12.06.2007

Ajji Mane (Grandma's house)

That would be the response of most of my friends when encountered with the question of what they would do or where they would go for summer holidays. And mostly it meant one's mom's mom's house since it was almost always true that the dad's parents stayed with one.
This response was however never true for me. My ajji mane was right beside my other ajji's mane, even sharing a compound wall! So no one ever thought that we should go spend 2 months in the next house when we could as well have fun in both the houses without needing to pack. Every rule had an exception and there was one in our case too when during one holiday season in my 1st std, Shaani (mom's mom who we used to call with that name for short) invited me and my brother to stay over completely for a week. We were very excited. For me going to Shaani's house was always like going to wonderland. It was an old house with a high tiled roof and minimalistic interior but it was always a place I used to want to go to. The main reason was that it meant getting away from the mundane at our house and be pampered and not asked to do anything. Shaani was a wonderful loving person. Unfortunately I do not have too many memories of her except for the one week I stayed with her. Me and my brother did nothing and were treated like stars. Shaani used to cook yummy food and we would gorge on it. That was also the week when I learned to soap my own back while taking bath so it was productive despite laziness :). I also remember drying my hair over a jute basket under which glowered "Sambrani" an incense. One thing etched in my mind was my grandma's simple solution to constant bickering between me and my brother for the bath towel. We had the exact same looking towels and every morning there was an uproar of who had to use which. She simply stitched our initials into the towels using a running stitch and that drew the curtains on our sibling drama! I sat with her and observed how she stitched which actually became my inspiration to start embroidering five years later. Shaani was the most patient lady I have ever seen. I do remember being extremely shy with her and I cant fathom why. Cut to a few years later when Shaani was no more and her house was still the centre of all attention for us. I remember spending many dark and cloudy afternoons on my cousin's bed, sharing a rug with her as she narrated to me stories of Hindi movies complete with dialogues! I knew the stories of Kabhi Kabhi and some Rajesh Khanna movies much before I ever got to see them. Shaani's house has a long compound running all around it which became our activity center. A big team of guys could easily play cricket there and so they did. I stuck to playing badminton though. The way the compound was tunneled ensured that not much wind blew there making it ideal for good badminton matches. We even used to tie a jute string, from the old teak tree to a nail in the opposite wall, which served as the net. There were many occasions where the shuttlecock would end up on the roof and then we had to wait till a tall person could get it down for us. I learnt to cycle in that compound and in later years even learned to ride a two wheeler, neither of which I ever rode courageously outside that compound. Going to Shaani's house meant jumping over the wall for me. Very rarely till I reached engineering college did I ever take the gate to enter it. There was always a warmth and charisma to that place.
Today the house is lying forlorn and in shambles and not because nobody cares anymore. Time and life have overtaken what was once a very congenial peaceful existence. Change is always constant and in this hour of remorse and recollection, one should always look back at the character my ajji mane has given to each one of its occupants. Every person who has crossed its threshold has come on top of life with a positive attitude and a blessing for Shaani.
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