Woh bachpan ka saawn
Woh kaagaz ki kashti
Woh baarish ka pani
-Jagjit & Chitra Singh (Urdu Ghazal)
I was just about to head off to bed here in Gujarat, India, when I felt a sense of dampness on my pillow due to humidity brought on by the Monsoon. This felt pleasantly familiar – a memory box from my past started churning. I hadn’t thought about this in ages.
Closing my eyes to let the memory engulf me, I saw a dark sky illuminated by stars, heard laughter propagated by aunts and cousins, felt coolness of the soft breeze, and smelled the pungent smell of Odomos (a mosquito repellent). Beautiful summer nights – spent in the cradle of the agaasi (terrace).
Precious memories of a fun childhood.
Confident due to the cover provided by darkness, my relatives sleeping on mattresses next to me would open up to tell hilarious stories and jokes; the others tittering with laughter. The aunts would gossip, while the kids talked about their lives outside of summer vacation. At sunrise, we would all wake up due to the dampness brought on by morning dewdrops (*click* memory trigger).
Sadly, these days of sleeping under the stars are now too few and far between due to a certain progression in India. Whereas before, our privacy on the bungalow terrace was ensured by the nearby edifices being of similar height – now many of them have been torn down to accommodate our bulging population in tall, voyeuristic apartment complexes. Furthermore, sleep is no longer broken due to the dew but rather due to the incessant honking on streets that are too narrow to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic (consumerism, check).
And beyond anything, this fading of Terrace Nights is brought on by the dying of a certain kind of summer vacation. One that was spent in reuniting with cousins on an annual basis, on watching summer Bollywood blockbusters in 1-screen movie houses, on traveling to the same ancestral home every summer to eat a truck-full of Kesar mangoes. Life is too fast now – people too distant (literally and figuratively) and summer days at Grandma’s house are replaced with summer camps and exotic vacations.
For me, I will always miss sleeping in the gentle arms of the indigo nights, surrounded by an atmosphere that knew but innocence.
~Bhale chin lo Mujhse ye meri Jawani~