Everyday on my way to work, I pass a house with a swing in its front yard.
It stands still in those early hours of the morning. When the owners might be busy getting their shoes shined and packing school bags.
I have always wanted to live in a house that has a swing. It is impossible in my current apartment because of the arrangement of rooms and anyway it is not worth it in an apartment at all. Then it becomes too small and you cannot let yourself go on it. A Bonsai swing that is just pretty.
We have one in Kolhapur at my grandparents place. It would not be an exaggeration if I say that I grew up on it. We used to make a “swing house” by draping a sari on all the four sides. My aunt would be at the end of her wits tying and untying saris for us. My cousin and I carried our entire toy kitchen inside to bring life to the moving house.
I remember one time our cat had a golden kitten and we decided to host a “naming ceremony” (excuse my language but there is no parallel word in English for this and although it sounds goofy, this is the only one that describes it the best) where traditionally babies are put inside a crib in India. So we converted the five and a half feet long swing into a crib. We decorated it with garlands of marigold. My grandma used to be very enthusiastic about such things. We made invitations on a chart paper and went across the whole neighborhood inviting people. The three of us, Aaji, my cousin and I planned the menu. We brought paper dishes, napkins and made a place for a “serve yourself” buffet table. It was supposed to begin at six in the evening so we draped ourselves in saris at about five thirty and waited for the guests. My cousin and I were about eight and six respectively so Aaji had to fold one fourths of the sari all across its length because we were too short to wear an adult sari.
The swing was set. We tied a wind chime in the center by suspending it on an almost invisible string diagonally across opposite chains so that the kitten would not get bored while it was being named.
Everybody arrived on time but in our evident mirth over getting dressed up and playing the “charming hostesses” we had completely forgotten to keep an eye on the kitten. So it took us a very long time to hunt for it especially since crawling under all the beds in a big house wasn’t that easy when you were wearing six yards of vanity around yourself. We caught hold of the reluctant kitten and its completely disinterested mother finally and brought them ceremoniously towards the swing.
The proud mother managed to scratch my cousin and run away. So fearing that we won’t have any cats to complete the ceremony we hurriedly put the kitten into our embellished crib. I have managed to remember all these minor things about the incident but I fail to recollect what name we chose for the kitten. Perhaps because the name and the kitten were not as important as the apparently minor things!
It ran away as soon as one of us named it and Aaji insisted that we leave it alone after that and just have food and fun, which we were more than ready to do.
They used to remove the wooden base of the swing from the chains during the first showers to save it from getting drenched. The swing is tied between the kitchen and an open terrace. It is open on tree sides so an unruly rain almost always covers the entire area around it!
It was a lot more fun with just the four chains suspended in eternity. I used to throw water and soap on the floor and we used to slip and skate using the chains for support. Of course this was a clandestine afternoon activity as throwing soap water on floor in a house inhabited by seventy-year-olds was a serious crime.
The greatest pleasure however was the simple uninhibited swing. Hold on to the chains and push against the kitchen wall with your feet. It took me a while to grow taller and be able to do that without anybody’s help but it has given me the greatest joy since then. In my grandparent’s house all the important discussions are always carried out on the swing. Whether it is scrutinizing the resumes of the prospective grooms for my cousin or renovation of the house. All of us gather around the swing.
Neighbors come to visit with samples of their culinary experiments for my aunt and then linger around on the swing making small talk with her. Their kids finish their homework and hurry up to book a seat on the swing.
If you are lucky enough to be just two inches over five feet tall, you can also get your afternoon nap on it. That is what I do when the weather is cloudy and I have a great book to doze off into.
That swing is a permanent memory for me. Every time I see a similar or a better one anywhere around my mind goes back to the days when eating ripe mangoes, running around the neighborhood bare feet and getting our nails cleaned using safety pins were the only really important priorities in our lives. When getting up at ten in the morning was something people adored you for and drinking tea with four spoons of sugar never created that crinkle between my eyebrows. I guess this is why we get a childhood and a good memory. For when Life swings back and forth between day and night, it reminds you of all the fun you had doing that long time back. :)