I grew up in Vadodara but spent all my vacations in either Mumbai or Nargol, which is a terrific coastal town just inside the Maharastra border. Near Nargol lies a small blink and you'll miss it community called Have (which is where I get my family name from). Dad's family had a farm in Have filled with all kinds of cool things all the way from hay stacks you could slide on, trucks you could mock-drive, water wells you could climb down, farm animals you could terrorize and low slung mango trees that could provide three square meals a day.
A lot of these vacations would be spent with my favorite cousin-sister Raveena Tandon (not her real name). Since boys and girls seem to get their kicks in different ways when young, Raveena and I had a tacit understanding. She would participate in any game I wanted - and like a responsible, older sister often take the fall for me - if I played any game she invented without complaining.
My favorites were sliding down haystacks (for which Raveena has taken copious slaps to the palm on my behalf) and locking ourselves in the chicken coup and chasing chickens around all afternoon. Yes, life was simple and good.
Until it was my turn to play one of Raveena's games. Which almost always would involve some form of "House". Usually this would mean taking some bricks (yes we had a kiln on the premises as well) and creating partitions that served as "rooms". Raveena designed, I had to build.
After this backbreaking exercise (particularly in Nargol's harsh summers) I would grab a book and declare an hour of rest. Raveena would coo around in the "house". This wasn't so bad unless some farm animal had babies. Dogs were the worst because soon the house would be filled with puppies. Raveena would insist on calling them "our children" and often give each one a name. Which I was supposed to remember. Already stressful embarrassment would infuse me because some of the farm workers would be watching from the corner of their eyes with large smiles on their faces.
Occasionally Raveena would go shopping leaving me to babysit the um, puppies. More often than not, by the time she returned with the produce (which was startlingly always mangoes), the puppies would either be gone or trying to kill each other. And Raveena would stand right there in the living room and braise me loudly. "What kind of a father ARE you!?" she'd yell "So irresponsible! Our children are lost!"
I would have to meekly go out and gather the pups because it was all part of our honorable trade agreement. Almost certainly some scoundrel pup called Rustom would find the thorniest bush to hide under resulting in cuts and scratches on yours truly. At this point the farm workers would stop whatever they were doing and just watch me. Some would have shaking bellies although you couldn't hear the laughter.
Years later, I remain hugely fond of Raveena. However some scars linger. I love children, but not puppies. I am terrified of my sons wandering off somewhere. I don't grow anything with thorns in my garden (I have freaky thornless roses). I can't read books in the living room.
Previous 3-wheeler rides: Boxing Day, Carefree Errands
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