Once upon a time

First Published: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/once-upon-a-time/
Date: Sunday, November 3, 2013

There was a time when I lived in a house with 34 members of my family. There were sibling fights, sad days and deaths but those were the golden days. They were packed with playfulness and sheer joy. The head of the house, my grandmother, was like the sun — centre of our universe. Everything used to evolve around her and her wishes; the menu of the day, responsibilities, chores etc.
It was a big house with many rooms and never-ending stream of guests. There was a garden full of roses, dahlias, chrysanthemums, magnolias and believe it or not, sunflowers. There were guava, mango, coconut, jackfruit trees and henna, beli, shuili plants as well. There was an aata gachh, (custard apple tree) too. It was an old building with a long veranda that was accessible from all the rooms. Usually after coming back from school, when everyone used to nap around 3pm, it was only me who toured around the house and embark on little adventures. Thus I earned the nickname “manager of to-to company”. My favorite thing to do was to keep an eye on the aata gachh and see if there was any parrot sitting on its branches, or whether the guavas were ripe enough to eat. There were monsoon days when I stayed out in the rain to my heart’s content. I had 10 cousins living with me who were of various ages and we were brought up as siblings.
Hardly a day passed when we didn’t have guests and I didn’t want to go back to my desk. In the afternoon we used to sit together, almost all 35 people, for tea and puri or badam at the courtyard. The courtyard was the venue for all our family events — starting from ga-e holud, birthdays, death anniversary milaad, and in some cases, weddings too.
A part of the garage was rented out to a chips maker-vendor. We used to run to “Molla” for chips and asked him to take the money from the elders. Life was perfect. We had indoor badminton tournaments, football matches and the typical borof paani games in the courtyard. It was a big fat family you can only see in the movies now.


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