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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.

White flowers.

White flowers on the bloom
Opening the tender petals,
Slowly gently
In my night garden.
Early morning chirping birds
Will sing song of glory
To white flowers on the bloom.. Slowly gently..

My love for greens started early. Our big fat old home in Purana Paltan had beautiful garden. It was surrounded by fruit trees like mango, guava, coconut, jackfruit etc. I remember climbing up the branches of guava tree in the afternoon when everyone was busy taking their afternoon nap. Cutting my elbows or legs from falling down from trees was very common for me. I always used to have a cut on my body, as a trade mark feature. My father loved to grow flowers. However since we left Purana Paltan home we have been living in apartments and never had a place to grow some greens. And I was too busy with life and never thought about it though always liked it. After i got married we moved to a beautiful Banglow in Green Road. The house had wonderful lawn to do gardening. I tried for 5 years, due to lack of sunlight plants didnt grow as expected. Especially the vegetable. This year we moved to our old apartment. And my balcony had sunlight and enough air. I decided to grow vegetable and other plants I already had. I am growing lettuce, chili, mint, lemon, lemon grass, curry leaves, egg plants, coriander and basil. My balcony looks a little piece of heaven. Every morning first thing I do is go to the balcony and look at my plants. It gives me enormous pride and satisfaction. It also helps me to dream. Dream of a country house with a farm. I want to be an organic farmer when I grow up ;). I surely do. I want to grow all those beautiful vegetable, flowers and fruits. But till I can make it, lets be happy with urban farming and balcony harvesting.

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