Written by Suchi Chamaria –
Walking through the prickly closely planted tea bushes with my grandfather, is one of my fondest memories as a child. My sister and I ran deep into the bushes, while my grandfather who we called “Bau” short for “bauji” tried to catch up in his dhoti and chappals with the help of his walking stick. It was already time to head back to the directors bungalow, a majestic 200 year old wooden structure that stood tall right in the centre of the estate. My grandma waited at home with some delicious paneer curry prepared by our cook whose parents named him “Jungle”. On our way home my sister and I would pick flowers that we would serve to our pretend customers at our fine-dine restaurant laid out on the stairs that run right in front of the bungalow. We would spend hours on the staircase with our friends, our manager Sharma Uncle’s daughters, and other children of the staff families that called Tasati home. My sister and I were always fascinated by the skills the country children had, they could climb trees, they could swim in a flowing river, they could ride their bicycles through any terrain, they could fight a snake; heck, they probably knew how to fly. For us they were super kids, while my sister and I were the dumb city mice, who would run away at the sight of one.
My grandma would take us to Phuentsholing for the evening, what used to be a bustling market town right across the Indian border in Bhutan. Indians flocked from all over the country to come to this little town, because of their no visa and no import duty policies, we could buy fancy erasers and pencils in a time when ‘Nataraj’ was the only choice one had. The evening would be wrapped up with a scrumptious meal of momos, thukpa, and Maggie.
My sister and I would then spend the night looking at the starry sky, a pleasure we didn’t have living in the city, while Jyotsna Didi, our nanny stayed awake to tuck us in.
We would be woken up early morning by our grandparents to go to the mandir they had built not too far from the bungalow. We didn’t mind waking up just after a few hours of sleep, because the mornings were so fresh and green, unlike the grey mornings in Kolkata. We would take a quick shower, and pick the choicest flowers from our garden to take the temple. This was the only time the Mali bhaiya would let us pick his flowers from his finely manicured beds. Otherwise, our pretend customers would have to make do with the wild flowers growing outside his periphery.
Our grandma would let us commit a small sin after we had offered our prayers, we would be allowed to eat eggs for breakfast, but it had to be outside our house in the garden, and prepared on a coal/wood make shift stove. These were the best rules ever. We loved even the rules of this place. Foreign vacations had nothing on these summers.
I used to take our annual trip with our grandparents for granted. They happened every year after my mid-term exams. How I wish to go back and do those silly, creative things with my little sister and our new found best-friend super-kids.