The vacation time in college usually leaves me sad, nostalgic and sometimes teary-eyed. As I see the home-bound boarders laughing, joking, hurriedly dragging their strolleys along, waving goodbyes to their friends and the twinkle of happy anticipation in the eyes of the parents who come much before the pick-up time to chaperone their daughters home, how I wish I too could visit my childhood home.
It was a huge yellow haveli with the front intricately carved to resemble a crown. Adorned with a pre-Partition Muslim architecture, multi-coloured bougainvillea growing in profuse abandon framed its gateway, while its scented trees were home to the incessant cacophony of countless twittering homely sparrows.
My grandparents were the presiding deities there. Tall, fair, handsome figure of my grandfather still looms large in my mind. He was dedicated to his profession and to the Ramayana. He introduced me to the holy scriptures as my faltering steps followed him on his daily walk.
But it was my grandmother, an elegant lady, who added a dash of verve and colour to the staid life in the sleepy town I grew up in. Her duties extended from asking the driver if everything was fine with the car, to instructing the cook and quizzing my grandfather's clerks about how many cases were lined up for the day.
To this day, it foxes one how her nails were so well-shaped (I never saw her use a nailfile). But her 'ada' of tantalizingly covering only the left side of her head with a muslin dupatta while the right exposed ear dazzled with a heavy kundan dangler left many impressed and intrigued. A movie buff and a die-hard fan of Lata Mangeshkar, she desperately wished one of my uncles to marry the singing sensation.
It was a house overflowing with love and laughter. To pass time, endless card games were played to the accompaniment of rounds of tea brought in by the family help.
But it was my mother who ensured the smooth functioning of that house; dressed in a crisp cotton sari in summers and tasteful silks in winters, her grace left its impact on everything she touched. To me, she was the quintessential soul-mate, my all.
With her sudden going away, my world collapsed, making me grope for a trustworthy hand to hold. When my father soon followed her, for me, time stood still, sparrows no longer seemed to chirp, a deathlike silence overcame all. Soon the house changed hands to be demolished and built anew.
Today, decades later, come vacation time and my mind drifts to knock at the door of that beloved house, even when I know no one will answer from within.