Ah, those childhood days, that waiting for a complete year to visit grandparents! The preparations would begin a month in advance after we got a letter from them informing us when the uncles, aunts and cousins would be there, too. We’d ready our steel trunks and bedrolls with the excitement of vacation planning. The thrill would increase with each day until the boarding of the train.
Smoke and bits of coal would fly into the eyes and face as the steam engine chugged away. At the destination, we’d get our much-awaited tonga ride, the coachman providing us with the latest news of the town as his horse took us from the railway station to our grandparents’ house. It was heaven. After the customary Namaste, touching of the feet, hugs, a quick bath and lunch, we’d be off on bicycles to an afternoon movie with cousins, in the blistering June sun, in utter disregard of the heat.
The show would be running to a full house. Inside, the hall with no air coolers would be filled with the odour of beedi and cigarette smoke. Amitabh Bachchan’s coming on screen would be greeted with hooting, clapping, whistles, throwing of coins into the pit, and the noise of wooden chairs being thumped. Then came our favourite time of the day — two hours of passionate football, of rolling and diving on the lawns without a worry in the world until our clothes were soaked in sweat and the skin started to itch.
The end of the game was the only time in the day when our mothers would care to watch us, to ensure that we took a bath to look presentable for dinner, when the entire family would sit on the floor and have a hearty meal, followed by a race up the stairs to the terrace covered with jute charpoys and mosquito nets. The clear, starry, night sky without a puff of smoke in the air; and the sound of crickets (yes, you could hear them, as there was no disturbing noise of the traffic) put the right amount of magic into the grandma’s bedtime stories and cheerful banter.
Finally, the fag-end of June would bring that unforgettable aroma of the earth after first rain. That was then, when the summers, rains and winters maintained corporate-type timings, and in dry winter with no clouds, one could bask in warm sun all day long. This year, it started raining in November and continued till April, with clouds hovering over all winter of fog. The unseasonal showers damaged the crops and drove farmers to desperation. With the berserk weather continuing in June, that fragrance of the arrival of monsoon has evaporated.
Who took away my heaven? Where are my parks disappearing? Why’s the air so heavy, and the night sky so unclear? Who stole my stars, and who gave me this noise and the catastrophe called global warming, El Niño, or whatever?