1. the courtyard
This year somehow started with looking back. Blame it on the passing years, the heart and mind say “recall, lest you forget!”
Within a moment, my mind conjures up the beautiful facade, the rectangular courtyard with innumerable rooms opening into it, a Tulsi (holy basil) with its prominent parapet for offerings and lighting lamps… a special granite bowl for the cow near the grand kitchen for the ritual daily feedings to gao mata (cow mother) and a smooth weathered floor spanning the whole courtyard with all elements of nature making a magical display in the open air rectangle.
Summer nights: this courtyard turned into a family retiring place… multiple khatiya (local camp cots), adorned with soft cotton mattresses and cool sheets, with individual mosquito nets for a blissfully cool night’s sleep. Till late in the night, you could gaze at the stars while someone or the other would be narrating mythical tales and eyes would close to sleep with a lingering tale to bring on magical dreams…
Lethargic summer mornings spent gazing in wonderment at the domestic helps making a big fuss over every meal, criss crossing the courtyard a hundred times to reach the grinding stone, the store room, the kitchen… ladies chugging pails of water from the well and washing vegetables, then washing the courtyard. We cousins all, would in turn receive bountiful showers. All it took was to go closer to the well, perch or squat on the parapet and look up at any lady there in a mute invitation “Yes Aunty, me ready, you pouring?”
All in all, a magical life in my grandmother’s haveli (Hindi for a mansion). I could have used the grandiose term “palatial” but to my chagrin I saw it reducing in its dimensions as I gained height and my eye level went up! My naani ( mom’s mom) grew old, the giant house started its downward journey but the priceless courtyard remained. Winter breaks or summer vacations spent there then, have surpassed in measure, all the other vacations that followed in life.
Even today, when neither naani nor her haveli exist, I don’t seem to tire of recalling the wonderful time I spent in my childhood at this place with its beautiful arena like courtyard, the hub of all the things that made us the central characters on our visit. The courtyard led one out to a mammoth patio which once upon a time seated dozens of muvakkils (Urdu for clients) of Mukhtar sa’ab, my naana’s father, in the days of the Raj.
This post on the courtyard which gave me such a priceless recall, I dedicate to the memory of my granny❤️