Yet another hour of load shedding was taking place. Carrying my mug of tea (when I was 12, I was allowed tea! However it was a diluted version comprising of 75% milk and 25% tea, just so that I could act like a grown up) and pillow in hand, I camped out in the balcony, simultaneously keeping an eye on the large beehive hanging in the corner.
I let my legs dangle through the grills of the balcony to relish the drizzle and looked around, Oh! How I was going to miss this place. Summer holidays had always meant visiting my grandparents and living in this palatial house.
As far as I could look there was greenery and little homes with backyards where cattle were raised. Raised and not bred because the people here never took the cattle to be just a source of earning their daily living and an unmistakable stench of cow dung, omnipresent in the air, but that never bothered me much.
A gush of cold wind blew and I pulled the mug of tea closer to my mouth, stealing the warmth from it, and sipping it slowly as goose bumps formed on my skin. I shifted closer to the grills, turned my body towards the right to peek as far as I could to see the river. I could listen to cheerful cries, the other kids had got drenched in the waves from the river; it seemed like Ganga was in a playful mood today and left no chance to show her might.
At that instant, I heard a loud horn and saw a truck park right in front of the gate. Junglee Mama (Junglee – as in from the jungle, a name was given to him by my grandpa since he managed our farms and did look a bit like someone straight out of the jungle) jumped from the driver’s seat, and called for me to come down. I waved back at him and excitedly ran down 3 flights of stairs to meet him. I knew the day for which I had waited in anticipation, had now arrived.
By the time I had reached, the unloading process was in progress. Heaps of mangoes, litchis, coconuts, potatoes and onions were being unloaded. My grandpa kept a track of what was coming in and asked the servants to open all the rooms of the ground floor while my grandma and mother were busy checking whether the fruits were being placed carefully, lest they get spoilt.
I waited patiently for the entire process to be done while following grandpa like a little lamb. He then took out a mango from the pile and offered it to me, as soon as I greedily reached out for it, he slapped my hand.
It was a ritual, started by my grandpa that before we ate any of the fruits, we had to make an offering of it to the gods which meant pinching a tiny piece off it, take god’s name and eat it, and then by heart the name of the variety of fruit that we were eating.
The fruits and farms were my grandpa’s life. He had been looking after the farms since he was 5, due to the sudden demise of his father. Being a connoisseur of food, for my grandpa eating wasn’t something menial. You had to smell the fruit, and take little bites of it, enjoying the taste that swirled in your mouth, for that would be the true reward for the farmer who worked hard on the farms, the tree that bore the fruit, and the water and sunshine that nourished it.
I did just as I was instructed too, though at that age I didn’t understand much. Grandpa then picked up a tokri and assembled a few of all the fruits that had arrived and distributed them amongst the servants as well as instructed them to make similar tokris of fruits and hand them to the others in the locality.