I sat there, trying to recall my earliest memories as a child. They were a series of images that flashed through my mind, connected yet independent; like a silent movie, with few scenes embedded fresh in my memory while others got blurred beyond recollection.
I remember that I had just started learning to read & write along with other children. It is not a school, but a school that started after school. My mom said that I was too young to go to school. I was dying to grow up and start school, even though I was youngest in the family. I would play all day with my cousins and neighbor’s children. That’s not all. We would get into silly fights and tiffs every other day. Once it was about a toy and the other time it was about another silly reason. It must have been very hard for our parents.
So the other option to keep me busy was this “school after school”. There was a lady teacher who taught us all the elementary stuff. This was common for most of the kids in my region. In my family, everyone encouraged and appreciated me reciting the alphabets and numbers without much efforts. Little did I know that I was actually being driven towards a classic format of education. I didn’t know what I was learning and how it would help me in my future, although I enjoyed the attention. It felt good. A happy smile appears on my face each time someone pats or appreciates me.
There was this time, a season of mild temperatures in our calendar, of an early morning. My grandfather gave me a lift on his shoulders. It was a joyous ride. I saw above the plants that were taller than me. I felt the wind and sunshine directly on my face. I am sure it’s memorable for any child. He put me down on the ground carefully and kissed me on my forehead. In return I hugged him tight. I didn’t realize until I looked at him. His eyes filled with tears. It was unusual. I looked around, everyone was sad. My dad was still fast asleep on the bed. I was not sure why my mom and sisters were sitting around and crying. One of my cousins came running and took me out to buy me candies.
Red was my favorite color and I always wanted a red shirt in my wardrobe. My mom told me that dad was busy working in a faraway land and would get me a red suit when he comes back. If only my cousins knew! They would be very jealous.
One day I heard that we would be travelling to a faraway place, someplace I had never heard of. This time it’s just us three – mom, sister and I. We were separated. The remaining two elder sisters were left with grandfather. I didn’t know about why they didn’t join us. It’s a new place and mom got a new job. It felt like a long vacation and it would have been nice to have the entire family around!! I didn’t understand why mom decided to bring only the two of us. However, all this mattered little as that was my first long trip away from home.
I saw things quickly moving behind us the moment we sat on the bus. I enjoyed seeing new houses. They are differently designed. I wondered about the living arrangements they had in there. Isn’t it why window seats are always so popular! There was no air conditioner in the bus. All windows were open and the gentle breeze joined along with the swinging motion of the bus. This was reminiscent of me laying in a cradle and I was soon lulled to sleep. I woke up to an announcement as we reached to our destination. I realized that I left one of my shoes there in the bus once we were off boarded.
We started our long walk by the countryside. It was a long walk to reach to the new place. I didn’t enjoy the barefoot walk. There was no sight of people around. I didn’t even see farmers or cattlemen around. All I could hear was the music of the wind travelling through the trees and bushes. A familiar bird was singing along. All of a sudden I was reminded of the demons from the stories my cousin used to tell me and I looked around scarily. The demons would steal lonely children in those stories. The fact that we were travelling together made me feel safe.
It’s the first day in our new home but I’m not excited about this new set up. It’s smaller than where we used to live. I can reach from one corner to another in less time than it takes for my mom to call me. The best part is that I don’t have to fight with anyone. I can play as long as I want. Tomorrow is a big day as I get to join the school. I can make new friends.
The school treated me well. But they were just teaching me what I had already learnt. This new teacher assessed my learning and put me in an advanced class where the kids were a little older to me. He didn’t like my name for some reasons and decided to change it without my consent. I was annoyed with his proposal. My mom seemed to be okay with it as the meaning of my new name was still the same. Probably she was in hurry to report to work. After all it was her first day too, or may be she was depressed. I didn’t see her smiling since a long time.
I was not sure why everyone was scrambling to sit in the last bench. I felt privileged with first bench, but after a while I left alone there. I remained quiet and watched around. Some of the kids looked at me with no acceptance as I was like a new bird in the flock. We have another new entrant joined us after a while on the same day with a puzzled look on his face. I’m familiar with this look though I was there for just couple of hours. I understood his hesitation and moved aside to offer him a seat. We smiled at each other and became friends from that very moment.
My new friend found my house the very next day. I was surprised to see him at our door. We soon started going to school together. In the evening he took me to show around the neighborhood. I saw women who wore a conical palm leaf hat to protect themselves from sunburns and rain. They must be working there in the fields all through the day. These are traditional cultivation arrangements that I had never seen before. Among all, one that I can still remember is NORIA, an ancient bucket-based irrigation system. We played in the little canals that supplies the water to the fields. The farmers looked at us with a smile of admiration. I think they knew that I didn’t belong from there. They kept on asking my whereabouts as we move by. My friend claimed me as his new buddy and told them about me. It was green everywhere. Far far away, I could see mango gardens. My friend’s family owned them.
There was a major attraction in this village – a freshwater pond. It’s large, crystal clear water with steps to get into it. People said that the water didn’t have a taste to it. But I felt as sweet as tender coconut water. I saw women fetching the water effortlessly. The walls of this pond is some extent raised by concrete yet the outer side was left with natural mud heaps. There are a lot fruit trees by the pond. I am not sure how it works but for a certain period the ownership on the profits of the pond’s garden is handled by an auction. Why not every family from the village are entitled to have the benefits? My friend also doesn’t seem to have an answer to this question. As the sun is ready to set we heard a lot of birds hurrying to their nests to be settled for the day. I was staring at the nature’s show with my eyes wide open. There are various kind of nests, it appeared to me all those are empty. Where did all they go? Why do they settle on the branches instead of a nest? How do they survive when there is a rain? Are they allowed to sit on a new branch every day or are there any rules? I had a lot of questions on my mind. They all seemed to be very disciplined. They divided among their own category just like the families in our village. As we reached to the middle of the wall, there was a chikoo tree. The branches were down to the ground even we could reach them. We also saw a weaver bird’s nest. I was excited to see how did such a small bird can build such a complicated home for itself. And I heard a newborn baby bird crying and struggling to hang on to its home while I was examining the design. I took her into my hands with a great amazement. It was incredibly fragile and shivering in fear. It filled my heart with warmth and thought they all may look same when they are just born. I carefully placed her back in her home. I wondered where did her mom go leaving such a young baby unattended. We waited aside to see the reunion of BAYA with its baby. We understood that it didn’t leave her baby rather it went out to find to feed her.
I saw the reflection of the moon on the pond as the light emanated from the last rays of the sunshine. We left to home with a great satisfaction of being a savior. It filled my mind with a great joy and memory to save for a life time.
Next Episode: The three charmers..