By Sharika Nair
I remember the heat. Wrapping my sari pallu around me on the wintry lawn, the memory of the scorching white heat of our first summer at Cudappah is like an old fever dream.
Appa had warned us, “This is one of the hottest regions in the country. You could get a heatstroke. Be careful. Don’t roam.”
In the new school, the nun who taught us English would scold the boys, exasperated, hands on her hips, “Is it the combination of Andhra heat and Andhra chillies that instigates your misbehaviour?” But that was later. It was still summer vacation when we shifted to our new quarters in the railway colony.
Dad’s job led to us moving from one railway colony to another, every three years, never putting down roots.
Appa and amma had bought a can of paint to cover up the crayon scribbled masterpiece left on the walls by former residents. Amma instructed us to stay out of her hair unless we wanted to join in the cleaning. Sid and I left immediately.
There were no other kids around. Most of the families were away in their home towns. We roamed the colony, climbing trees and sneaking food from home for stray cats. Our skin was toasted brown in a few days. We found a shed where timber and bricks were stored. That shed became our secret haunt. I was thirteen, Sid was eleven. We would smuggle in Tinkle and Archie comics, water bottles filled with orange squash and whatever snacks we could get our hands on and spend hours in the shed.
“When I grow up, I will build a big cabin for us,” Sid told me one afternoon. “It will have comics and snacks stacked from ceiling to floor.” I laughed and called him a dumb kid.
By the following summer, Sid had made friends with boys his age and they would play cricket or cycle around the colony. I spent all my time with my best friend Leena, pasting cut-out pictures of Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit in our scrapbooks, or gossiping about our classmates. Whenever we came across Sid and his friends, he would wave at me. I would make a face and tell Leena, “Ignore my brother. He is a dork.”
I watch the newlyweds on the stage. Sidharth and Drishti make a beautiful couple. The lawn looks ethereal, a heady effect of tea lights, fragrant jasmine strands and soulful sitar music. Too soon it is time for them to leave. They are flying to Maldives for their honeymoon. I have plans to finish my thesis in six months and join my husband in California, to start life on the other side of the globe.
I hug Drishti and whisper in her ear, “Take care of each other.” What I mean is take care of my brother. Sid and I have never been big on sentiments. He just says, “Will call you after reaching akka.” He waves leaning out of the taxi window. I wave back till the taxi turns the corner. I stay on the pavement for a few more minutes, the cool breeze in my hair. Then I go back inside to see off the guests.
By Sharika Nair