It was that time of the year again. A time when all family and children come home to roost. The girls from their marital homes, the boys on leave from their universities or work. Dussehra and Diwali are fun, even poignant times because the planning and feverish excitement starts weeks before. Airline and train tickets are booked, lengthy phone calls ensue to discuss the programme for each precious day of the holiday and suddenly in no time the house is silent and empty, all over again. I remained elbow deep in flour, butter and candied dry fruits, baking batches of cakes and savories for almost a week before their arrival. The refrigerator was stocked with food and drink, some precooked or ready to eat, for the midnight feasts, when the children, hungry all the time, would troop into the kitchen to ransack the pantry and larder.
All of a sudden, the house was resounding with voices, laughter, crashes, thuds of chairs being scraped and doors being banged. Endless rounds of tea and coffee, with everyone wanting to squeeze into the same room and participate in the multitude of conversations in full swing. Playing cards, chess and carrom boards appear with great enthusiasm but are usually discarded midway and lie strewn around because somebody puts on some music and suddenly everyone is dancing or mimicking the latest moves of a Bollywood song. Sentences are shouted across the room with lots of leg pulling and teasing and in the din that ensues no one really gets heard, but who cares!
In all the pandemonium, my daughter slipped away and returned triumphantly with a derelict, blue suitcase crammed with old photographs. I had completely forgotten its existence. It had been lying abandoned in the attic, forlorn and forgotten, while the years flew by, with the children growing up and then, one by one, taking flight to different corners of the country to study further, marry or work. The pictures were passed around the room with everyone exclaiming or recalling some incident or anecdote related to the time.
There was my son as a little boy, scowling in a corner, sucking on two fingers, refusing to be photographed. Pictures of all the children on a visit to the zoo, sitting in the open boot of our first Maruti car. My doting parents-in -law at our wedding, tiny babies with screwed up faces we all tried to recognise and name, our first puppy, poking its tiny head out of the folds of my husband's overcoat. The children hooted and guffawed with delight, marveling at our old-fashioned hairstyles and clothes. It was a riot! An utterly memorable afternoon, tinged with nostalgia of times gone by.
Our latest phones with their extravagant mega-pixel cameras, editing tools to make us look prettier or younger, our penchant for selfies notwithstanding, I think the simple pleasure of poring over old family albums and photographs is unsurpassable and there is nothing quite like it. They are precious remembrances of family, to visit and revisit, time and again.