It was a warm sunny day when I first arrived there; my aunt’s house, which would be my home for the next 10 months, while I completed a course and contemplated on my academic future. I remember that the clouds were scattered like white cotton candy over an azure blue sky and the shiuli* flowers were strewn on the pebble laid garden path, their coral stalks startling against the pristine white petals. Looking back, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me at that point in my life My aunt, uncle and cousin took me into their fold in such a seamless, organic manner, that after a while I began to feel that I have always been part of the family.
My aunt took me under her wing, reprimanding me like a mother, giggling with me like a friend, pampering me like an aunt and forging a bond that would bind us forever, impregnable against the onslaught of time and distance. Eleven in the morning, soon became the best part of my day. The neighbour aunty would drop in and this would be our cue to gather in the living room. My aunt would come in with big mugs of steaming ginger tea; mine would always be in the ceramic beige mug with little blue flowers, the color of sapphire, printed all over it; that she had specially bought for me. I loved wrapping my fingers around its smooth surface, letting the soothing aroma of the ginger spiked tea lull me into a sense of wellness, as I listened to the lively conversation. Those 11 AM conversations helped me realize the insignificance of my ‘problems’. It helped me steady my confused thoughts. This ritual of devoting a small part of the day to enjoying a cup of tea with loved ones, seemed to me a spring cleaning for the soul.
Uncle was never too busy or tired after long day at work to plan fun trips and dinner at lovely restaurants. He insisted that I get my driver’s licence, personally enrolling me in a driving school. Together they slipped into the role of my parents and opened their home and hearts, giving me readily and lovingly, the gift of their time.
Ten months flew by, peppered with countless lovely meals, long conversations, trips with the family, impromptu shopping sprees and memories to last a life time.
In my mind those wonderful ten months are akin to the exotic shiuli flowers that lies strewn on my aunt’s pebbled garden. The exquisite and delicate shiuli, which blooms at night and drop off from the tree to the ground, as the first rays of dawn touch its petals. The fragrant shiuli, that enjoys the privilege of being offered to the gods, even when they lie on the ground. What a short but glorious life.
*Shiuli is the Bengali name for the Night flowering jasmine, also known more commonly as the Parijat flowers in Hindi and Pavizhamalli in Malayalam.