Neeliah Nayaka

For holidays I’d travel to grand-ma’s home and that’d be our summer camp. Half of my summer camp would be in Thirthalli (dad’s native) and the other half in Udupi (mom’s native). The travel from Bangalore to our village ‘Patlamane’ was a tiring one with ten hours travel time. Our journey would start with a red coloured KSRTC bus from Bangalore to Shimoga. In the six hours journey I’d ask mom to buy me groundnuts, biscuits and chocolates. After some munch I’d stretch and sleep on mom and sister. Once we got off at Shimoga, we’d stop by at Thrupthi canteen to eat curd rice, one among the best curd rice I’ve had. The journey isn’t over yet, we still have a long way to cover, not distance wise but time wise. We’d have to take a bus from Shimoga to Thirthalli and then from Thirthalli to Ganapathikatte. Sometimes I’d feel travel sick and a few times that I’ve reached intact, I was supposed to run for 2km and send my cousins to mom and sister to help get our suitcases. There are two ways to reach home, one by the main road and another through our betel-nut farm. I’d take the farm road, because it’s fast and also I was scared of a pond on the main road. I’d run to grand-ma after, who would get up from her bed, smile at me and ask ‘ivaga bandhya’ (did you arrive now?). I’d say yes, then wait by her side and she would slowly pick a plastic cover under her pillow which would have my favourite orange candy. By then mom and sister would arrive and everyone gets into a melodious conversation. I’m lost in the talks and also in time now.

I’d slowly walk towards the entrance to see the vast betel-nut trees. I’d then step towards the cowshed. All the cows are munching their evening grass meal and I walk-in to speak with them. The shiny black cow standing next to the entrance is ‘Saraswathi’. Standing next to her is ‘Lakshmi’ and beside is her calf drinking milk. Lakshmi always delivers a male calf, always. The orange cow at the far corner is ‘Parvathi’. She usually uses her horns to shoo away unknowns. This cowshed has sheltered many cows in the 60 odd years, the names have changed but the stories have remained the same.

I walk near the wooden gate, pedestrians can walk by in the small opening and when a motorcycle or a four wheeler comes, someone has to slide the four wooden bars which are resting on a small pillar, to make way. I see thousands of jamun fruit on the pathway, they all are smashed and have oozed out purple liquid. I see my cousin’s jeep up the road and I run towards it. I see an old man by the jeep. He’s squatting and smoking ‘beedi’ (thin cigarette). He is wearing a shirt which I guess would have been white once, now it’s full of mud. He’s got a striped shorts and has put a towel on his shoulder. He’s got a curly hair and has cracked legs. I go near him and he throws his cigarette away. He smiles and I can see his broken tooth. He asks ‘Puttamma! chennagiddira?’ (little girl, are you doing good?). I smile back and show my broken tooth and tell him that I’m doing good.

Neeliah Nayaka, who is an essential part of my school summer holiday memories. So many jeep journeys with cousins and him, his infectious laughter, walking me up the hill to drop me at cousin’s place, his puppy face when doddamma (dad’s elder brother’s wife) would scold him for drinking and coming home, his silence, his tree climbing techniques and the wild fruits he’d bring me.

Joyful days, Joyful memories and Joyful Neeliah 🙂

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Sailing in the sea of my memories

The alarm kept buzzing and it took a few more snoozes before it was fully silenced. Mornings are a challenge themselves, while, winter mornings challenge you with a dark dare. I always thought birds recognized sunrise to wake up and that ain’t true, they shout at three in the middle of my sleep. I dragged myself to the kitchen to prepare my honey lime warm water and saw a pound of bread resting in a corner. I sail back in the sea of my memories.

My mother is busy working her way in the kitchen. She has draped a blue and red printed saree and sporting a maroon bindi on her forehead. She is making filter coffee for everyone in the house. She pours the decoction and adds the creamy milk to make it a glossy brown liquid that kick starts the day for most adults. I couldn’t see the coffee bubbling on the burner, I stood straight and barely reached the kitchen counter. I walk into the hallway and see my father in his white vest and dhothi, leaning in the sofa and reading every bit of news from the Kannada newspaper ‘prajavani’ delivered by a local boy in his cycle. I go to sit next to dad and continue to play with my semi-naked barbie doll. My sister is wearing her favorite light blue frock with white flower prints. She’s lying on the floor and scribbling words on a book with her new crayons. The black cat walks past us to enter our kitchen and continues to meow. She’s stayed outdoors all night wanting to hunt down rats of our neighborhood, but, she looks disappointed with her efforts. I leave the doll on the sofa and run behind her to the kitchen. As I try to hold her, she slips away to circle around my mother. She wants her dose of morning milk. The cat closes her eyes and licks all the droplets of milk from her bowl. I sit beside to pat her while she scratches her neck and continues to lick herself up. My mother asks me to keep a distance from the cat, she scares me that its hair would go to my tummy and result in a stomach ache. I give a deaf ear to her talk and continue to play with my black panther. She hands over a glass of milk and asks me to drink it quick. I’ve been waiting for this moment since morning and I ask her to give me slices of bread to eat along. She declines my request and says I’d be fussy and wouldn’t have my breakfast if I eat the bread now. My lips drop down and I make a crying face. She doesn’t budge and I begin to cry frantically which includes a choke that stops my inhalation. Now the cry has transformed into a shrill. Everyone in the house run to the kitchen and begin to worry. They put the bread on my palm and calm me down. I start to breathe, slow down my sob and focus on the piece of bread. My joy slowly returns and I feel accomplished. I’d won my game of bread. My sibling peeps behind my dad to watch this intense scene and probably wonders how her sister is born with a taste for bread. Maybe, only to realize that decades after this very sister moves into a country of bread and makes it her home, as if it were destined.

I can feel the happiness now and I break into a smile, while marido walks in and gives me a cheery good morning hug. I’m wearing a black shirt and a pink shorts. My hair’s all messy. Well I too begin to make some filter coffee.

and bread… I’ve saved them to eat along 🙂