The mornings were extremely cold during our stay at home in December, but without fail my husband would be awake by 6 am. He would then try waking me up by rubbing his freezing wet hands on my face. And if that failed he would try the same trick on my 13 year old cousin, Maini. All for a game of Badminton.
Now let me tell you that the winter mornings in Assam are usually in single digit. Even the visibility of the road right next to our gate would sometimes be low due to the fog. My parents, covered in layers of woollen sweaters, shawl and monkey caps were totally baffled by the strange dressing ritual of my husband – a heavy blanket covering his shoulders and torso, while the legs were barely covered by a thin half pant, the kind of style I sometimes resort to on cold New Year’s Eve in the name of fashion.
I always wake up to a bustling household no matter the time – loud whistling of pressure cooker, playful screams of a match in progress, cries of my other cousin Duggu and of course, the aroma of piping hot tea. By that time hubby and Maini would have played umpteenth set. Little Maini, trying to match his speed, my dad cheering on from the sidelines, throwing instructions once in a while, Mom sitting on the porch – waiting for the grocery sellers to cycle past our home.
Sometimes I would take the bat from Maini and show him who’s the boss. Oh he hates playing with me, because I make him run … like a lost puppy 😛 !! Dad would be laughing and wondering aloud how I managed to get this good. Well, I am really not that great, it’s just that he is surprised to see me out of the bed doing some activity apart from stuffing myself with Pitha, that too early in the morning.
There was one day though, when my serves weren’t right (I blame the bat, we broke two of them). My 68 year old Dad came up to me, chiding my service, took the bat showed exactly how it’s done. It was a beautiful serve. And just like that I was transported back to a time far far away. Same place, same people but years apart.
Arm bent as you hold the bat close to your chest, the shuttlecock at the centre and then with just one light tap it flies across the net.
We had played hundreds of sets in the same frontyard, my mom watching us through the grill, in between reading newspaper and knitting a sweater. Sometimes chatting with Dad, reminding him to buy fish and mustard oil from the market. My brother and I were fierce competitors, while Dad and sister played leisurely. Our dog Tiger would participate too: jumping and barking in excitement, licking our feet.
Now instead of Tiger, it’s a beautiful Labrador, Nikki, who gets really upset if we don’t allow her to play a game with us. She would stand right in the middle, and as the match progresses, would run between us, keenly following the shuttlecock.
As I type these words, thousand of miles away is my heart, my home and a bundle of memories.