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Childhood | Guwahati

Lippi’s swing in the dusty garden which aunty watered every evening; Nikhil crying inside for his milk; I think I liked Geetu.
First time I ever felt marble was in Guwahati; cold slabs for my child’s body, salve from prickly heat.
Jalpai tree in Lippi’s garden where I crushed snails underfoot and ate her mother’s pickles; the first tree I ever loved.

The small neighbourhood field hosted the bigger boys’ cricket games;
Our football and marbles after they finished.
Before nightfall, mosquitos chased us in
To carrom, Doordarshan Two or videotapes borrowed from the parlour in Ganeshguri.

My father lorded over the office during the day, the kitchen at night.
Fish head curry to make us smart like Bengali classmates,
Though we tried our level best to resist, stay savage.
Redder meats somehow became exotic in the plains,
But emerged out of the freezer everytime guests came round.

At sunset, every day, the monotonous drone of the tube well; the hoots of owls, on the hunt, in the warehouses next door;
The nuisance of smelly Odomos and asphyxiating Tortoise coils.
The whole house settled down for Mtv India, Alisha Chinoy and Apache Indian.

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