One of the things that I always cherished was to live like one of my uncles, at least for sometime in life.
They lived almost in the middle of the forest somewhere in the western ghats. The first time I recollect visiting them is when I was a small kid. We had to walk around 7km from nearest motorable road to reach their house! They owned a farm, where they grew beetlenut, cashew and a few more things. Their village consisted of just a few houses and you had to do quite a bit of walking to reach your neighbours. These days, the place is accessible by vehicles seasonally but the roads will be in really bad shape during rainy seasons. Their farm was surrounded by very dense forests and hills where you could easily loose your way. And a few hundred meters away from the house was a river that was feeding the farm. The forest around was so thick that tigers used to live there. My cousins tell me about this incident when they had to helplessly witness their dog being dragged away by a tiger! But that was more than a decade ago.
During my school days, I would spend most of my summer vacation with them. The fun there never used to stop. With a couple of cousins and neighbourhood kids to play with, there was not a thing that we would not do. The best of everything was swimming in the river. To everyone's dislike(and the fear that someone would drown), we would run to the river sometime around 10 in the morning and stay put for 2-3 hours until we all were exhausted. I still remember the first time in life when I tried to dive into water in this river. The platform(a rock) was only a few feet high. Looking at other guys happily diving and having fun there, I decided to try it out myself and fell flat on my stomach. It was such a blow, I think if I remember right, my stomach had turned slightly green. After that incident, I had a great phobia of diving that I did not try that feat again for a couple of years. The best part of the whole thing was swimming races. Being not very well verse with swimming, I always used to be first from the last but would never give up and invite every one again and again for another try. After spending a long time in the water, we would still not comeback until someone came from home to herd us out saying it is time for lunch. And when you are tired and hungry like a lion, a heavy lunch is just what you would be wishing for.
somewhere in western ghats...
After lunch, while the elders would get busy with their siesta, we would go wandering in the farm and the forest around. The farm had a lot for us to offer, especially during summer. It was actually tough to choose where to start our loot among guava, mangoes, papaya trees and many many more. Mangoes were obvious favourites. Along with the taste, the shorter and accessible trees would also add the pleasure of climbing them and playing around. When there was enough of this, we would just go around walking or while away our time near the river or someplace. Often in the evenings, I would go to the river, find a stone in shallow waters, sit on it and keep on watching the flowing river. Occasional small fish passing by would try to byte my leg and tickle me off. Many days I would be sitting like that until sunset and slowly walk back home with a very content feeling. And on some days we would go herding cows that try to be mischievous and refuse to return home by themselves at the end of the day(There are times when people lost cows to tigers). As the sun sets down, people would slowly start gathering in the veranda and many chatterboxes would start working. Soon some of us would gather and start off with a game of cards that will go on till dinner and sometimes continue much furthur.
There was much more to do even after dinner. A few miles away was a very well known place where they would play Yakshaganas(a kind of musical drama famous in the locale. link) all thru the night till morning. Many times, I would walk 3kms to the venue with all the enthu to watch the play, only to sleep off at the venue! ....and wake up to the morning that has much more fun to offer.
I haven't been able to go there since the days I have started working. No summer vacations you see.... The fact that all my playmates are now grown up, and some of them are married also makes a big difference to the way things are. Especially missed are my cousin sisters who moved on from the place after their marriage. To them is this post.