I am just back from my annual vacation in India. This time it was a crazy affair – meeting people after ages, knowing my nephew for the first time, late night dhaba food and a wedding in between all of this. Yesterday night I had this wild dream of an assassin trying to kill me while I lay in my hostel room bed – it woke me up. Dawn was just breaking. And as it happens when you feel afraid you think of things which comfort you and before long I was reminiscing my days back in India. Strangely the few things which came to my mind in that state of half sleep are not even things I consciously have memories of.
Smell of naphthalene ; my grandmother has this huge old trunk in which she has been preserving her prized possessions over decades. Its this huge rusty, aluminium box. Screeching on its hinges every time you want to open it up as if protesting to give up its well preserved secrets. Since I have moved out of her home over five years back some of my stuff much to my annoyance has landed up in this “pandora’s box”. It is this when I opened up to find something that wafted in the smell of naphthalene and the familiar sight of white crystal balls which were the only means of keeping away cockroaches and other insects during my growing up years. Years later finding them in that trunk must have somehow left a mark on my sub conscious mind or rather nose
Slow whirring of the ceiling fan ; here in Netherlands we don’t have ceiling fans. As it is most of the year is too cold for fans. If we do have a particularly warm summer it is usually the fans on pedestals which come in handy. This time in India it was quite pleasant temperature, fans were not necessary. However in the flat where all my cousins and I dumped every night where mattresses were spread on the floor stretching wall to wall, we did use the fan every night. Just to be cozy inside the quilts and also keep out the buzzing of the mosquitoes
Incense sticks ; the familiar sight of my grandmother lighting up long black incense sticks and moving them in circular motions as she goes from room to room around the flat we lived in – a ritual done every day at dusk called “sondhye” to put gods to sleep or so I think (might be completely wrong though). Some days it was rose, other days sandalwood. As I thought about it – it was jasmine.
Evening tea with biscuits ; the sheer joy of dipping your biscuit in the cardomom brewed tea and then eating it. You have to master the art of timing of the dip though – you hold the biscuit on one side and put the other end inside the tea. Hold it for a while such that it is just enough wet that it will melt in your mouth but not long enough that it gets too wet and unable to hold onto its own weight, breaks from the edge you are holding and falls inside the cup.
Dhopar khata ; the laundry list – the one where you keep account of the clothes given to the washer who also keeps a note of the items in his list. This list is then checked with and accounted with when he returns the clothes on his weekly visits usually every sunday morning. Believe it or not it still exists at my home along with the dhopa himself. Other than losing of a few teeth from when I saw him last he seemed quite the same, clad in a white soiled dhoti and a green old pullover
Still wondering which was stranger? The dream or the random thoughts moving like screens of the viewfinder one after the other as you click the handle. Does it happen to you? After a long vacation to the place you grew up, do you have hangovers?