Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Girl from the Hills: An Excerpt






July 23, Wayanad, 2019


One month. One month to relive old memories and make new ones.

When Ammamma, our dear grandmother had asked if we could plan for a month-long get-together for the Sreepuram family, it hadn’t seemed like something we could pull off.

Our gang of cousins shared a strong bond right from childhood thanks to the many summer holidays we had spent together at Sreepuram. Time, however, had put a dampener on the fun times we desperately craved. We met when someone among us got married or if there was some other important family function. But the time we spent together hardly felt enough. So, after months of planning, we finally succeeded in carving out a month for ourselves. A month to be with the ones we loved the most.

What worked in our favour was that, of late, the majority of our Sreepuram gang had become entrepreneurs. We were our own bosses now. Even Kishore, who preferred working for reputed companies, had started a construction management company in the UAE and was raking in millions.

For me, it had taken a lot of effort to plan this month as my app development company, Quarks Info Solutions was a hugely successful multinational corporation. I couldn’t take a month off but planned to work remotely. My business partner Rohit Varma, who was also my classmate and a close friend, helped me plan my monthly schedule to carve out enough family time each day.

Once we arrived at Sree Nilayam, Ammamma’s home in Sreepuram, she had been the happiest. She played along with all our requests and promised to accompany us on the small trips we planned around the countryside. She spent time pampering us the way she always did. After all, we were her favourite humans on earth, though the new generation, the kids of her grandchildren, were slowly climbing the ranks.

Ammamma was to turn 75 in September but her enthusiasm outranked ours at any moment.

A blissful week passed in a jiffy. During the first week, we spent the days at Sreepuram, recreating carefree times and soaking in Ammamma’s love. In the second week, we moved to a picturesque resort nestled amidst the green, misty mountains of Wayanad.

 The decision to move to the resort was taken unanimously because we wanted to give a break to all the ladies in the family who insisted on taking over the burden of feeding and clothing us. Even with extra hired help, it had become exhausting for them at Sreepuram. Here at the resort, they weren’t in charge of food, laundry or any of the other mundane stuff. The glow on their faces was proof enough that the decision had been a wise one.  

We planned to stay there for a week before returning to Sreepuram and then proceed to Bangalore from where we would say our goodbyes.

If this reunion was proving one thing to me, it was that nothing could beat family love.

 Over the years, the Sreepuram family had grown. Except for me, all my cousins were now married. Kishore, Ananya and Vishal were already parents. Kishore was the father of sixteen-year-old Aditya. Ananya had two very active primary schoolers Aryan and Ankit. Vishal had become a father recently to a cute, chubby little girl called Varada.

Compared to the others, I didn’t even have a social life. Becoming the newest tech billionaire in India had come with its set of responsibilities. I didn’t even have the energy to date anyone these days. I envied the kind of love my cousins shared with their spouses. Their love was endearing and hence watching them reminded me at times that something valuable was missing from my life.

“Do you think they found their soul-mates?” I asked Ammamma, gesturing at the happy faces of my cousins as we sat watching an impromptu hip-hop dance performance by Aditya in the common meeting area of the resort.

“Yes, of course,” said Ammamma, as she massaged my hair with warm, herb-scented coconut oil.

I sighed with pleasure, as my scalp relaxed under the ministrations of her gentle fingers. Sitting in front of her like this brought back so many memories. Getting a head massage from Ammamma used to be one of the highlights of every summer vacation in my childhood. There was something inexplicably sweet about the experience. Our conversations during the activity would always be filled with bulb-on moments as my grandmother was a very wise woman. She always had answers to our many questions. Even now, in this age of technology, her words made total sense.

  “Do you think I will find mine too?” I asked, just to keep the conversation going.

“Of course. I have a feeling that you will find your special someone soon,” she said, continuing to massage my scalp in circles.

“How will I know if that someone is my soulmate?”

“You will just know. Trust me, the moment you realize that the person in front of you is your soulmate, the emotions you feel will be inexplicable, incomparable and even overwhelming. No one will be able to erase or replicate the feelings your soulmate will evoke in you. You will find solace only in her,” said Ammamma.

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Link: The Girl from the Hills