Looking at my life today in the middle of a concrete jungle in Bangalore, running to catch the cab to work, struck in traffic jams and trying to walk on inexistent footpaths I often feel thankful and lucky to my parents who sent me packing to my grandparent’s place every summer vacation growing up. Of all the summer vacations I spent there I still can’t forget my first summer at my grandparent’s place. The events of that beautiful day still play fresh in my head. I share this experience with all when I felt 100% real.
“It is so boring here aggi.” I spoke disappointed looking at my grandmother.
I had just turned ten when my parents had decided that it would be best for me spend my summer vacations at my grandparents house in Bagamandala, a small village in the far end of Coorg. Having never spent a day in a village before the lifestyle of the sleepy village disappointed me, there was no television nor were any friends to play with. Even if I did make friends I was not sure how I would play with them, my video games were back home in Bangalore.
“How can you live without T.V, ajji.”
“Come here let me teach you a game.” Ajji smiled as she called me towards here.
“Your games are boring ajji, I miss my friends. I want to go back.”
“You make friends here too Harsha come let’s go for a walk.”
“It is five o’clock now aggi, I miss watching Captain Planet. Can’t you buy a T.V ajji?”
“T.V is not good for you Harsha, come let me talk you out for a walk.”
“Where are we going?”
“We are going to make some friends.”
Walking was the only option as Ajji didn’t believe in cars or scooters. With heavy feet dragging them across the road I walked behind Ajji looking at the strange faces of people around.
The small village had just one main road on either sides of which were some shops. From my recent trips to the shops with the Ajji I had come to recognize a few that lined the road. There was one coffee curing works from where a thick aroma of coffee filled the air, opposite it was Rajanna’s store where Ajji bought most of her provisions, a small Cauvery Darshine stood beside the shop which was completely out of limits for me, Antha’s paper and milk shop which I was forced to visit early morning for Ajja’s Hindu paper, Prajavani – a Kannada Daily and Shakti newspaper – a local Coorg news daily along with a liter of milk.
“Where are we going Ajji?”
“We are going to the school ground.”
“I don’t want to run in the ground, I am already so tired.”
“Why are you so tired Harsha you have been just lazing around the whole day?”
“You don’t know how horrible it is for me to live without T.V, cricket and my friends.”
“Which is why we are going to the ground, I have often seen kids playing cricket there, may be you can join them Harsha.”
“Cricket here? Do they even know the rules here?”
“If they don’t you teach them the rules.”
“It is not that simple Ajji and I don’t have my cap or my bat, how will I play?”
“You can borrow their bat.”
Nodding my head I picked up pace to walk alongside Ajji. I loved cricket I was the best batsman in my road, I once hit the ball so hard that it broke Lakshmi aunty’s windows and there was once when we lost the ball in Venkat uncle’s compound. The small road was our home ground, the second hump on the road our boundary line, and the compound walls our wickets.
The road ahead walking with ajji bent to the right and slid into a slope, walking along the road as we took the right we came past an old white building, pointing to the building ajji spoke
“You know what that is?”
“No, it looks like an old house.”
“That is the Government hospital that old room there, that was where you were born.”
“I was born here I thought I was born in Bangalore.”
“No Harsha you were born here and in that room was where I first held you.” She smiled at me
“I was born here I thought I was a city boy.”
Hearing my comment Ajji burst into laughter
“Are you sad that you found out now you are a village boy?”
“No I live in Bangalore, so I am a city boy.” I spoke firm shaking away any thoughts of being a village boy.
Laughing and holding my hands ajji walked ahead, as we walked past the hospital down the road on our left in a big piece of land was the Bagamandala Primary school and on the right was a massive ground that brought memories of the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
“This is the ground.” I spoke a little shocked looking at the size of the gorund.
“Yes and that is the school where your mother studied till her 7th standard.”
“Amma studied only till seventh?”
“No this is primary school for student till seventh after that you go to high school, which on the other side of Bagamandala.”
I stood silent looking at the school my school in Bangalore a single building with no ground looked pale in comparison with this village school. At least ten times bigger than my school, the school sat on a vast expanse of land filled with beautiful garden with vibrant coloured flowers, mango and areca nut trees spread across.
“Come let me introduce you to the boys here.”
“Ajji this is a huge ground.”
“Have you played in such a ground before?”
“This is like Chinnaswamy stadium, Ajji.”
Smiling she held my hand and pulled me forward to enter the ground. Standing at the entrance of the ground I looked at the spectacular image that lay in front of me, to the right of the ground on a much higher plane was the old hospital building and to the left the land dove 50 feet down to a vast stretch of lush green paddy fields and straight ahead overlooking the village and the ground stood a tall mountain peaks touching the cloudless sky.
With cool breeze swaying in the air and no harsh heat of sun around the ground felt as close to heaven it could ever get for me.
“This ground is so beautiful ajji.”
“Come meet your new friends.”
“Come here Harsha meet Anantha, Kiran, Venktesh, Girish, Guru and Ravi.”
They all looked older than me, intimidated a little I softly said hello and waived my hand at them.
“Are you a batsman or a bowler?” Kiran the oldest of the lot asked me.
“I am a batsman.” I played a shot with my hand as the bat in the air.
“Okay for now come and field in the boundary you can bat after Ravi and Anantha.”
Taking my place at the boundary I stood looking at Kiran who was about to bowl, running up to the stumps he bowled with utmost precision. Over arm bowling I thought to myself, I had hardly any experience of playing on such a pitch. Ravi at the batting end looked to be in fine form, the next bowl from Kiran he hit straight over the Anantha’s head for six, the distance from the batsman to the boundary was almost twice that of my compound wall wicket and the second hump in Bangalore. Mentally calculating my chances of surviving at the crease I stood in thought looking at the mountain peaks.
Stumps flying suddenly there was a loud cheer, ‘Hurray’ I saw Anatha shout who had clean bowled the star batsman Ravi. Excited I ran to join Anantha in his celebration.
“Well bowled Anantha.” Kiran patted his back as I joined the big boys nodding my head in approval.
“Come on one more wicket” I clapped my hands as I ran back to take my position at the boundary line, excited but nervous of my chances with the bat I stood feeling an experience so real for the first in my life.
Anantha turned out to be a better batsman than Ravi, legside and offside, over my head and behind the wicket he hit the ball to all parts of the ground. “Everyone is a champion here.” I stood thinking surprised by their ability to hit the ball.
Almost lost hope of batting any time soon I stood looking at the birds chirping and flying back home, when all of a sudden I heard a voice shout
“Harsha catch it.”
I turned up to look at the ball flying towards me but the sight in the background caught my attention more, the yellow sun was now slowly sliding behind the mountain peaks like the drawings I had filled my colouring books with, the sky painted in bright orange had never looked so vibrant to me, mesmerized by the sunset I lost all sight of the ball hurdling towards me.
“Ouch” I felt a sharp pain as I fell on my bum only then to realize the ball had smacked me in my forehead.
“What happened, Harsha?” Everyone rushed to me
“Nothing, I am okay.” I pulled myself up rubbing my forehead.
“How did you miss such an easy catch?” Kiran demanded
“I have never seen anything so beautiful before.” I pointed at the sun that had half slid behind the mountain.
Looking at me they burst into laughter.
“Kiran, look the watchman is leaving.” Anantha suddenly pointed out to an old man walking away from the school gate.
“Let’s wait till he crosses the hospital.”
Confused I stood with them waiting for the watchman to cross the hospital and walk away from our sight.
“Come quickly we don’t have much time.” Kiran gestured to move
Not sure what they were up to but excited I jumped across the compound walls with them to enter the school yard. Running along we reached a mammoth mango tree. Green and raw but huge mango hung behind almost every leaf of the tree.
“Quickly climb up.” Kiran ordered everyone.
With zero experience of climbing trees, I tried to climb with my sandals on and slipped and fell hard on my bum again, watching me struggle Anatha came to my rescue, after taking his advice I took off my sandal taking a good grip of a small branch I pulled myself up the tree. Climbing one branch at a time I reached dizzying heights, carefully positioning myself I slowly plucked one mango after another, sitting on one branch I pulled out a mango to take a bite,
“Not now just pluck the fruits we will eat later.” Anantha shouted at me
Nodding my head but a little angry I started filling my pockets as they bugled beyond their limits.
Kiran sitting on the top most branches shouted
“Run everyone, the watchman is coming back.”
All of a sudden everyone were jumping off the tree, Anantha monitoring me gestured me to jump, climbing the tree seemed so easy but when it came to jumping my heart raced in fear, forced by everyone shouting from the ground, I closed my eyes and jumped down, hurting my ankle on landing I was helped to my feet by Kiran.
Hobbling at first and then managing to fight the pain I started to run towards the compound wall, we were about to jump across when I realized I had forgotten my pair of sandals by the tree,
“I forgot my chappal.” I smacked my forehead.
“Forget it.” Ravi ordered
“Ajji will kill me.” Tears had almost filled my eyes when Kiran stepped in
“Anantha you go with Harsha and get the chappal, Ravi and me will take care of the watchman.”
Running swiftly with Anatha I reached the tree and quickly wore my sandals, rushing back we saw Ravi and Kiran getting chased by the watchman with a stick
“Kiran we got the chappal.” I shouted like a fool to draw the watchman’s attention to us. On spotting us younger boys the watchman changed his target to us hoping he could out run us.
“Jump you fool.” Anantha hit my back.
Jumping over the compound I felt a sharp pain in my ankle, with the adrenaline rush pushing my legs forward I ran forgetting all about the pain that tried to pull me back, running fast away from the watchman only looking back to see if he was close enough to catch me I felt like an outlaw but for the first time I felt alive, excited by the rush laughing and looking at Anantha I joined the group and matched their speed to run alongside them. A few minutes and a few turns later we had arrived by the river side, with the water shallow enough for us to cross we ran across it to reach to the other side. After crossing the river Kiran gestured to us that we were clear from any danger and we could rest now. Panting and breathing heavy I looked at them with smile.
Pulling out the mango from my pocket I looked at Kiran,
“You can eat here don’t worry Harsha.”
I bit into the sour fruit to relish the spoils of our adventure, now a bit relaxed we sat by the river as the light slowly started to fade, the silence around only filled with the sounds of the water and a sometimes a chrip of the bird felt almost alien to my ears. Taking another bite I spoke
“I wish we had some salt and chili powder it would have been superb.”
“Wait for a month you will get to taste sweet ripe mangos.” Ravi patted my shoulders
My eyes were already filled with dreams of another chase scene and of my pockets filled with sweet mangos.
I pulled my hand aside to lay down on my back. The light around slowly faded to make way for the night, beside me forming a rude circle everyone else pushed themselves on their backs too. Looking at the sky fade into darkness I slowly witnessed the sky come to life with sparkling stars that filled the dark sky. For the first time the night sky looked real to me, I had heard in my grand mom tales of skies filled with millions of stars but had witnessed a sight so real before.
“I think you should go back before your grandmother comes looking for you.” Kiran spoke
Not wanting to leave but forcing myself I got up to leave,
“Wait Anantha will show you the way and don’t forget it’s your turn to bat tomorrow.”
“I know and I will also bring some salt and chili powder tomorrow.” I smiled as everyone broke into soft laughs.
“Your grandmother told me you are leaving soon to Bangalore.”
“No way, I am not going anywhere soon I still have to taste the sweet mangoes.” I smiled as I walked away with Anatha my new best friend.
This post has been written for Kissan 100% Real Blogger Contest on IndiBlogger. Do check out other participants posts, do vote for your favourite here.