It was the summer of 2014. The summer I finished my tenth grade and had written my first board examination. My brother was to drive to Coimbatore to attend his best friend’s wedding. Being products of the Indian culture, my parents strongly believed that allowing me to stay in another person’s house is a grave situation- it being highly unsafe for their daughter. So, when I was told that I could go to Coimbatore and spend a few days with my friend at her grandmother’s place, I was ecstatic.
I was dropped off at her gate, at around eleven on a humid summer morning. There were no birds singing, no dogs howling and no cats mewling. It was a somber, old street with beautiful homes, the only noises coming from the occasional vehicle passing by. Almost instantly, I captured by the strong smell of mangoes coming from the tree at the far end. Guarded by the compound wall. The aroma brought out strong pangs of desire, making me crave for them. My friends had to drag me in (courtesy being her favorite whim), making sure that I greeted her grandmother before attacking the tree. Her grandmother is an old lady of around eighty-five. She is small made, with her hair almost white, tied in a bun no larger than a walnut. Having exchanged pleasantries, I walked into her home.
It was a roomy, cozy home that her grandmother lived in. The living room was heavily scented with incense and the smell of old. Yellowing paper. There were gigantic book cases on either side of the television- nearly touching the ceiling! There was a simple, bare coffee table that rather oddly against the vintage sofa set, and a sixty-inch flat-screen TV.
I was then taken into my friend’s room, where I had a quick shower and was shown the rest of the house. I was taken to the dining room, where I was fed till I declared I would soon burst. The kitchen, adjacent to the dining room, gave out the frantic, pungent aroma of fried chilies- a core ingredient in most Indian dishes. After Amachi (it’s the Malayalam word for ‘granny’) was convinced of my being fed enough, we were let off to our own devices. My friend and I went to her room, which surprisingly smelled like her room in Bangalore. This, I found to be something new- something oddly curious. I quickly unpacked and then, we went to the terrace. the mats had already been laid out. It was here that I was told stories of the neighbors and neighborhood, following stories of the holidays she had spent there.
As night drew closer, the air got colder, less humid. We were called down for dinner, where I was treated to a Malayalee favorite- apam and stew. After dinner, she and I went to her room, while Amachi watched the news. I had a quick shower, and we read from her treasure chest full of Archie and Tinkle comics, made numerous prank calls, played Subway Surfer till our fingers were numb and talked till our bodies gave in, to a deep slumber. The bathroom smelled like my lavender-scented body wash that night.
I woke up the next morning, with my pillow smelling of shampoo, to my tummy rumbling and my nose telling me of an all-time favorite-PANCAKES!!! I dashed out of bed and rushed to perform my morning duties. No sooner was I done, then my dear darling friend was up demanding her turn. We charged to the table and stuffed ourselves with what I considered to be a wholesome feast- crepes, maple syrup, fresh honey, chocolate sauce, freshly cut, juicy yellow mangoes and yes, pancakes.
That day and the day after followed almost the same routine, with a few variants. We watched a dog show, and I got to climb the mango tree!
Two days later, my trip ended. It was only a little while later when we were half-way to Bangalore that I realized- her room wouldn’t smell of my deodorant, the pillow cover wouldn’t smell like my shampoo and the bathroom would lose the smell of my lavender scented body wash.