About 5 years ago, I lived with my parents. We lived in this township which was made for the employees of the company my parents worked for. They used to work, all the time. But whatever free time they had they would spend it with us, their three kids. I was the eldest and I loved being the eldest. I could bark orders at my siblings, and they would listen to me. I played with them, made them evening snacks and fought with their bad friends for punching them across the face. I liked being responsible and wished to be more it.
My family loved to talk and show whatever they felt. It was amazing, to be so free and so much of myself among so many other parts of me, my sister and brother and my Ayee and Papa. We’d kiss and hug and smack each other’s head on the back and tackle each other to eat the biggest slice of the pastry. Ayee and Papa would bitch about their co-workers to make us laugh and then teach us how it was wrong to do that. Weird parenting, I still say. I just had one small complaint, my father spent lesser time with us than my mother because he loved his work and spent so much time for it, he was not home every evening. He would come home late and leave home early in the morning. And he had a bad habit of chewing tobacco so whenever he was home, he was mostly quiet, also because he loved silence and, anyway, never talked a lot.
This one night, my parents came up with this idea of the school in the big city and talked to me about my admission in it so that I could study better, in a better school. The good part was, it was a residential school and I could not be happier about how I would get to wake up by myself, wash my own clothes, the study by myself and live alone. So, I said yes, and things started to materialize. Everything was planned and I was admitted to the school, packing was done, and all was set.
And then, on the last night of my stay at home, with my parents, it rained. It rained and it sounded so melodious. The smell of the wet grass from our front garden, the cool breeze adding to the peace the rains had already brought, everything somehow seemed perfect.
I stepped out into the front porch of our home.
“Get inside! It’s raining and you need to leave tomorrow evening, don’t catch cold!” My mother shouted from the kitchen, where she was cooking my favorite dish and helping my brother finish his homework.
“Yes, come in, don’t catch a cold.” My sister repeated, leaning against the open door, digging her nose and flicking it away. She looked bored and was jealous of the attention I had been getting for a past few days. But the love for me and the thought that she may not be able to fight with me again was overpowering her jealousy.
“No. I think I am going to stay here for a while. Maybe sit by myself and plan my days ahead, when I am in that school. I am going to have so much fun without you two little demons giving me a hard time.” I gave her a grin, and her little ass seemed annoyed and she ran inside the house with a ‘Humph! I hate you’ and a stomp.
I sat there wishing I could step into the rain and feel it. But then, I was strictly restricted. So I sat there, wishing harder.
I heard a hustle and turned to see my dad putting his footwear on.
“Where are you going?” I asked. His mouth was filled with tobacco and as his daughter and being trained for the past 14 years of my life, I understood the broken sign language he used to communicate through when he was chewing. He made a gesture for me to get up and as any stubborn daughter would do, I didn’t listen to him.
He pulled me up by my left arm and put a finger on his lips after pouting. He pushed me towards the footwear stand and moved his hands around telling me to wear my shoes. I was totally confused now. My face went blank and I waited for any more information from his expressionless face. Any sort of gesture which said what exactly we were about to do.
Then, he went aside and spit the tobacco. Without any expression again, he said, “I think we should go out. For a walk.”
First, I was shocked. And then, I was surprised. And later, I was squealing on top of my lungs, inside my head, because, dad’s orders, ‘shhh’.
And so, we went. We walked the empty streets of the township. Drenching in the rain, talking about how much he wanted me to be happy and successful and live my life like a queen. He told me how much he wanted me to be good in everything I do, and how much the school was a great platform for me to study well and get a good college and later, a job. He made faces and he made me laugh. We talked bullshit, my stomach had started to hurt with all the laughing and eventually I realized I had drunk a lot of rainwater. We ran, to see who was faster, because Papa loved it when I defeated him, in any way, sometimes when I corrected him when he was purposefully being wrong, just to check if I knew. We also walked in silence, like father like daughter, my love for silence was clearly from him. It was then I realized how much I would miss home. My high functioning family with so much to do daily. My weird world of being the elder sister and recording the fights between my siblings. Ayee’s endless talks and Papa’s ‘hmm’s and silences.
About 20 minutes later we came back home, all drenched and my mother still shouting at me to get inside the house. She had not noticed about out little escapade and it was fun to keep a secret with Papa. We sneaked into the house and changed, my sister, that little devil had to be bribed with a promise of ‘big shopping’, her little ritual of buying lots of pens and clips and pink, butterfly hairbands, the coming weekend, to keep her mouth shut. And we were back at our works, me checking my tickets and Papa watching his cricket match on the TV like it never happened.
After all these years, I do not think Papa remembers any of it, Ayee still doesn’t know and my sister has grown up, she wouldn’t remember. But I still do, vividly. It was one of those times I was the happiest. When I think of it now, I think about how each one of us loves each other in different ways, and the weirdest one, my father’s, with his shut mouth and only gestures. How I would do anything to just live it one more time. And how I do not regret the fact that at that moment of time, I was present. I loved every bit of that night and enjoyed it.
It is one of those memories which leave a lasting impression in your life, but you only realize it years later, when you let your mind wander and it brings out these tiny, amazing memories back, and it makes your day a little better. It puts a smile on your face and in a flash, you’re back to reality, and back to your jobs. We all have tonnes of these memories which no one else might remember, or even have a clue about, but it would be an important memory. One that comes and goes in a flash, but enough to make you feel like you can go through this day. It’s like your secret treasure of happiness.