It’s December 21st. Last day of school before we break for Christmas and new year. We have an inter-house dramatics competition. Our play is a ghost thriller and the best part is, it is slated to be the last of the four. It revolves around a woman who suddenly appears at the home of a colonel who is having a quiet drink with his friend, and it later turns out that she was murdered an hour ago and is actually a ghost. The audience gets the chills after our play, and we end up on top of the podium. It’s time to celebrate.
I wake up early next morning, but Aai (mom) pats my cheek and ruffles my already messed up hair. ” Go to sleep bachchu (kiddo). It’s holiday time remember?”. I sleepily smile and cuddle up in the blanket again. Aai tucks me in and starts getting ready for office. After a while Baba (dad) wakes me up, and while I’m still rubbing my eyes, picks me up and takes me to the bathroom. I brush, clean-up and have my breakfast and Baba drops me off to my grand parents’ place on his way to the office.
As their house comes into view, I can see Aajoba (grandpa) sitting in the warm morning sun bathing the courtyard, soaking up the warmth in his bones. It’s still just 9.30 am, and there is a chill in the air, so this sunbath is all the more welcome for his health. Aaji (grandma) is slowly getting about her daily chores. I yell and wave at Aajoba as soon as he’s within earshot, and Baba really has to balance the scooter due to all my frantic moving. I jump down and race to hug Aajoba. Baba flashes his big smile, greets Aaji and Aajoba, warns me to behave myself, and drives away to the office. I just lie down on Aajoba’s lap and take in the warm sunlight.
Mercury rises and we move to the cooler shade of a mango tree in our courtyard. Aajoba enchants me with his childhood stories, how he wrestled a local goon, how his father was the head of his village and how people feared and respected him, and how he has seen the world transform around him. Aaji calls us inside for lunch, and keeps aside my favourite godhadi (home made blanket). After she tucks me in, it’s time for her to take me to her childhood days, when her cow called Kapila would wreak havoc and could be controlled only by her father, and how they taught the peanut seller a lesson when he charged them way too much for a cone full of roasted peanuts. I doze off to a warm and dreamy nap.
It’s 4 pm, and Aaji wakes me up. My friends have been calling, and she has kept tea ready. I quickly get ready, find the bat and ball, and rush off to play. We play frenetically, as if there is no tomorrow and today is the last holiday we’ll ever get. Piling on runs and taking wickets is the order of the hour, and we are oblivous to everything. The cows return home from the pasture, people come back from work, the street lights light up and Aai and Baba come back from office to pick me up. My friends and I decide on the match format and teams for the next day, and I hop onto Baba’s scooter.
Night falls and Aai makes a delicious dinner, followed by a hot cup of masala milk. Baba builds up a small fire in a big pan like container used for gardening, and we all gather around it. Taai (elder sister) tells everyone her day at school, and we play antakshari for a while. The fire is gone but has left glowing embers. Baba takes the pan to a corner of the bedroom and keeps it safely, out of reach of everyone. I’m half asleep by the time he tucks me in and kisses me on the forehead.
All I know is someone ruffling my hair as Aaji and Aajoba hold my hands and take me to a land where holidays are full of cool breezes and warm sunny mornings.