October 1987, Age 7: After being carefully dressed Mom exquisitely plaits my sister’s hair before tying a yellow ribbon at the fine edges of her long hair. In spite of trying to cover up it was difficult to hide the cute dumbfounded look on Ami’s face. Soon my uncle raised me above his shoulders so I could summon the Gods by ringing the giant brass bell. In the evening I helped my aunt place lit earthen lamps called ‘Diyas’ around the house, on balconies, and windows. Then my cousin handed me a sparkle and supervised me as I lit it. Instantly I said, “Happy Diwali, Atul Bhai.” [Bhai means brother in Gujarati]
January 1994, Age 14: I was woken up by a loud blaring stereo system in the neighbourhood which played: Ye Kaali Kaali Aankhein [These Black Eyes] from the Bollywood movie ‘Baazigar,’ [Gambler] 1993. I watched the neatly aligned red clay tiles when I reached the rooftop. The sky was scattered with colourful kites flying in all directions. Chewing homemade peanut brittle made by my great-grandmother I stood by my sister, Ami, who held the spool with one hand and adjusted the over-sized goggles with the other. People who never look in the direction of the sky could look nowhere but at the spectacular view. The excitement of Uttarayan was concluded at night when my cousin Kalpesh placed a tea-light candle in the red tukkal while I watched it fly away by a white kite. The paper lantern gracefully disappeared in the darkeness of the night. It was a memorable kite flying festival.
Would I? Would I trade the memories of my childhood, my native place for all the treasure in the world? The answer lies in the echoes of a certain well. It lies in the taste of those ripe sun-dried green mangoes. It lies in ringing bells of the prayer services. It lies on the red clay rooftops where peacocks sang to welcome the morning sunshine. Limbdi is a small town situated 10 km north of Dahod, in Dahod District, Gujarat. It is also the birthplace of my mother and my native place.
After working in the scorching heat of the summer, residents of Limbdi find a sanctuary at Green Chowk’s [Intersection] famous Jom Gola. My mouth watered as the server poured the bright coloured fruit syrup over the snowcones before garnishing them with sweetened milk cream and shredded coconut. I always asked for 3 flavours – orange, lemon and black currant; while my sister opted for chikoo [sapodilla], chocolate and Shahi Gulaab [Royal Rose].
I miss the friendly neighbours. I miss the smiling face of my late grandfather. I miss feeding a banana to a monkey through the window, plucking flowers and tulsi [ocimum tenuifloram] leaves for offerings at the temple. I am very attached to my native place and feel nostalgic about my childhood.
Limbdi homes the countless memories that I created with my family and shall continue to impregnate even more countless memories. One must live it to know it: the warmth, affection, selflessness and unconditional love. I feel grateful for being blessed with such beautiful gifts that give me immense pleasure. Those walls call me, even today.
I may travel a hundred nations but just like earth’s gravitational force I will go back to the sweetness in the well water, the sourness of my aunt’s pickle, the sight of the long red triangular flag of Mota Mandir [Big Temple], the smell of the land after first showers. This is my native place: colourful, cultured, rich and vibrant. To dissolve in one’s own water is the destiny of ice, misty water-coloured memories.
Pratik Mamtora was born & raised in India. He has lived in London, United Kingdom for three years & absolutely loved it there. Pratik has a Bachelor’s in English from India and Master’s (ABD) from UNA. He loves to read and write, especially poetry. Pratik enjoys coffee & conversation and is passionate about serving the community. He invests himself in understanding the needs of the modern world and the evolving spirituality within. Pratik is known to walk that extra mile to make others happy. If you ever meet… or when you meet him, Pratik will make you smile.