Will You Share With Me?
Will You Share With Me?5 mins 162 5 mins 162
Sneha would again vigorously shake her grandfather, every time he dozed off. “And then what happened, Dadu?” she nudged.
Nanku bapuji keeps Sneha busy all afternoon as Jignesh and Kavya would work from home these days. While he’d tell stories of his village, his childhood days, and narrate his adventures or misadventures in the city of Mumbai, the 6year old would simply gobble up every word he said with her eyes and ears. She could well replace the colony statue at this time with her frozen, intent, and immersed little body.
“I’m awake, Pittu. I was just trying to remember what happened when Manas kaka came. Do you know I can remember very well when I close my eyes?”, Bapuji responded after almost five minutes of Sneha’s nagging. The little girl was red, wrapped her arms around herself, and looked out of the window to make her displeasure evident enough.
“Manas Kaka had walked a long way and barely crashed onto our tiny portico, where all of the thirteen adults of the family waited in disquietude. The feeble light of the kerosene lantern fairly illuminated the darkness of the load-shedding for us to see the silhouette of the well-built body of kaka. His haggard face told me how hurting it might have been to walk from depths of Mundra to Hodka. It was not just our house, but in all the houses of our row, people had guests and family members returning.
My father held the lamp closer to kaka, my third kaki brought some ghari and water for Manas kaka. We children lay in our mattresses that were laid out like a dorm on the floor of our hall with our ears and eyes wide open to catch any information that we could. The next morning some more of my kakas reached one after the other.
We rejoiced, we did our wiggly dance in joy. Finally, our family members were returning from distant cities and my dadi was ecstatic. All her sons were home and that too untouched by the year’s deadly influenza that had gripped cities after cities.
The next few weeks just flew by playing hopscotch, cricket, football, hide and seek and innumerable gaming discoveries. I was very happy for all my cousins being close, no studies, no school, and no scolding. We also invented a new sign language so that no adult could understand what we said.” Bapuji narrated.
Sneha clapped and jumped, her eyes shone bright with the thought of such a big family get-together and socialization. To keep the momentum going she shook her grandfather’s hand again signalling him to continue.
“We had the biggest house on the block in Hodka but over the next fortnight, our house seemed to shrink itself. We could barely accommodate half of us to dine together in the hall these days, the room felt much smaller compared to earlier days. We shared my limited toys, space during kite flying, and cared to listen to each other until we fought. The sheen of the new language vanished as quickly as it appeared with no one to fool around.” Bapuji recounted his memories following a few deep sighs.
“Mazaa toh aya hoga aapko”, Sneha asked.
“Yes, Pittu. We had a lot of fun. That was all we could have.
As days passed, the ration diminished faster than we would fill. My mother would work tirelessly in the kitchen with three kakis to feed 30 mouths. We would get one chapati and pickles each for lunch and two scoops of rice with dal or vegetable for dinner. That was it. No sweet. No extras. Breakfast would be either puffed rice or a ghari or just jaggery.
My father was the only one who could go to work every day and so he would get two chapatis. My kakas went out to look for a job, at the risk of catching the flu. A full meal was the need of the hour.
Things would be strewn all over the house. My other four kakis would keep cleaning and washing all day long until they got tired or there was a scarcity of soap and detergents. The toilets smelled musty all day. The road outside our home overflowed with stinking garbage, cow dung, and the appalling houseflies.
The only thing we had in plenty was water as we had a well behind our house.
The enjoyment of having this gala get-together weaned off. I used to get upset so many times a day that I lost count. I was just 7 years old. I became weaker and got sick of sacrifices. I did not want to share anymore. I wanted a full meal of my choice, my cozy and peaceful corner to play, my full bed, my clean home. I did not want to fight to use the toilet. I hated to do nothing all day.” he replied.
The unpleasantness and pain of the experience were evident by the stillness of his body, eyes lost out of window searching for something and head bent in retrospection. “1957 was sort of a bad year for all of us,” Bapuji mumbled under his breath.
“Hmmm, like 2020. This is a very bad year too,” saying this, Sneha folded her palms in gratitude gesture.
“Why did you do that?” Bapuji asked Sneha.
“We thank God for good things na. So I thanked Him for not giving me such a big family”, Sneha’s guileless comprehension shook him out of the trance.