Wednesday, May 13, 2009

do you believe in magic?


My memory of the first day of summer holidays.

Leave school at the speed of light. Cycle past the main guardroom, the big maidan, the cycle repair shop, the one and only theatre, the big board saying married quarters, down a thick tree lined avenue, gulmohors, imli, guava, mango, banyan…and finally our gate.

Painted white, with my fathers name and rank painted in a blue square. Go crunching down the gravel driveway, stones flying under my cycle wheels.

Run up the steps to our porch, dash through the big doors, with half lace curtains.

In to my room, throw my bag on to my study table. Dodge my mom’s questions on how did the exam go. Okay, fine, good, standard response.

Then grab the library cards from the table in the study room. Again dodge my mom’s furious “Change out of your uniform before you leave the house.”

Big shiny tears in my eyes, look at her from under my fringe and say, “ Please ma, the library will close at 12. Let me go…please, please.”

My mother, who’s not an easy to melt sort, would look disgusted and then say, “okay, but only today. Because it’s the first day of your summer holidays.”

Fly back on the cycle. Past all the other houses painted white, past tree lined roads, right through the children’s park, through the overgrown patch, where someone saw a king cobra last summer holiday, pick up speed over the kaccha rasta, bounce on my seat, through the gate that says Officers Mess. Jump off my cycle near the squash court, throw it down on the tarred road, and run in.

Cool corridors that smelt faintly of smoke, and stale, and beer and anda bhujia. Run down the threadbare red durrie like carpeting. Stop at the door with a brass sign - LIBRARY.

Turn the brass knobs, enter a silent room. Fans whirring, the smell of books and old newspapers and beer, always the beer. Head straight to a metal cupboard painted military green with a paper sign plastered on it - KID’s SECTION.

Find famous Five Off to Sea. The librarian takes the card out of the book, stamps it, and takes a maroon cloth-covered library card from me. I scrawl my shaky signature that’s still to form on a register, and tip toe out.

My father, the night before, who loves all plans to do with libraries and books, tells me,
“If you go to the library, go get yourself a cold drink.”

So I tiptoe into the bar. Red carpet, black sofas, the drawing of a woman in a bathtub. Again, the smell of peanuts and beer. And the sign - Children are not allowed in the bar unaccompanied. But this is an afternoon, and all the uncles are still at work, and the aunties are at home. So I stand on the metal railing that skirts the bar, and I look up at the barman and I say “Bhaiya…ek goldspot…nahi ek ice cream soda…”

Bhaiya grins. He knows it’s a big sacrifice I’m making. All us kids beg him for Gold Spot crowns, for the Jungle Book stickers. He’s already an authority on who has which character and who we can swap with.

He hands me my Bijoli Grill Ice Cream soda. And two Gold Spot crowns as a bonus.

I stick the drink and the book into a bag. Strap it to my cycle carrier. And I’m off. I don’t feel the blazing summer heat of Bengal. I fly down the road, smelling mango trees and dry leaves.

I arrive home, slip in through the door and quickly open the bottle. All this before my mother can even figure I’m home. Before she can get me to wash up, or change, or eat lunch.

Then I lie on my bed on my stomach, open my book, and lose myself to the Famous Five, and the clear sparkly taste of Ice Cream soda.

Sigh. Sometimes it’s no fun growing up. I want my summer holidays back.

Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart

How the music can free her, whenever it starts

And it's magic, if the music is groovy

It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie

I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul
~ The Lovin Spoonful

Picture credit: www.allposters.com

13 comments:

♥ÐÅyÐяєÅмє®♥ said...

wow

that was a lovely nostalgic post...it took me to my summer holidays ..
nowadays
earning money has become more important than making paper boats... :-|
lovely

Amal Bose said...

nice post.. :)

This is that said...

You bring back such feelings. Loved this post. It's a film . Waiting to be made.

agent green glass said...

daydreamer: the good thing about getting older is you have access to nostalgia. making paper boats...aah...we used to make them during the monssons...and float them in all the nalis that used to form. when you say paper boats, i can hear the sound of rain on tin roofs.

amal: thank you. i sighed some more when i read your post - raising cattle or teaching kids?

this is that: you film maker, you! thanks roo. i really really miss summers now. it's just another season that goes by with the AC on. i miss mango flowers on trees, mango shakes on the veranda, and the smells...*agentgreenglass shakes her head*

disappearslikesmoke said...

Agent love this post, i grew up in a house with mango trees and spent summer afternoons guarding the kachcha green mangoes from greedy neighbors. Just the other day i was telling someone I'm not really nostalgic, i guess it takes the right trigger. You found it. Thx.

Kadambari said...

What narration! It felt like I was cycling, running, scurrying along with you.. all the way! You've got a keen eye for details and wonderful way with words!

And for the summer vacations, yea.. I've forgotten how they used to be, back in school! Seems like so long ago.. Sigh, why don't we time turners! :)

Kadambari said...

* Missed out a word.

Why don't we have time turners.

As the Mind Meanders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
As the Mind Meanders said...

I want to cry... I miss my library... the little dingy shop... the smell of agarbatti combining with the smell of old Amar Chitra Kathas... stories of Ram and the Maharabharata... of gallant warriors and brave freedom Fightors...Books harbound by the library wala.. books with hidden treasures.. books about Bahadur and Phantom and Mandrake...

I miss the librarian... with his handlebar moustache... his gruff exterior and his soft heart... his life barren of a son or daughter... every kid who walked through his door... his own child...

I miss my childhood... I so wanna cry... and you take the blame... with your writing... you brought it all back... and a grown man at his impresseive work desk... brought to near tears... by the little girl on her cycle... and her bagfull of nostalgia...

And to think that I nearly missed this brilliant post because of some post on stupid contest... :-(

I bow to you... again...

agent green glass said...

hey mind meanders aka blog gore: i have had a roller coaster day...and then you write about "Books harbound by the library wala.. books with hidden treasures.. books about Bahadur and Phantom and Mandrake..." you just saved my day. i'm going to go bury my head in them. thank you...for reminding me of things that make me happy. : )

Zillionbig said...

wow, that was one of the best memoirs i have read. man/lady you rock.try serious writing. ciao:)))))

Zillionbig said...

good one, sorry, did you get my comment, showed error on my screen.

the snake said...

beautiful post..enjoyed the imagery..and sighed for the lack of summer holidays..