Soon after I graduated high school, I left my hometown, Dehradun. I didn’t know then that I’d never make my way back to the place of my birth except as a visitor.
I’ve carried my birthplace, my home, within me no matter where I’ve lived in this world.
My grandparents (Papaji and Beji) were a big and happy part of my childhood. They raised the dreamer in me for in their eyes, I could do no wrong. I don’t recall they ever used ‘no’ or ‘don’t do it’ when we (my siblings and I) carried out our adventures in Papaji’s gorgeous garden–climbing and jumping off trees and the big water tank.
They were, however, always ready with a home-made remedy and the softly spoken, ‘next time…do it like this’ advice to heal our cuts and bruises.
I wanted my children, raised outside of India, to experience my grandparents’ love, but time and distance made it impossible.
When I lost Papaji and Beji, my children were very young.
Every time I visited my home town, I’d notice it changing. Concrete, multi-storeys started replacing dirt patches and zig-zag lanes we used to call gully. However, it was the fading of people’s memories of how our neighbourhood used to be that bothered me.
That’s when I started writing and blogging about my childhood, about Beji and her cooking, about Papaji and his love of the land and his grandchildren, about our mulberry tree, about the recipes they conjured up as home-made medicines.
Then one day in the Autumn of 2020, Tanmay read one of my blog posts. He enjoyed it so much that he offered to do a story board.
In the middle of the second Covid wave, while stuck indoors, Tanmay and I would meet over zoom once a week to work on the story. One scene, one-line, little details like how Beji wore her dupatta, how short and messy my hair was when I was five–all of it was skillfully translated into illustrations by Tanmay.
Two years later, our collaboration had become a book. It was ready to be published.
It’s called ‘Don’t climb on the bullock cart.’ And it has found its perfect home with Parakeet Books.