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The memories of a summer vacation in my aunt’s home near Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh still tug at my heart with the scent of lemon rice that I remember.
Tea… Kaapi… Vada… Who from India hasn’t heard that? Unless, of course, you have never traveled long distances by train or by bus. I may sound silly, but those very words are nostalgic as they carry a lot of memories. Memories that make you both happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because you have lived them and loved them. Sad, because those days are gone and will never return.
My most memorable childhood memories are the memories that I spent with my extended family, my loving grandparents, aunts, uncles and my wonderful cousins. My childhood story will not be complete without the exciting trips that we took to my maternal aunt’s place in Andhra Pradesh. Anything to do with trains or buses, including the vendors selling tea and snacks trigger fond memories of my childhood. I will do anything to bottle up those memories so I can relive them whenever I wish.
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As young children, my sister, brother and I could not wait for our summer vacation to start not only because we did not have to go to school, but also because of our yearly ritual of spending time with our extended family. My mom had seven siblings, out of which five of them were in India and two of them were in the US. My family used to switch vacation spots each year between our home in Chennai and the homes of my maternal aunts in Tirupati, Pulivendula, Rajahmundry, Kakinada and Palakollu in India, and the goal was for all families to meet in one place.
I am so grateful that our families came up with this plan. If not, I would have never had the incredible experiences I had while growing up.
One summer, it was decided that we were going to Pulivendula where my mom’s oldest sister and her family lived. Their home was by far the most interesting place for all our cousins because they had a huge house with lots of yard space for us to run around, and also because my uncle was in the police force and we were all in awe of him.
That summer, the excitement started with my dad’s phone call to my uncle to plan our trip to their home. With excitement written all over my face, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. The trip was all that I and my siblings could think of for the next few days.
Finally the day of our departure arrived. We were all packed and ready to board the train to Kadapa. I was already impatient and couldn’t wait for the train to depart, and soon after, thankfully to my mom’s relief, it was announced that our train will be departing in 30 mins.
I never knew that the day and that announcement would be etched in my mind forever, as the arrivals and departure announcements in Chennai Central till date are music to my ears, reminding me of that specific trip each time I hear it. Dr. Seuss rightly said, Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. How very true!
After an exciting journey on the train and subsequently in the jeep that my uncle had sent to pick us up from Kadapa, we were finally at the door step of our aunt’s home in Pulivendula. All our cousins came running hearing the jeep and gave us all a big hug. Although we were a little exhausted from the trip, we felt rejuvenated seeing our cousins. My youngest cousin wanted to know when we were planning to return back, not because he wanted us to leave, but because he wanted to make sure that we were not leaving anytime soon. We tease him about this till this day.
Throughout our vacation, we would play all day in the yard and do field trips by ourselves in the nearby fields. We would return home in the afternoon, all exhausted, to a delicious lunch prepared by my grandma, mom, and my aunts. After lunch, my oldest cousin would choreograph a dance drama with all the cousins. Each cousin would play a part and it was so much fun. The plan was to stage the drama with costume and props before our family a week or 2 before our vacation is over and when we finally did the dance drama, it was a major hit with our aunts. They said they loved it but I now hope they weren’t just being polite.
We also made a trip to a fort a couple of hours from my aunt’s place, and this trip is the most memorable trip I ever had in my life thus far. Not because it was fancy, but because it was with the people I love, and because of the fun we had by just being together.
On our way to the fort, we had to stop over and have lunch. We had stopped near a lemon grove and interestingly enough, we also had lemon rice for lunch. The scent of the lemon and the flavor of the lemon rice till this day reminds me of the trip to the fort. I am fortunate that I can relive those moments, merely by the smell and the taste of the lemon. Someone has said, “Nothing is more memorable than a smell. A scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains”. I cannot but agree to that and in my case, that scent is of a lemon.
Our summer vacation was over as soon as it started and the day we had to return back home from our vacation finally arrived. None of us were ready to say our goodbyes. We all hugged each other and promised to write to each other. Fortunately, we are keeping up our words and are able to stay in touch with each other in this world of social media, but I still continue to relive my memories the best way I can by a familiar scent or a smell.
To all my extended family, uncles, aunts and cousins, I would not have the amazing childhood I had without you. You made my life a memorable one and it is now my turn to pass that on to my children so that one day, they can also look back and reminisce their childhood memories just like I did.
Image source: Unsplash
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