“Seema…… SEEEEMAAAA………where are you?”
I hear my mother calling out my name, first in desperation and then in a panic, with rising decibel points. I get up from the place where I’ve been trying to hide out for the past hour or so. I look towards where my mother’s voice is coming from, but before making my way, I turn to the small lake, and sigh, promising myself to come back to enjoy its beauty and calm.
“Mom, I’m here”, I declare as I make my way towards her. I see her expressions change from relief and then to anger in nanoseconds. As the gap between us closes, I’m prepared for an outburst about my careless behaviour, but before she can vent it out, I say, “I’m sorry. I needed to get out of there. There were just too many people.”
I notice her shoulders droop as she sighs and says, “But you should have at least told someone. Come, let’s get back to the house now.”
We were in a quaint little village called Benakatti. Though I hadn’t been to the village in the past five years or so, I have very fond childhood and growing up memories of this place. Mainly because, there always seemed to be so much greenery and flora around, which was sadly hard to find in Bangalore, despite it being one of the greenest cities in India.
We were in a quaint little village called Benakatti.
The lake near where I had been hiding out was about a kilometer away from our ancestral home called Bennakkati Mane, literally meaning ‘the home of Benakkatti’. It wasn’t until I became a teenager and had once jokingly asked, “So this house is actually the home of the entire village?” that my grandma had scowled and informed,
“You ignorant child! Bennakkatti happens to be our family name and not just the name of this village.”
I smile affectionately and with a bit of sadness rushes forth as I think about my grandma. She was a fiery one! Unbidden, my eyes well up with tears as it suddenly strikes me that I will never be reprimanded by her again. I’m brought back to the present as my mom declares, “We’re having a meal of all ajji’s favourite food items for lunch and dinner today. We expect a lot of people to show up, even more than those at the prayer meeting. So, please try not to run away like that again.”
We are now at the gate of Bennakkati Mane and as I’m removing my footwear before entering the house, someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn to see a tall, dusky and bespectacled guy, who smiles and then says sadly, “I’m so sorry about your loss Kobbu. I know you were very close to her, even though you two had your differences.”
I don’t recognize him, but I smile, mumble a thank you and quickly enter the house. I had forgotten all about him, but when he smiles as I serve him Haalbai during lunch, I recall he had called me ‘Kobbu’. In the next second, I realize who he was and blurt out suddenly without realizing that we’re surrounded by almost 500 people, “Dumki! Fuck, how did you grow up to be so tall and handsome?”
I blush as he guffaws and people turn to look at me disdainfully. I walk away keeping my head down and run to my grandma’s bedroom. All my childhood memories come rushing back as I plow down on the bed.
Dumki, meaning failure and Kobbu, meaning fat, were the names Aditya and I had given each other during our childhood. We were inseparable then; we had spent almost every spring together, cooped up outside the veranda at my grandma’s home or anywhere in the village, where we spent hours talking, playing and planning out our whole lives.
It suddenly hits me that those spring afternoons and evenings were a major reason why I had such fond memories attached to this house and village.
After the meal is done, Aditya manages to find me. As he sits down next to me, I apologize profusely for my inappropriate behaviour, but he smiles and asks, “Have you been to the spot yet?” I nod and probably look very stupid as I nod even more enthusiastically when he suggests, “Let’s go back together.”
We walk out together of the house towards the spot where I had been hiding earlier. It was on a day very similar to today, that we had chanced upon it. I was chasing Aditya after he had snatched a mango I had been sucking on. I had run behind him till he went down a slope towards the village temple. After a few minutes of vain attempts to catch up, I chose to give up and plonked myself where I was standing at that point. It was only after I had a few moments to catch my breath that I could take in the surroundings. As I had looked around at the natural beauty I was engulfed in, I couldn’t help but remark, “Wow! Seems like I have discovered a hidden gem!”
I was almost at the edge of the lake. At some ten steps from where I was sitting, there was a tiny park of sorts with only two benches, which overlooked the lake and the opposite bank where one could see the mountain range in the distance.
These two benches were surrounded by all kinds of colourful flowers making it appear as if the benches had spurted right out of the earth. The greenery and flowers around were drooping over the benches, providing a natural shade. It looked as if the benches were enveloped in the arms of leaves and flowers, and it also felt like mother nature was protecting them from the outward world, being all possessive.
It looked so inviting that I had walked towards it forgetting all about chasing Aditya. I was sitting on one of the benches, all lost in thought when Aditya had joined me after a few minutes. He too had seemed mesmerized.
From that day on, it became ‘the spot’. We’d spend hours there, just sitting beneath the trees and flowers. It was there that we had named each other Kobbu and Dumki. We called each other these names, because I was quite chubby back then and he had had to repeat his class 3 as he had failed, and I couldn’t stop teasing him about it. Both of us mostly visited the village during our school vacations in March, April and May, which happened to be spring season. The one time that I had visited in October, the spot had looked so desolate it was hard to believe I was looking at the same place. I had wanted to return to Bangalore as soon as possible because even Dumki wasn’t around to keep me company.
During those spring vacations, Aditya and I would go out for walks after lunch and dinner every day, and then sit on one of these benches playing cards or board games, or spend time talking about school or family, or just sit there in silence observing and absolving in the beauty around us.
“Here we are!”, Aditya declares, bringing me back to the present. As he sit down and holds out his hand to offer the seat next to him on the bench, I can hardly believe he is the same dorky guy from my childhood who used to be my best friend. I take his hand and sit down comfortably, feeling the years fade away. It feels like we’re children again, carefree and irresponsible. Even the surroundings seem to agree, as there we were, beneath the trees and flowers in full blossom, just like those many spring days we had spent there.
I can’t help but feel grateful too, that my grandmother’s demise had come during a season that indicated positivity. Spring marks the rejuvenation of flora after the chilly winter and nature blooms in its full candour, making me draw an analogy between the springing of life in nature and the beauty it brings in, with that of something positive coming in my life too.
Though I’d had lost my grandmother, I had found a long-lost friend, and that too at a time which happened to be a season when I had bonded with them the best.
I take Aditya’s hand in mine, and we gaze out at the setting sun and its beautiful reflection in the lake water. As a few petals from the flowers surrounding us fall on both of us, we are filled with sadness about the loss of a dear one, as if she was blessing us through the falling petals. But in the same moment, as we look at each other and smile warmly, we’re filled with positivity about the future too.
Unraveling another chapter of nature’s diaries,
Spring is the perfect me for such ﬂurries.
So, gaze into the beauty of nature,
Wonder about the artistry of its creator.
That might give you the push you need,
For being able to give your best and succeed
When you have so much of nature to absorb and observe,
It’s sure to bring to your lips a curve.
The trees, the birds, and the ﬂowers will be your friends
And to all your stresses they will nicely tend.
(Poem excerpt from the book A Rustic Mind)
Note: The above story was originally published in the print and e-version of Litgleam Magazine.
Thank you for reading. Wish you all a very colorful and happy spring.
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