Silly Sunday chat with my buddy…. Me asking questions….chombdepana, as it often gets called. And suddenly he switches to “Kapus kondyachi goshta saangu ka?” All Marathi speaking kids know exactly where that leads – endless rounds of “_ _ _ _ kay mhantes, kapus kondyachi goshta saangu ka?” You can laugh or groan, but you can’t escape!!
And suddenly I was transported to my childhood days! Isn’t it wonderful how just one silly game can turn back the clock many years?!!
In my mind’s eye came visions of a bungalow surrounded by a big plot of land. There were lots of fruit trees – 6 mango trees, 3 guava trees, chikoo, amla, anaar and papaya to be more precise and……a houdi!! And this was right in the heart of the city – my nanihal, my maternal grandfather’s house – Maneesha.
As kids, we spent many a summer vacation there with all our cousins and the extended family. At any given time, there would be at least 8-10 kids from the family in the summers. Our main agenda of the day used to be to plan which game to play; the venue would always be the mango trees.
There was the island-ocean game where you had to move from one tree (island) to the next without touching the ground (ocean) lest the sharks ate you up. I remember collecting bus tickets to pretend the trees were a bus and we all travellers. The bus-conductor had to move from tree to tree handing out tickets to the ‘passengers’. Our imagination knew no bounds!
The houdi was reserved for the exceptionally hot days when all of us would jump in, clothes n all! I still remember the one year that someone had got a turtle and put it in the houdi, which meant we couldn’t get to take our dip. For the most part, our aunts had a tough time getting us out of the houdi and dry in time for lunch.
Getting us in for meal times was the biggest challenge the elders faced. We all saw it simply as a waste of good time that could be spent playing. The only thing that could tempt us was the promise of mangoes. Aaaah….the mangoes!! Those days mangoes weren’t bought by the dozen or kilos, it was by the baskets! We all would sit around the basket (in bare minimum clothing to avoid stains on our clothes) and eat away to our heart’s content. Actually the saying ‘pet bhar gaya, par neeyat nahi bhari’ would apply to us here.
The bungalow had an outhouse, which was inhabited by a family with three kids. They were not permitted out in the afternoons, so they watched us with great longing looks from the windows…all three of them bobbing their heads in the three (almost) ventilator windows that faced the mango orchard. But the moment it was 4.30, they would rush out to join us. We also had kids from the bungalow behind coming through the wire fence, joining up to play with us. Some evenings, we would make a trip to the colony park ‘Rane Circle’ or play cricket in the backyard. There were enough of us and the neighbouring kids would always join in.
I’m sure you’d think that after a long, busy and hectic day like this, we all would fall asleep the moment we hit the pillow….?! No way!! Night times held another special treat. All kids would spread out mattresses on the terrace and then huddle around one of our uncles, fondly known as Bal Mama. He was an encyclopedia of ghost stories! Were they real or made up, I don’t know, but they were fascinating all right! The dark night, the huge terrace, owls/birds rustling the leaves in the trees and Mama’s intonations all added to the effect of the stories. Two or three stories down, we used to be suitably scared and ready to sleep, clutching each other’s hands – just in case a ghost decided to make an appearance.
And on days that he didn’t feel like telling stories, Mama would start with “Kapus kondyachi goshta saangu ka….?”