Ah! My place… I smiled with contentment as I stepped foot in The Nest.
The Nest was the tree house papa had gotten made for us when we stood not above 3.5 foot from the ground. It was our hideout where my sister and I pretended to be divas saving the world and strategized how to kill the monsters. And sometimes it became the venue for our birthday parties. But mostly it was where we spent most of our growing up years either reading or playing or working on school projects.
The cosy tree house was adequately furnished with a large bed on the far right where we would cuddle up on Saturday afternoons for some folklore stories from mumma and papa, a small table on the left at the entrance with a lamp on it, an almirah along the left wall to store linen and books and board games, another table next to the almirah to hoard drinking water, electric kettle, tea bags, tumblers and snacks, two bean bags, and a battery inverter to take care of power cuts. It was complete with a small washroom.
The tree house opened into a small balcony overlooking the ridge into the villages far away. The lights from those villages twinkled like little yellow stars and we wondered who would be living there and what would they be like.
The rhododendron trees along the ridge enhanced the view with their fire-like red flowers. The wall separating the balcony was made of glass. So when it got a little chilly, we used to laze on the bed with the blinds lifted and stared outside.
This was the mid 90’s in Mussourie when childhood was gadget-free and we had real bugs and birds to chase, grew our own little garden beneath the tree house and made a scarecrow to scare away the monkeys from eating our home-grown tomatoes, peas and corn.
And then it was time to say goodbye to The Nest. No, nothing happened to it. Rather my sister and I left home to achieve the worldly certifications of being economically profitable. Life through college and then jobs gave us lesser time to visit our parents, let alone spending a day at The Nest. And then there was a time when even our home visits couldn’t be synchronised. Going up alone there wasn’t fun at all.
However, the memories remained etched and they always brought a sighing smile……..of making origami on summer afternoons, reading stories and discussing why the princesses always had to be rescued, our silly fights over whose turn was it to clean the place, lying down on the bed and staring at the stars as the night breeze coaxed us to sleep……..
Even today, it imparts the same comfort. My husband refers to it with a fancy modern word much in use these days – therapy. In fact he prefers calling it Therapy Nest that I keep rejecting every time. You see, the tree house embraces an important part of my life, giving it a clinical terminology strips it off the emotions that it hosts.
A look around it took me back to the good old days. The origami we made still swung in the balcony, the lamp stand had chipped off when it fell because I was trying to pull the table stood intact, the air cushions have new lavender covers on them that goes well with the violet rug next to the bed, the petunias in the balcony blossomed in full might though I don’t remember planting them, my favourite peach tea bags were well arranged next to the kettle. It was all there. It felt the same after a year since I last visited. A look around made my anger vanish.
O yes! I was angry. With my mumma. Very angry. And that’s why I had stormed out of the house.
We had discussed it a lot many times earlier, and things seemed to have almost smoothened out, or so I thought……
Why are parents so stubborn? They want the best for their children alright, but why don’t they realise that their children also covet to do the best for them. All my husband and I wanted was for them to come and live with us. Life would be convenient and way more comfortable in the city for them. There were no hidden agendas like babysitting our kids or running errands for us or any concern with their health that needed attention or luring them into selling their lavish Mussourie home and giving us the money which, by the way, my uncle tried poisoning their minds with. It was a clean, genuine desire of wanting my parents to live with us.
Ten years of being married and living in a beautifully architecture, modern house uptown, we had all the resources to provide them with a comfortable city life. The last time they visited, about eight months back, they loved it there. And so I wanted them to spend some time with us. This humble proposal was again open for discussion over brunch this morning but had eventually cascaded into an argument around noon time resulting in my going out for some fresh air.
I slumped onto the bed and adjusted the lavender cushions around my head. I laid there staring at the ceiling. The oak wood used to make the tree house looked hard and strong. The walls too shined against the bright day light. Papa mentioned about getting the rivets of the cantilever tightened. He probably had the interior polished too. Made of wood with no real base to strengthen it, the tree house needed more care.
As I turned on my left side and looked across the floor, the wide planks lay neatly carpentered together. I remember drawing a beetle once on one of it near the bed. Yeah, gone; the entire interior was done up. And then my eyes caught something near the almirah. I got up and left the bed to get a closer look. It looked like a black whirlpool. And then I looked around. They weren’t many but they were there on all the three walls, the ceiling and the floor. Distanced randomly and measuring the size of about a bottle-cap, they were spewed all over. Funnily, I never noticed them here before.
My husband had bought a chair once; the kind that has a big seat and a bigger backrest, and with arms extending on both the sides that can hold your coffee mug or books or laptop. He thought it would go well in the study where I could sit and read as he worked on his table across the room.
That chair too had a knot on the backrest towards the left.
When I pointed it out saying he probably made a bad deal, he said that it was taken care of and it wasn’t a flaw anymore.
But it does look like one and it spoils the beauty of the chair was my argument.
He flashed his charming smile saying that said that if I looked closely, it is actually the ‘flaw’ which is making the chair beautiful; that that is what is adding character to it.
Looking at the knots on the wall made me smile. They were all smoothened out but still bore their dark cocoa colored appearance. Some a little bigger than the others, some a little darker than the rest, they added character to The Nest.
It is weird how the flaws in the things make them beautiful.
I think my husband may have referred to my shortcomings as well which he, I believe, has gotten used to by now. Because if they aren’t life altering or threatening, then they truly are just characters that define the person.
I poured myself some tea and walked out into the balcony. The sun was heading towards the west. Even the summer days are shorter in this region of the Greater Himalayas. Though the sun is bright during the noon, it usually bids adieu by 5 in the evening. And before that, somewhere around 3 in the afternoon, the rays start losing their warmth. It is as if the sun switches off its engine and lets inertia roll it down the horizon.
I could hear the trucks echoing a roar as they drove back to their parking bays. The birds started chirping their flights back home. The petunias in my balcony wound their petals in to call it a day. The village lights had started twinkling. I inhaled the clean mountain breeze as I sipped on my tea. Ah! no urban luxury can compare with this divine haven.
Somewhere between soaking in the scenic bliss, thinking about the knots and relating them to my flaws, I realised that my parents were as flawed! Or more so because they didn’t have a reason to back their argument with! But then again, why was a reason needed anyway? They weren’t to go for it because they didn’t feel like going for it. And that should be a good enough reason in itself.
Why weigh everything against a valid reasoning? When did verifying our wants supersede what our heartfelt desires were? In this transactional world of being economically viable, when did we lose touch with our emotions? They are free to be living the way they want, and visit us when they feel. And after all, it was these little antics and quirks that made them who they were! These were the tiny flaws that added character to their wondrous personalities.
So that summer afternoon amidst the Himalayas, in my old tree house which papa had gotten made for us and which mumma had prettied up for us, I was soaked in the moment of realisation. And from that point, there happened a shift in my relationship with them. Mostly for the better.