Come September (now, what does Mom know that we don’t that makes her sigh at those words? Who’s Rock Hudson?) and life became exciting. Big Bro Arrived. He missed us so-o-o much that he had to take a break from work to see us. We got to brush up our German (remember When the cat’s away …. ?) and gloat that we are now as large as those gigantic feet we have warm memories of ( Of Brothers and Sisters ). One excitement was barely over when came round 2. We drove down to Mom’s childhood home – Nani’s House.
We remember very little of the eleven-hour drive: we slept all the way through, grabbing pillows and laps according to choice.
Arrival at Nani’s House was exciting and scary. New smells, new sounds, a whole lot of new people… And Big Bro II. Yes, little did we know we have an elder bro in Nani’s House too. He’s not half as cool as our Big Bro I but more on that later.
Not sure if we have mentioned this before but we are large-hearted and intelligent, so we shall share our tips on how to make the most of a holiday in Nana-Nani House. We learnt that such a holiday is almost a tradition in many Indian homes: Moms take time off and go to visit their Moms, leaving a barrage of instructions behind on what to do with the house in their absence and bearing loads of gifts for their parents, brothers, ‘bhabis’, nieces, nephews, etc. etc. In fact, did you know that some families have kind-of religious practices such as a bride’s first ‘sawan’ (monsoon) after marriage or a new mother-to-be’s first pregnancy has to be spent in her childhood home? Big Sis may have studied sociology at college but we don’t need a degree to understand the real reason behind what are given boring labels like ‘socio-cultural conventions’: comfort, relaxation, and remaining in touch with family at crucial phases in life, during transition, and just to let your hair down and be a kid again!
My, we are sounding wise! Which brings us to Tip #1. Nani’s House is full of old tales. If you are lucky the same oldies who told bedtime stories to your Mom will still be around to tell you the same, or Mom and her brothers and sisters will go down memory lane. Most of these stories have profound moral lessons disguised colourfully and told in a sing-song manner with a lot of repetition. Mom’s favourite apparently was a tale of a brat called “Jheentio” who set off to his Nani’s house to eat a much relished dish of ‘dahi-batiyo’ only to encounter various animals on the way that wanted to make a dish of him. The story went on about how he saved himself. Our respect for “Jheentio” shot up and we promised ourselves to gain as much resourcefulness, presence of mind, and native folk intelligence as this young ‘un.
But we do have a long way to go. Our first encounter with an unknown creature didn’t inspire much courage from us. It was a strange black-faced creature that tumbled down trees and clattered on tin roofs. It was definitely scarier than the alien we saved Mom from last year (Close Encounters of the SnuZa Kind ) and had us running for our lives. Tip #2: the same wildness that will get you a smack on your rump and finger-wagging talk down at home will be forgiven ten times over at Nani’s House. The whole household left whatever it was doing at a busy time of dinner preparation and searched all over for us. We were finally discovered cowering in one of the channels of water in a field, all covered in weeds and slush. Petrified now of Mom’s outburst, we needn’t have worried. We were whisked off and cleaned up before she could get in a word edgewise. Tip # 2 has infinite possibilities and warrants a separate chapter on its own.
The only one who was in splits at our discomfiture was Cousin Muffin. That’s another thing about Nani’s House: there will be a tribe of cousins come for their holiday or living there. At times they can be pretty pesky, as Muffin was when she smirked at us and then paraded all over barking at these same creatures to shoo them off – show off! But then we learnt to follow her around and things didn’t seem so bad any more. Of course, there will always be the One Difficult To Get Along With.
Cousins can be great fun even though you become truly friendly on the last day of your stay. Tip #3 is learn to share Nana-Nani with cousins – sitting around grandparents while they sneak a between-meals titbit to you and secretly tell you how Mom was not quite the paragon she tells her own kids she used to be.
Indeed, you will not recognise your own Mom there. She is hardly ‘Mom’, the in-charge, holding the fort types. She is ‘beti’, pampered to the hilt. The one who sweats over stoves to whip up meals for the house does not make even a cup of tea there. She snaps her fingers and her favourite things are laid out for her. Tip #4: Nani’s House is Indulgence with I capital and bold. Ask and it shall be done. Actually, don’t even bother to ask. It shall be done anyway. All you have to do is have clean, wholesome fun. Run wild in the lawn, splash in water the rain gods have been over-generous with, sniff in all those corners, pretend loss of faculties at Mom’s glares and hisses, turn on your paws and follow uncle who will definitely not let Mom yell at you …
Tip #5 is a sad one. Leave taking. The farewells at the end of party time are teary and silent affairs. Tails will droop and heads will hang, and all those gifts outnumbering what you came with will compensate little. If you travel by train or car, be sure there will be a carton of pickles, local savouries and sweets that Mom has grown up with, possibly home-grown fruits. In addition, packets will be sent for the family and friends back home. The last hug is after the traditional ‘tika’ on the head and a spoon of yoghurt and jaggery that truly sweetens the journey, and the last wave will be until the car turns the bend on the driveway. For the first third of the journey back, Mom will be sniffling. Enjoy that while it lasts. All too soon, the second third of the journey will come and she will get back to being the in charge, holding the fort types, barking (yes, we do not have a copyright on that) orders, settling things, wagging her finger, telling us what to do, wondering how ‘they’ have handled her house back there, and chalking out what to do in real life till the next idyllic visit to Nana-Nani’s House.