Love is the most clichéd and googled word, especially in the month of February. A month which has two or three days less than other months for the lovers to gaze at each other’s eyes. When I see the advertisements of diamond jewelry in the context of love and romance and the women fluttering their eyelashes, I think of my mother’s expressions when dad gave her a gift and our family including a few of our neighbors were ecstatic. Which was followed by the peels of laughter.
I was in class V and was preparing for a test to get admission in a prominent convent school in Allahabad. A city which was known for good schools and education. The campus (PHQ, Police Headquarter) we lived in had well maintained play-grounds, badminton and tennis courts, clubs, gardens and mango and tamarind trees. Life was good. During the summer break dad got a promotion and the transfer order. We were transferred from the Gangetic planes to the lap of Himlayas. Life changed drastically. We were too young to realize that how it would adversely affect our education and career in the long term, but mom was heart broken. We missed our campus life and friends.
The house we got to live in, though spacious, was neither cozy, like traditional a pahari house nor charming like a British bungalow. Soon the tough mountain life kept us too busy to complain and get bored.
Without any domestic help, after the tedious chores mother could squeeze some time for her hobbies, reading and gardening. She loved to read magazines like ‘Saptahik Hindustan’ and ‘Dharmyug’. For gardening, she could use as much land as we could, because there was no boundary wall. Just a hedge had to be there. She used to keep us updated about the new blooms and shoots in the garden. Once she showed us a variety of pumpkin which looked more like a bottle guard. The pumpkin grew day by day, on a clreeper which had only a few leaves.
One day, we reached home from school, tired and hungry after climbing 2 kms of steep trail. While serving hot parathas, mother said with a wry smile that the Pumpkin was lifted by someone as it lay near the hedge. Same evening, we were chatting with our neighbors, about the lost object. We were also cracking jokes about the ‘stolen’ veggie when father reached home from the office and heard her woes.Before she could finish her story father produced the same pumpkin and shocked all of us.
He used to walk home from office. While coming home he stopped at a vegetable shop and glancing through all the veggies, he saw that familiar Kaddu. Haneef, the shopkeeper told him that ‘it’was fresh from the garden. That morning only a village boy sold that to him.