple of years ago, I went back to my hometown, after nearly 15 years. I hadn’t really gone back all those years, as our big joint family had moved out to different cities; to universities, jobs, marriages and kids, and there was really nobody to go back to.
But I wanted to share the magic of my childhood with my children – better late than never, I thought. I was very excited as my husband and children were going to see my beautiful town that nestles in the hills, with me.
As we drove up the snaky roads with their hair-pin bends (that’s what they are called), the stale air of the city was replaced by the crisp,fresh and cold air of the hills. The smells of eucalyptus and cypress trees invigorated us.
It was a grey, bitterly cold day, when we finally reached. I first took them to the hospital where I was born, to my favourite bakery where we ate ice-cream cakes, and to my favourite tea-shop, where we hung out after high-school.
It was nostalgia in bold, italics, font size 100.
We stopped to buy tea leaves and chocolate fudge. Everything had changed – the roads and buildings looked so small, probably because I was a kid then. We went to my school and as I saw my Alma mater, tears pricked my eyes. I could see all of us in our smart school uniforms, walking down the wooden staircase, greeting the teachers and having so much fun.
We then drove down to our home, where I had lived for most of my childhood. Our home was in a block of four houses. There were many similar blocks lining the road. The end of the road led to a thick forest of eucalyptus & pine trees.
As I stood before our home, my eyes were drawn to the window of one of the bedrooms. I was shocked to see that the window still had a sticker that my sisters & I had stuck, when we were in middle school, 1985, I think. It was a sticker on oil conservation. My happiness knew no bounds. I felt that our home still retained us in its heart.
I could picture us, as little girls, plastering our noses to the window, watching the monsoon lashing against the window, watching button rose petals breaking away because of the rain, and decorating the steps leading to our home. I could smell the tea that my mom made for my grandma and aunt in the afternoons.
The house looked occupied, as I could see curtains in the windows; the garden was a little unkempt though. I remembered our little rose garden, our pocket lawn and our strawberry patch, which we protected from naughty sparrows and crows.
I remembered how we filled empty coconut shells with water and left them outside during winter, to find that the water had changed to ice, overnight.
Simple, simple and wonderful pleasures.
I turned to look at the neighbour’s yard to see if the peach tree, on which we built swings, was still standing. I was very happy to see that it was!
I walked down the road, absorbing the new and remembering the old.
I could see myself, a little girl in pigtails, and all my friends, running down the road playing games like hopscotch, kings, satholia, seven stones, land.
I saw the huge cypress bush, inside which we had our kids club. I could see the silvery lake in the distance. I looked up the hill to see if I could still see the temple. The trees however, blocked the view now.
I could see my entire family – grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins, noisily having a Sunday picnic. I saw myself sitting on the steps outside my home, reading a novel.
The sticker had probably seen many, many residents after us. I felt tears stinging my eyes for all those lovely days, for those innocent moments when we stuck the little sticker on that window, reveling in the joy of a freebie from the gas station.
Little did I know, that this very sticker would wait so many decades for us, to help me reconnect to my childhood and relive those memories, with my own family.