On balmy summer nights, when there is a rare and empty silence, I look up at the moonlit sky and miss Amma. My childhood ruminations can never be complete without a mention of her. Those were the days of ‘no agenda in life’, no right or wrong, just living in the moment. Most nights after dinner, the neighbourhood kids would gather around Amma. We would spread out mats under the drumstick tree and make ourselves comfortable, our eyes lustrous with expectation. Amma was an avid storyteller. Her stories were alluring, laced with drama and intrigue. We hung on to her every word, totally enraptured. Our mothers usually huddled around in a separate group, but at times a hush would fall on their gossip and we knew they were as drawn to the tales as we were.
Amma was an elderly woman who lived with her grandson. They were poor and occupied a shabby, ramshackle house in the quarter. At one time, she had been nanny to a now famous Bollywood actress. But she never bragged about it. What defined her was her incredible storytelling, her simplicity and her warmth.
The other night, at about 1.30 a.m., we were awakened by a power cut. It was unbearably hot. For the first one hour, we tried to cover our discomfort with jokes and conversation. I fanned myself with a newspaper until my arm threatened to fall off. When we could take it no more, we went down and sat in our car with the air-conditioner on. In the eerie silence of that night, dotted just by the hum of the air-conditioner and an owl screeching in the distance, I closed my eyes and imagined I was back under the spangled skies of my simple childhood. I could hear Amma’s lulling voice and the camaraderie of the neighbourhood, and like a serenade, it soothed my soul.
Life was never meant to be a struggle. It was meant to be simple; to unfold effortlessly. Like Amma’s charming stories.