Anika was busy planning summer vacations for her two children aged 9 and 4 years old, when the shrill voice of her maid jolted her from her thoughts and brought her to the present where the advertisement on 'Mahindra Holidays' was being played. "Kai ga bai, apla desh kiti chhan distoe !" Indeed, Anika agreed, with the diversity of flora and fauna, the assimilation of Indian traditions and festivals into the local people and the presence of tours & travels to cater to the customers' needs; the places to visit kept on their marching stride. The advertisement beautifully captured the feel of sand for the bare feet and the exclamation of amusement at watching the conch shell moving and tumbling towards the sea.
The pleasing visual and her energy channelized into planning the summer vacation, Anika drifted back the memory into her childhood; that always cropped up now and then while watching her children grow. The cooker's sharp whistle followed by the hot steam jet, brought Anika as a nine year old visiting her grandparents during the hot summer season of Nagpur; which is known for its heat, oranges and the zero mile stone. The vacations spent along with cousin brothers and sisters and most importantly eating mangoes and plucking guavas from the tree, added excitement, jubilation and contentment in spending the day, carefree. The wait for getting a sweet cigarette (a sweet mint chocolate) from grandfather was always fulfilled on arriving at the big house and brushing teeth. All kids would love the pampering shown by grandmother who prepared delicacies ranging from 'sheera', laddoos, chivada, etc.
The afternoons would invite lot of imagination and innovation from Anika and her cousins in whiling away time. Their favorite activity was to water the guava tree first for it was their best source of interest and then they would water the lemon tree that grandma instructed to water. The watering activity itself invited lot of fun and frolic which ensured that all would get a second bath. At times, instead of watering the plants, the kids found it thrilling to burn papers and dig up stones from the garden; which was big and full of promise of providing nature's surprises. The garden also was home to a litter of puppies, a month old.
The evenings saw friends getting together and playing outdoor games; where boys and girls played various games in different groups. The nights; at 8:00 pm were interesting for grandpa would tell engrossing stories which all children listened with rapt attention. Grandpa ensured that the characters in the story were named after his grand children so that all would learn the good manners and behavior. After the story telling, it would be the duty of all kids to make arrangements for sleeping outside below the open starlit sky where cots were already laid out; mattresses and covers had to be put. This was the best experience as the exhaustion of the day, heat of summers and the breeze of the night would ensure a sound sleep for the kids. Anika would sleep near to her grandpa as her sister was small and would be near to their mother. Grandpa would not let his grandson to sleep near him as they would be playing football in their sleep and kick him really bad. And so Anika would be snug near her grandpa. The early morning light would always wake her up and one day, she found herself listening to the sound of the puppies. Excited, she went towards them and brought them to her cot, placing them between herself and grandpa. The comfort and warmth of the bed, ensured more sleep for Anika and the puppies. In the morning, grandpa would wake up touching the soft fur of the puppies and he would be surprised as to how they got there. He was very loving and caring towards the animals and he would be pleased to see his grand daughter behind the mischief and would proudly say that he wakes up in the morning after touching something soft.
Anika remembers her grandpa's way of informing everyone of getting pleasantly surprised and the memory touches a chord in her heart that reminds her that it is now she who has touched something soft.