Recently, I came across an old photograph of mine with my brother, sister and uncle (mom’s brother). It’s colors had faded. I was nice and thin wearing a fiery red salwar kameez, my sister in a green frock, my brother wearing a short dark pant and checkered shirt looking very boyish with thick wavy hair on his head. My uncle, a young man in his early twenties, looking dashing in his shirt and printed lungi. The four of us are sitting near a lagoon (the famous Kerala backwaters), which is just about 100 meters away from my house. The ground is very green with grass, the backdrop is of thick, old, gnarled trees and coconut trees. My uncle, being only a few years older to me, was more like a cousin, than uncle. We are all looking at the camera and appear to be smiling at some joke. Memories came back of an era and a way of life gone by.
It was the summer of 1996, sometime in April or May, We had been to Kerala during the vacation and were staying for almost 2 months. There was no television in the house, Internet and computers were not yet in there in the remote location. I was working on my first job at the time. But I had decided to look for a new job as soon as I get back. My uncle had also applied for a visa to go to one of the Gulf countries and was waiting for the response. So, we were in effect between two phases of life.
In the months of April / May, our only source of water, the wells used to go dry. In the absence of running water, we used to collect water from wherever it is available and use it for our daily chores – cooking, bathing, cleaning. Every afternoon, this is what we used to do. My uncle, mother, sister we used to go to collect water for every one of us to take bath, wash our clothes. Drinking and cooking water was collected in the morning. Post this tiresome one and half hour activity, the next two hours we used to play badminton. Making up random teams between the four of us or playing singles. Then around 6pm, we used to take our bath and then just relax.
This photo was taken during one of those evenings. After having a full day of fun, we were resting and enjoying the cool breeze from the lagoon. When we were clicking these pictures, my Uncle said something which has literally come true. He said this is probably one of our last vacations together wherein we are all single and carefree and having not a care in the world. I reacted with a ‘why not? this is how it should be every vacation’.
At this, my uncle said, ‘Soon, I will go to the Gulf and start working. Next you will get married and will have to depend on the whims and fancies of your husband to spend time with us. Then in a few years, I will also get married. Then, sister will get married and move out. So, in effect, we may never meet again, all four of us at the same time. And even if we meet, we will all be changed, having our own responsibilities and duties’. Therefore, he wanted us to enjoy this vacation as much as we can. And enjoy, we did. In an unplugged world of no TV, no internet, no phones, we had the time of our lives. We used to talk late into the nights, wake up early mornings, have leisurely cups of tea, breakfast, then laze around reading books, playing cards or just chatting, evenings packed with badminton games, strolls.
And, sadly, my uncle’s prophecy did come true. It’s 18 years since then and we have never had a similar vacation. I don’t think that vacation can be recreated. But the memories remain.
** Image courtesy : mapsofindia.com