During my school days, immediately after our summer vacations began, we were packed and sent to my grandparental house in Punjab, located in a small village called Agampur Sahib. The village is at a stone's throw distance from the historic city of Anandpur Sahib. These vacations usually started around the first week of May and ended around the last week of June. We spent our entire vacation there with a week-long trip in between to my maternal grandparent's house at a nearby town of Bhakra Nangal.
This tradition continued till the beginning of my 10th class. The vacation period used to be the time when most of my cousins also descended over the house from different cities. My grandparental house was quite a big house and there was a small ranch nearby. This ensured that the house could easily accommodate this big group. We all used to look forward to summer vacations when we could spend time doing various activities like playing in the fields, fetching water from the village well, visiting Anandpur Sahib town with our grandmother where she will feast us with local delicacies like steaming hot jalebis and burfi.
One activity that I liked the most was to spend our afternoon time at our ranch along with all the cousins. The ranch had many fruit trees and especially the mango tree fascinated us a lot. We used to pluck the unripe or green mangos and eat them with salt.
This apart, our ranch had always a couple of buffaloes which was a norm to have for every household at the village. Buffalo breeding is still one of the major livelihoods in Indian rural areas for most of farmer families. Buffaloes not only provide milk and other products, but also support the families in plowing the muddy fields. They are also used for pulling the carts to carry the field production to the market and other things. Due to this they are also called "the living tractors".
One of the most important activities for our cousins who were based in there, was to ensure that buffaloes were taken out to green fields for grazing. The work had been outsourced to a local shepherd who took the buffaloes every day around 9.00 a.m. and brought them back to the ranch in the evening. However, on Sundays, holidays and vacations, it was a daily chore for our local cousins to accompany the shepherd. Without saying, it became our chore as well. One can say that we all city cousins played the role of a shepherd during the summer vacations.... The Shepherds of the Summer Vacations. Though sometimes we had to jostle, beg and fight with our cousins to avail the privilege which now reminds me of the famous Mark Twain's story.
We all went out with buffaloes and played in the field while buffaloes grazed. Sometimes, we played with recently born calves which was a huge fun for all of us as they were rarities in the cities around our houses. On other occasions, we carried our books and sit on one corner to finish our vacation homework. Occasionally, we sneaked out to a nearby rivulet called Charan Ganga for a dip in the hot afternoon even though it was absolutely forbidden for us for the fear of getting drowned.
During all this time, we were tasked with one important activity. We had to keep an eye on our flock of buffaloes and ensure that they grazed on the particular part of the fields where the grass was greener and higher. It was believed that grazing on green grass would ensure more milk and of better quality. For having done all this, in the night, we were rewarded by our grandmother with one big glass of hot milk boiled in a clay pot. The milk had a thick creamy layer on the top. The aroma and the flavor of the boiled milk coming out from the clay pot was something that we all loved and craved for.
This happened to be my limited but close to a forgotten brush with the animal kingdom. After I moved to 10th class, the visits became shorter and infrequent and I just realized that 30 years have flown by in a whisker.
Recently, we had gone out for a week-long family trip to the hills. When we came back and opened our balcony, I noticed two small eggs in the corner. When I looked around, I could notice a pair of pigeons perched up on the balcony wall, probably maintaining a safe distance as well as eagerly watching my reactions.
What happened over the next thirty days... I would write in my next post.