It was a little riverside village called Sanakhada in coastal Gujarat. I was about 5 yrs old and papa was posted there for three years as the manager of the local bank. Being a bank-manager in a little farming village is a lot of work, and used to keep papa, rather busy and he had to work long hours so often. What made it slightly easier was the fact that the bank building itself was our accommodation as well. Bank on ground floor, home on the top in one of the few modern built houses in the village.
Papa would be working on his desk for hours, often calling even the dinner downstairs from home. We were at liberty to go and create a ruckus in the office most of the time and the other bank staff would play with us, or may be just tolerate is because we were the boss’ children, as long as we didn’t destroy too much office stationary in the process. Then we could go to papa’s desk, get his genial smile, a pay on the back and sometimes if he was in a good mood, a 5paisa coin to go get myself a piece of ‘Bhoongna’ (a fried snack- Fryums). I remember once when papa must’ve been really busy, I got myself nearly one whole rupee in small coins, one at a time, from him for the Bhoongnas. The only recreation papa was getting those days seemed to be the Phillips ‘two-in-one’ that was his price possession at the time.
Another thing that I loved doing in those carefree days was to go to the farms with Nanjibhai.
Nanjibhai was the teenage son of one of the local farmers. He went to school in the nearby town, but would be home over on weekends and breaks. Sort of an older brother to me, a role model as you often make when you are that age. Nanjibhai would walk me to the farm, we’d walk through the shallow river across on the other side. He seemed to know all the shallow spots to cross the river, the flow and the strength of the flow, it all seemed like a superpower to me at that age. Once at the farm he’d let me fire up the diesel pump by turning the wheel and he’d shovel the water troughs. He’d show me all the amazing things we could eat on the farm too- the cactus fruits, sand-roasted fresh peanuts, farm fresh vegetables that we used to put in a pot and bury under fire…
We’d sometimes walk back home with one of the calves walking with us to be brought home to stay in the shed by Nanjibhai’s house, watching the colorful sunset over the vast pebbled stretch of the riverbanks, to come home to a worrying mom about us not being home well before dark. Those were the blissful days.
Nothing lasts in life and this stretch didn’t either. I grew up, started going to school, papa got transferred to bigger town and Sanakhada was slowly becoming a fond memory. It had been more than 8-9 years. I was in high school in the town when one fine day I was so pleasantly surprised to see Nanjibhai- a grown man now- at our door, smiling. He had a packet of sweets (Peda) in his hands.
He came in, handed the Peda over to mummy, touched the feet of both mummy and papa and happily announced: he has finished his studies and has taken a job at the bank.
Mummy and papa congratulated him heartily, Nanjibhai seemed very please about it as well.
I was sitting on a chair next to him, eating his Peda, wondering to myself: why in the world would Nanjibhai leave that life in Sanakhada and want papa’s job?