When I was 7, I lived in a little apartment with my family.It was an old building and had 3 stories, and unlike the modern times the ground floor was the best to have because you get your own yard and a white picket fence, not so much like the ones that are as clichéd as “The American dream”, but was a pretty good place to have in a poor country like India, kind of like a third-world-American dream.
Yeah! except for the fact that the fence was the most insignificant part of the dream in my poor third world country,because we actually had a lot of “not- so -American” problems!”
There were about ten similar apartments next to each other.
Every morning, there were three rituals my parents relentlessly performed to wake us up.
5 different alarm clocks, snoozing every 5 minutes from different locations of the bedroom.
It was awful! It was a mini treasure hunt game played by four over-sleepers.
The opening of the blinds
I would rather call this the act of blinding, because in a tropical country like India the sun is up and shining at 5 in the morning, and it can blind you through your eyelids
Turning off of the ceiling fans.
This was worse than Chinese torture especially in a hot and humid place like southern India. Additionally, from all the years of falling asleep to that faint screech from the rusted ceiling fan , you cannot sleep without it screeching.
At the end of all this, you can either pretend like sleeping just to feel happy about kicking your tropical countries ass, getting fried in the process and eventually losing it, or just wake up and get started with the bright humid day. The choice was easy.
The school bus arrives at 7:45 am sharp, but we never got ready on time. Everyone in India has a separate standard time Offset, which has a 5 to 15 minute deviation from the Indian standard time, so while my mom handed two steaming cups of coffee to the bus driver and conductor, my dad checked our school bags and made sure we got everything, and by the time the coffee was done, my sisters were ready to get on to the bus, I reluctantly followed them while eying the empty road for the Origami guy.
Yes! we have conductors for all buses in India
It was summer and around the time the 4 o clock rains start, just before the monsoons. We had just started to learn to play cricket with the boys in our apartment community. There was a huge water tank which was perpetually dry and I seriously do not know why the government spent so much money and time and used all our gully cricket space to build the damn thing.
I would like to think they wanted us to have a nice place to sit and watch the gully games.
There was an elderly gentleman who sat there ever evening and watched us play. When someone was bowled-out they would join this man sitting on the water tank pedestal. He seemed to be glad to have company and he asked me for a notebook when I got out one day and had to wait my turn by sitting under the water tank. he asked me to get an old notebook he could use, I ran and got him a notebook from my huge and heavy knapsack that was heavier than me. he tore a paper from it, and started folding it up into some weird shapes and voila, it finally transformed into a beautiful butterfly. He sometimes even came by in the mornings to hand me and my sisters little origami birds, butterflies and angels. It was something new every day. I fell in love with his origami skills and popularized it in school by wearing it as a badge. Soon there was so much demand for his art and my teacher wanted to order a few of these badges for all the members of a sports club. I was so glad something I started became such a huge hit.
I didn’t know his name, I called him ” Paper thatha” . My parents knew him as the elderly gentleman who lived a block away from our apartment. He was a man of few words and in all those days, he didn’t speak a word. He just smiled and handed the little toys to me. I kept storing them in a wooden box in my closet. All I know about him was that I see him every day and he gives me and my sisters those little paper toys. That day when I got into the school bus, I expected to see him, but he didn’t come. He had shown up every single day the past week, but I didn’t see him in his usual spot under the water tank that weekend. I asked my dad where he lived and he didn’t know. I was upset that I couldn’t talk to him about the badges. I never saw him after that day. I don’t know if I will ever see him.
It has been 20 years since the last time I saw him before getting on my school bus. I still remember how he looked like and his stealthy smile. All I know is he loved children, and did his bit at making them happy. He sure understood and appreciated the beauty that lies within simple things in life.