I sit here staring at this box of a room, a cage rather, all alone. Secluded from the usual bustle, which is probably proceeding without me, miles away. The white walls around me, which were left blank to create the illusion of grandeur and space, now seem to suffocate me and accentuate my isolation. 

I am suddenly reminded of summer vacations back in school– there were so many plans to execute that even three months didn’t seem sufficient. The maternal and paternal grandparents waited equally eagerly for their grandchildren’s vacations when they finally got to see the young faces, to whom they once told mythical tales of Ram and Krishna. They already booked two weeks each of our vacation time, and we, the children, gladly agreed while their sons and daughters struggled to postpone the family trip to Goa. 

The memories themselves carry warmth and comfort that provide solace to the mind. The dining table was always embellished with our favourite delicacies, and all the members of the household ended up having at least two more servings than what they initially intended. To the grandparents’ delight, the living room finally became lively as we unknowingly disrupted their home’s everyday mundane routine. Dusty photo albums were unfurled, and with them came the doom of the perpetually mysterious adults. Silly and embarrassing stories of parents, uncles and aunts were retold with great fervour by the visibly excited grandparents, their eyes beaming with euphoria. All secrets unveiled, the members departed to their rooms, but that was not where the fun ceased. Late-night pyjama parties, eating breakfast at 4 am, watching T.V. till 5 am– these were just some traditions through which the grandparents relived their adolescence.

Never once do I remember leaving their house without protest. Even grandma would try to persuade us to stay, but the plan always failed. Nonetheless, we went back with bags full of sweaters grandma knit, pickles and papadams, new delicacies grandpa tried to make and was extremely proud of, and heaps of chocolates. It was always the parents who managed to drag us back to the car somehow, where grandpa would play the game and “scare” us from the two windows of the back seat- wiping our tears away without even touching our cheeks. 

A tear rolls down my cheek swiftly, shocking me at first, but welcoming me to shed the defences and let it all out– as if the grandmas and grandpas were all standing beside me, patting my head and treating me to forehead kisses. I miss the magical car game that swept away the sadness and reduced the pain of separating from them until the next holiday.

I shuffle to find my phone and immediately ping the family group, flooded with random jokes, Whatsapp forwards and flowery good-mornings. 

 “Would you guys be free to have a short call tonight? I miss everyone,” I ask, all my childhood innocence rushing back to take over me.

“Ofc beta.” Writes the uncle, who is particular enough to put the punctuation mark but not write ‘Of course’. 

“Chachu, please bring dadu-dadi, and mamu please bring nanu-nani”

“Ok.”

“Ok.”

At night we sit in front of laptop screens, with the first ten minutes spent with my sister and I explaining to everyone how to join the meeting with their audios and videos and me, and trying to convince them that it is easier than travelling across the whole globe. 

I smile and smile like I am nine again, back at the ever-welcoming, cosy home of theirs. We catch up on stories from all households and finally hang up. That’s when I go to the website and book a ticket for my flight back to India– an early Holi present for everyone. I’ll have to keep one extra suitcase empty for all the sweaters and chocolates.

– Samiksha Dubey, Amity International School, Noida

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