Remember our old, two-storied house in the little Andhra town Nani?
The one with the pistachio walls
and the polished cement floors?
The one where you hung paintings
of goddesses and gods over every door frame?
And every time I passed through a door,
I’d do it quickly
for the fear that the gods might come crashing down on my head?
Mom and dad used to work jobs in the city,
so it was just you and me against the world within these walls.
You with your crisp cotton saris, holding my tiny hand,
walking me to a small, one-storied building called school with its sky blue walls.
The kids were a mess there, and the teacher a menace.
One time, at the playground,
when a boy scratched my thumb and pushed me to the ground,
you stormed into the school and threatened him
that if he ever bullied me or anyone else again,
he’d never come to school.
That boy never raised a hand on anybody else again.
I'll protect you like that Nani.
I'll protect you from your own mind.
How you used to send me to the shop on the street corner
to get some sugar or toothpaste,
and you'd give me an extra something for a bubblegum or a soda.
And remember how you used to carefully unwrap the pink Boomer for me
so the free Barbie sticker inside wouldn't tear?
We used to get milk from the old couple who reared buffaloes next door;
and we used to buy bondas with the tangy tomato chutney
from Paru auntie down the road.
She sat under the shade of neem trees
on a small plastic stool with her burning wood stove and a large oil pan,
smiling whenever she saw us,
giving us extra bondas wrapped in dry leaf plates she stitched herself?
Remember the tiny gooseberry tree in our yard?
I used to pluck and eat sour fruits from it with silly expressions on my face.
Remember how we used to take your cot outside onto the balcony on hot summer nights?
We slept under the stars with the neighbourhood and the night breeze.
Remember how you used to pat me to sleep
while singing me "Jo-Jo" lullaby?
Pistachio walls remind me of those times all those years ago,
when your hair was more dark than grey;
when you sent me down to the yard
to pluck bright yellow flowers to offer the gods and pray;
when we sat on the balcony,
watching the next door buffaloes eat hay;
and the bazaars and temples
and relatives’ and friends’ houses we used to stray.
But now, in your mind, memories refuse to stay.
Let the pistachio walls remind you of who you were, Nani.
Let them remind you of us,
of love, of simple times,
of kindness, of nostalgia,
of generous neighbours and good times.
And oh, how wonderful those times were
with you and me within pistachio walls,
eating warm rice and tangy pickles,
thinking that the world could not get any bigger
than these bright, beautiful pistachio walls.
* * * * *
She believes that ordinary things can birth the fondest writings, and the grand events of the world can often be viewed through a simple lens. When not writing, she does amateur bird-spotting at her window, reads books of all genres, enjoys poetry of budding writers on Instagram, and indulges in binge-watching anime and series. Read her works at bavishyatai.com