Homecoming Queen

Like everybody who returns to the house they grew up in, when I make a trip back home to Poona, I always travel light. Because 7 years ago, when I packed my bags and left for Bombay, I obviously left some things behind. Loose shirts, old tight jeans that can survive quick runs to the grocery store, undies that still fit, the pillow that hugs me back, etc. But in keeping with the mantra “Out with the old, in with the new” my folks have been, every now and then, detoxing and downsizing the family possessions. Including those of their first born.

On my sweet 16th birthday, I was gifted my own car. I drove those wheels everywhere, from college, late night film screenings, to office and even for running errands at spots less than half a mile away from the parking lot. His name was Benjamin! The last time I took him out for a spin was I believe in 2016. In the middle of traffic one day, the bonnet started to steam up like a Janet Jackson video and it was a clear sign of his 10 year old-age catching up and saying, “No more babe. I’m done”. 

My visits home kept getting more and more infrequent and so were my courtesy “keep the battery running” drives around the block. But the love was still there. So you can imagine the horror when I found out last month, accidentally, over the phone with my Dad, that he made an impulse sale to a scrap dealer for a measly 20 thou! Sniff. We didn’t even get to kiss goodbye… 

Slowly and steadily, the Poona house, as I’ve started to call it, has less and less residues of my existence. The wardrobe closet is now fully commandeered by baby sis. My clothes are in a sorry pile on the side, inside an ugly blue plastic bag, screaming for charity. The other day, I was borrowing house slippers in rotation based on who out of the three was away. Early morning, when sis was at college, I slipped my giant feet into her cute spongey Mickey mouse flip flops. Then when she returned and my Mom was away at her job, I used her old school hawaii chappals. (Aloha!). When Dad left for the gym, he passed on his oversized pair of spiked soles over to me. I felt like a real Goldilocks living with the 3 bears. 

In the morning, I have to be careful to not confuse toothbrushes. My Mom’s is the white and orange one. My Dad’s is the blue one with an extra rubbery grip. My sister’s is the one with the bristles flared open like Mick Jagger’s bell bottoms. And mine you ask? Mine is the plus-one that came FREE with the paste. Everybody in the family has their personalised coffee mugs. For my evening dose of hot chocolate though, I just take any average cuppa joe lying by the kitchen shelf. 

Don’t feel sorry for me kids. The housemaid marvels at how the vibe under the roof shifts and comes alive when I’m home. Even if I’m deep in slumber in a corner somewhere, as soon as she opens the front door, she can sense that the heir to the Garg throne is in the building. As always, me and my ego more than make up for the absence of “things”! When I’m home, all four of us sit around the dinner table. On other days, legend has it that the three musketeers hide away, each in their own corners, with their own iPads/Macbooks/iPhones. When I’m home, tales of the month gone by are re-told with dramatics, cackles of laughter and major leg pulling – all performed to impress the star audience- me! When I’m home, plans are etched out from busy schedules to go out for dinner or catch a movie together. When I’m home, all the home videos and pictures are backed up anew in the 1 TB hard drive and all technical difficulties around gadgets and laptops crashing are addressed with repeated advise to the folks about trashing unwanted messages and WhatsApp forwards to create more space for memories like these. 

So what if the four walls are repainted, vanishing scribbles from my childhood? So what if my towel is now used as a rag to dust the furniture? And so what if Pune is no longer the homely, sleepy resort town it used to be to safely raise kids in? None of these events and transient life changes alter truths. As Madonna Ciccone put it in her hit song ‘Keep it together’: “I wouldn’t change it for another chance, coz blood is thicker than any other circumstance.”