Summer afternoons have this amazing quality of transporting me back to my childhood. A magical, magical place! Of course, I was not aware how magical it was at that time. It is in retrospect that the present looks magical.
I think the best part of the afternoons was between five thirty and seven. The sun would have set by then. If we were lucky, the trees would start to wave and blow some wind. My brother and his gang of players would be playing cricket on the green slice of field in the middle of the neighborhood. Sometimes these balls would end up hitting the tin roof or the wooden windows of an annoyed neighbor and he’d be rushing out of the house with angry eyes, asking, “Who has the audacity to hit the ball on my roof again? Today, if I don’t stop this game of yours, my name is not So-and-so!”
When there would be no right answer from the boys’ gang, rather loud pleas for the ball to be returned, he’d just fetch the ball from the courtyard and scream that the boys could wave the ball goodbye. They could go buy another. Better yet, they should stop playing altogether.
Some of these neighbors now have kids and grand kids of the same age as my brother was then. I am not there to see how the cricket games are unfolding these days, but I am sure the scenario wouldn’t have changed much. It would just be fresh set of annoyed neighbors, and another bunch of enthusiastic kids. That’s probably one thing that is still unchanged about my hometown, the fields are still played in.
I was never a part of these games, rather a spectator from a distance, from my balcony. Or sometimes, after I got my bicycle, I would be circling the neighborhood, with the air flowing through my shoulder length hair, watching the kids play, tasting my own kind of freedom.
There were days when there were storms, when the kids would be forced indoors. At the onset of the storm, the dry dust would rise up, almost choking us and blocking view. With the dust rose stray plastics that were strewn all over the neighborhood. On those days, my brother and I sang our hearts out, as we watched from the balcony the trees bend with the vigor of wind and rain. The air smelled so sweet, sweet from the smell of mangoes and the smell of moist Earth. Throughout the storm, my mother would be shouting to close the balcony door and get indoors, because the water would come inside. But who would want to pay any heed to her? Besides, closing the doors meant pitch darkness inside, because the storm always meant no power, and a solid hotness inside the house.
Where I live today I don’t have a balcony to sit and enjoy the rains. Today, there are thousands of miles between that balcony and me, but in that space, the heart is still the same age as in those summer afternoons. A bunch of simple children who wanted to do everything but study, a bunch of parents whose simple aim was to get the children to study and do well in life. I am sure most of us are doing well in the expected sense of the word. But somewhere, we are still stuck in those afternoons, refusing to accept that we grew up.