Its a crisp fall afternoon. A chai beckons. I need to rest my eyes and stretch my legs. “Lets go pick some books!” I call out to my kids and we set out in light jackets and masks; my older one lagging behind, counting the number of steps ( a new habit ) and my younger one skipping and singing ahead of me. I ask one to slow down and the other to speed up. We eventually get there, the library at the end of our street; we find our curb side pickup bundle. There is a few moments of excitement to know what is in store and what new books they will get to read tonight. I am excited too, catching glimpses of the books I am looking forward to as well. And soon we are heading back.
“Anna, look at that tree. All red now” chimes my little one. We pause, admiring the shimmering red and orange leaves in the equinox sun. And soon it’s a game to spot all trees that have started preparing for the frosts and chilly days ahead. Some busy squirrels cross our paths. Some acorns are picked and stuffed into their pajama pockets. Their pace is trundling by the time we spot a neighbor’s pear tree full of half gnawed at fruits. I am growing impatient now “hurry along, I have work to do” I say. “Amma that was 1256 steps” says my older one jubilantly. I humpf distracted.
We get home and I head to make my chai. I grate in extra ginger already dreaming of the stinging taste I will get to sip in a bit. My husband is still on his call, pacing back and forth as he talks to customers laughing making jokes; It comes naturally to him, I quip in my head, he is a great PR person – I reaffirm one of my many realizations in this shelter-in.
We are making do ok, I guess; the thought crosses my mind, as I watch the tea leaves simmer. From unknown grief to caution and some risks for sanity, we have accepted and embraced the daily sweet nothings of life now. Never forgetting to be grateful and thankful in the process. I sigh, knowing it isn’t over – wishing well for everyone in our immediate midst, as I strain my tea filling the cup.
“Lets do the evening nap this weekend amma” comes a request from my little one, tugging at my thighs. I shake out of my reverie. I lift him up and get showered with kisses and clutching hugs. “shhh Its our little secret” I tell him. I look forward to the one hour of cuddles from him, as he naps and I read a book, a new routine formed for weekend afternoons now.
I smile and sip my tea, walking back to my nook at the corner of the dining table, zoning back to work. Another day of little nothings will soon come to an end, but I couldn’t have asked for anything better at this moment!
Opposite the Miramar beach in Panjim, Goa is a hanuman temple. I would surprise my mother every time I readily agree to visit the temple every Thursday and Saturday, sometimes even reminding her to; because it gave me the chance to dip my feet in the unending waters and watch the gorgeous sunset of miramar. To date it is one of my favorite beaches, that I visited every summer for 4 years in the early 2000s.
Amma is not a beach person. So I remember one Saturday morning, when Appa and I set off to visit one beach after another to the south of miramar.We started with donna Paula, Majorda, Colva, ate some puliodharai Amma had packed for us for lunch and proceeded to Angola and ended at Palolem. Alas! I have no pictures of that little sojourn we took meandering through the narrow streets of Goa on a bright sunny day and take a dip every now and then at some of the beaches which were rather secluded and wonderful.
Those aren’t my only memories of Goa. I remember the hilly terrains of Panjim, the way the city swelled and bursted to life in the monsoon months, the shops that closed for afternoon siesta, the beautiful white church** I spent a lot of time walking the stairs around and the strange 3 storied quarters we lived it, which was right in front of Wendell Rodrick’s house ( well probably one of his houses ). And if that was not enough, I finally learnt swimming, prepared for my GRE and took my driving license in Panjim.
I had no friends there. And yet I loved my stints in the quietude of that lovely city with its heritage architecture, cautious buzz, marveling at the Portuguese names and listening to sing song Konkani that made no sense. Little did I realize then, that’s the closest I was ever getting in adult life to relaxing summers, not one but for three years I spent two whole months, enjoying the rains and sipping endless teas and taking walks.
The memories came flooding back, as I finished reading “Bombay Balchao” last night. Set in Cavel, Bombay the book warmed my heart and also broke it many times. It shattered stereotypes and also reinforced them with equal gusto. But all in all it told about the beauty of relationships formed in a community. Communities we are all privy of growing up in back home. Of streets and neighbors, knowing too much, helping too much, being there and also not knowing when not to be.
I felt the book helped me come a full circle. As the 18 year old in Goa with no friends, I have often imagined how I’d be if I had a brethren there to share my love for the place and I felt like a wallflower throughout the book as the protagonists in Bombay Balchao came to life. And when that was coupled with the bustle of Bombay in the 70s, it was a real treat!!
I remember Amol Palekar and Tina Munim in Baton Baton Mein, where she plays a girl from Cavel; they croon to “Suniye, Kahiye”… along marine drive and Rosie Perreira speaks in bollywood exaggerated “men” and “re”.. It is one of the movies I best enjoyed as a teenager and Again I watched it while listening to the pitter patter of incessant monsoons in the heart of Wonderful Panjim!
** Trivia : It is the same church in the SRK-Ash movie Josh