Of hope : At home

A picture from the family reunion I am talking about. However, this is taken at another location, the next day.
A picture from the family reunion I am talking about. However, this is taken at another location, the next day.

I was 20 and in my final year of engineering.

It was the month of August. I had just finished the pre-final semester exams and was home, about 400 kms from my foster city. I had not landed a job yet – campus placements were scarce and I hadn’t cracked any in which I sat. My mind was in turmoil, thinking about the future that lay ahead after my final semester next calendar year.

Home is a place where you forget all your worldly worries.

The atmosphere was all the more jolly, as we had the annual family reunion that long weekend. And true to the quote,there were moments when I was completely free from the anxious thoughts. But there were also times when I sat with my Dad, discussing the possible plans I had in mind about the things I would do after college.

It appeared to me as if the dark clouds in my mind materialized as actual rain clouds at the distant horizon everyday. I fished for the silver lining, but however hard I strained my eyes, there was none.

To cheer me up, and as an Ajanta visit is mandatory when we have guests over, Dad fixed a plan to go to the Caves the next day. I tried to chin up, and assisted in packing picnic baskets. We, about 15 of us, left at around 8:00 am.

For the Nth time, we explored the 3 important caves for about 3 hours, sat on the river bank eating ‘lunch’ for about 2 hours (!) and were just beginning our downward trek when the sky cleared and warm sunlight spread after days. I was trudging behind, thinking of a birthday spent here when the river was flooded and the spray from the waterfall hitting the river water was enough to drench people about 30 ft away.

My Mom had stopped and was giving the neatly packed leftovers to an old woman, who probably sat at the same place everyday from morning to evening. She was quite old, in her late 60s, as I could infer from the wrinkles on her face. I was about to tell Mom not to give them to her, as she was a peanut and other ‘munchables’ seller and had not even asked for anything. She might feel offended. As if reading my mind, Mom told me that she had asked her if she would take the food. Whatever, I thought. The last of the others were visible now…most of them had reached the foothill where the vehicles were parked. They called out to us to hurry.

As Mom went ahead, I saw the old woman (who just had a bite of the food) filling the puris and the aloo sabji in a steel container, the peanuts in which were sold out. I was curious at her stinginess (as I thought there was not much that she could take home).

“Maushi, athech khaai taak na!” I said to her in chaste Ahirani (the local dialect). [Aunty, eat it here itself!]

She looked up , still holding a puri in her hand. “Avaa baya, Marathi mulgi bhetli vaa maale!” [Oh my God, she’s a Marathi girl!] She exclaimed with intense happiness on her face. Ajanta is an international tourist destination and she must come across people of various languages and ethnicities. She hadn’t expected a girl from a group of Gujrati speaking fellows to speak to her in her own tongue so fluently. I smiled at her.

She then explained to me that since her daily quota of peanuts is sold, she will go back to her home in the afternoon itself. As it is, the authorities close the Caves at 5:00PM. She has a grandchild, her daughter’s daughter – who is bound to like the puri-bhaji very much.

Everybody had long gone. It was just me and her. I looked at her face intently. This woman, with wrinkled face, with no fixed daily income and possibly a family depending on her for money – had a smile on her face when she thought of home – which was probably a decent but rustic place in a village removed from the city, invaded by leopards on and off, and with crops damaged due to or in the absence of rain. I kept looking at her beaming face and an ear-to-ear smile.

It was then that I realized! My standing in the corporate world doesn’t matter, at least doesn’t matter to my happiness. As long as I have my home and my family in my heart, I would always be happy. It also doesn’t matter where in the world I am physically, just the ‘thought’ of home is enough to bring a smile.

I ran downhill so fast that I almost bumped into one of my cousins. They were about to forget me ‘Home Alone’ style. My Dad turned around and saw my happy face. He asked what’s the matter. I told him, “Baba, I don’t worry anymore. I have my home, I have you. I can always come back from the city and work for the people here. I just got to know that I am not in a race, a rat race.” He smiled and said, “Of course you have us, kid.”

On the same lines, as I was browsing the internet today, looking up houses which suit my taste (which I often tend to do in my free-time), I found Housing.com Do look up!

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