Once upon a time

Once upon a time

I am sleepless at times even now but for different reasons.

When I was five years old, my father, a geologist was posted at Pamanakallur; a small village in Raichur district near the Hutti Gold Mines. The clime was arid, cactus burgeoned and some other things did too- berries, papaya and cluster-beans sprouted ubiquitous even in the absence of pampering; and glorious dahlias, cannas and marigold decked our front and backyard. The wood rose creeper that had seemed innocent enough soon grew super-lush and thick, hooding the entire house, slithering and confiscating the entirety of it. The country landscape, comprising hills and rocky terrain could have been a trekker’s dream and possessed potential enough to inspire in any child a desire to explore the unknown.

I studied in class I of the local school and enjoyed the ‘privilege’ of being the only girl in class. Boys who rushed out of the classroom when the final bell rang before allowing me out first or committed a similar ‘indiscretion’ were duly reprimanded to ‘respect ladies’ by the teacher. The most hysterical, I think, was ‘Children’s Day’ when I was dressed as Lord Krishna, complete with a flute and peacock’s feather stuck to a massive cardboard crown and boys, a head taller than me were designated the role of coy nubile Gopikas draped in Davanis, their close cropped hair notwithstanding. The hilarity of the situation didn’t deter our confidence and we proceeded to perform with grave dignity in spite of snickers from the audience.

On my way to school, I’d observe field hands (Baaban Saheb-the senior most, Pampapathi, Banda Nawaz I and II, Karibasappa and others) seated in a neat row, conscientiously powdering rock samples which would then be sent for further analysis. Their serious demeanour would give way to indulgent smiles as soon as they’d notice their ‘Mudd Akki’ (Cute one). I, blissfully tactless of etiquette, would saunter into their houses at meal times and would sometimes be given a little something to eat. I especially relished the authentic village fare- Jowari Roti- so like their raw and rustic affection itself, free of any ostentation of processing. On chilly nights, one used to be treated to stories of ‘Ghosts’ wandering in the vicinity, by natives huddled in blankets smoking beedis (Yeah, even the ladies did). Rest assured, I’d spend the whole night sleepless and hyper vigilant for any ghosts.

I am sleepless at times even now but for different reasons. Life has changed dramatically, but one is always grateful for these surreal memories which once upon a time was my reality.

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