My head lops off the side of the kat, upside down, I close one eye and then the other, gaze focused on the mango tree in the distance. What is that on the branches? I entwine my fingers into the tightly strung rope at the foot of the charpai and lift myself up.
Noon’s piercing blade is slightly blunt. Golden hour dims down, the world is wrapped in a dusky chadar. Serpentine smoke rises from the clay oven as the hubbub of a humble kitchen prepares the evening meal.
These precious moments are so dear to my nomad heart. Namkeen chai chases away remnants of the noon-nap, revived by Asr prayers bodies slowly stir to life to signpost the evening congregation. Sitting, eating, laughing, revelling in the cool magic of the dark. These precious moments ground me.
Then the busy silence of the night preludes the dance of shooting stars. A kaleidoscope of memories shimmer beneath the canvas of a starry sky…
4. savage from day one, flippantly remarking how the cow dung on the side of the road must belong to my best friend.
9. mortified, wondering how such a personal memory of singing Kaala Doriya could be forgotten by me but remembered by a complete stranger asking me to ‘sing it like you used to’.
7. pulling the bukram-part of our shalwars up to the fattest part of our thighs and blowing air in at the elasticated navel: jumping into the water, shrieking as our pants formed floats to keep us adrift in deep green waters.
7. picking white blossoms to make wrist-garlands; long walks through fields sucking the stems of mustard flowers; only half-attentive while berry picking – watching out for snakes
12. climbing the tree in the veranda to leap onto the roof: our secret play area, trinkets and treasures gathered to create tiny houses with tinier kitchen utensils.
21. don’t want to be a feast for mosquitoes, lathering skin in mustard oil and regretting it instantly as the pain sears and the smell sinks in.
21. belly-splitting laughter with nani’s half-complete bedtime stories, zwaa, jwaa, jwaad: takes her several attempts to get my name right, as if reading the urdu patti.
21. in the rasoi enjoying makkeh ni roti out of a silver platter with nana asking, ‘Zoya, nice hai?’
29. a kaleidoscope of memories shimmer beneath the canvas of a starry sky, settle on my eyelids like April dew at dawn, drip down my cheeks…
A thousand tales dwell here…a single story is formed here: I am home.