We took an ST bus in the afternoon and reached the place early morning at 6. There it was, the house with its ever welcoming vibe, with old roof tiles, rugged brick walls yet so beautiful. And there in the veranda stood two people waiting eagerly for us to arrive. Aaji and Aajoba(Grandma and Grandpa) used to wake up early(like any normal day in a village) and patiently wait to watch their children and grandchildren arrive home every summer.
The house was humble.There was nothing fancy about it. Everything in it little or much was sufficient for the simple life that aaji and aajoba lived.
But the place had a different aura about it. It was welcoming just as the hearts of the two people who created it.
My parents, my brother and I used to spend a good 2-3 weeks there. But it was never enough. The two weeks would pass by at jet speed and at the end of it we would be pleading with our parents to postpone our return tickets. But to no avail.
I cannot forget Aajoba's bespectacled look, with a wooden stick in his hand wearing a dhoti and Aaji in her cotton navvari. The picture is etched in mind.
Those few weeks spent at our ancestral home were absolute fun. It was like taking us kids to disneyland but an even better experience. Summers meant mango time! Me and my cousins used to relish the hapuus(alphonso)! And the mangoes tasted so much better when we used to aim at them with stones and bring them to the ground. It was sort of an achievement for us- a prize for our efforts! The mango juice dripped all across the hands and on our clothes while we ate it. The jack fruit (I wasn't very fond of it) hung so low on the tree and was so easily available that my aunts used to take take the trouble of make a vegetable outta that (slimy spiky smelly )fruit after almost every 2-3 days!
A vacation wouldn't end without going to the beach and collecting shells! I have always been so crazy about beaches. And then there was a fort we couldn't miss. It was old, it was ruined it had nothing but a forest and a few walls still standing. Yet it was a place we had to go visit. At any cost. En route to the fort was my uncle's farm. We used to sit beside a small well there watching him do all the hard work and we would play with a few frogs around.
There were a hundred relatives to meet. And we could not avoid going to their homes or they would get upset. And then there was the "ritual" of giving them sweets, clothes or money. Yes that was a mandate(that came from Aaji dearest).
It was a routine for Aaji to go up to the forest in the fort to gather wooden sticks. They were used to light fire for cooking. In her free time she used to go on with her 'gazhaalis'(stories). Her laughter was contagious and so charming. I sometimes see the same charm in my mother's laughter. Aajoba used to get a handful of kaanda bhajjis packed in paper for us in the evening. Seated on his favorite wooden bench, eating the bhajji with us he would talk about random incidences. We nodded along if his talks made sense and asked him counter questions.If they didn't make sense, well...we still nodded along anyway.
At night, my cousins, uncle, aunts and I would sit outside in the veranda after dinner. While they all talked I would only listen and gaze at the uncountable stars in the sky. There were so many of them. One doesnt get to see so many stars in the sky in a city thanks to the lights all around. And just about when I would have reached mid space while star gazing, my thought train would get interrupted by Aajoba's shout. 'It is 12 already! When are you'll going to sleep?!'. And with that command we all would pick up our chairs and march into the house. No, we were not supposed to mess with that man and his commands.
Years passed by. Aaji Aajoba grew older...weaker. And then they were gone one day. Both of them.
We still go to our native place during summers. It is the memory, the undying warmth of two loving grandparents that beckons us there. The place is still beautiful and inexplicably so.
The two of them wait at the door for us to arrive like always...in our hearts.