Many years ago I was staying in Yogiraj society in Nagpur, it was 2 BHK flat. While standing on the entrance gate of Yogiraj society, you could see the entire society. There was a cemented straight path from the main gate, the path was wide enough so that five to six SUV’s could easily pass through. On both sides of the path, there were four storeys tall buildings and there were 6 such buildings on both sides. It was a big society. That straight path was our playground, and parking for the society members. They would park their vehicles just in front of their building.
My flat was on the first right on the fourth floor in the last building on the right.
I don’t even remember when I came to that society, we were 8 people in that flat – aai (mother), baba (father), jiji (badi maa/ eldest aunty), mothe baba (bade papa/ eldest uncle), my sister and 2 cousins.
Me and my cousin Deval, who is just one year younger than me, both loved playing cricket in that society, there were many children of our age and a few seniors to us, but we all would always play together. In summers we were always outside playing cricket or football.
Our country is so diverse, and so was our society. There was a Christian family on the second floor in the second building on the left side of the main gate entrance. On the Christmas eye, a man dressed as Santa Clause would stand in the centre of the society, shouting ‘Merry Christmas’’ and singing ‘Jingle bells’. When all the children would be assembled in the society compound, the Santa Clause would distribute chocolates and once even got gifts.
On the occasion of Id, Shabnam my friend from the society would often come to my house to give Kheer. My sister and Shabnam were good friends and they would often play with dummy kitchen sets.
During Lohri, we all friends would dance along with Amandeep on Punjabi songs encircling the holy bonfire. Once I remember, I was sitting on the shoulder of an uncle from society and we all danced to Punjabi songs.
Ganesh Chaturthi was my favourite festival, we all children would be involved in the decorative work, we were managed by elders from society. Few of the elders from the society would travel to bring the Ganesha idol along with dhol-tasha. Dhol-tasha is the traditional drum and instrument which you commonly see in Maharashtra, the playing sound of dhol-tasha is so empowering that you cannot resist yourself from dancing.
We children were not allowed into the truck, but when Ganesh idol along with dhol-tasha came near the main gate of our society, we children would dance all the way to the foundation area of the Ganesha idol.
Ganesh Chaturthi also had a lot of games like drawing, sports competitions and many more. One such competition was a fancy dress competition. Once I dressed as a vegetable seller for a fancy dress competition, I carried a basket on my head, and the basket had few vegetables. I was performing in front of the Ganesha idol, my back was facing the idol, and I was performing in front of many people, who were sitting on plastic chairs, my mother was also sitting in the front row. While performing an uncle came near me and asked ‘What is the rate of 1 kg tomatoes’, I looked at my mother for an answer, and she said 20 rupees. Then that uncle really handed me 20 rupees and took all the tomatoes from my basket, he said he really needed tomatoes and everyone laughed.
Once I also won the first prize in a dance competition, the Ganesh festival was really fun.
Days became weeks, weeks became months and months became years, when I was in 7th standard, we shifted to a new society named Shivdayal society, which was a few minutes away from Yogiraj society.
The society had an entrance gate and a straight road which lead inside the society, the path was up to two times the length of a cricket pitch and wide enough to allow two SUV’s to pass at the same time, from that path it had a long rectangular boundary wall, with 3 buildings in a single row and there were two such rows of building in that society. I loved riding a bicycle inside the perimeter of the boundary walls.
This society was very smaller than my previous society and also the number of children of my age were merely 7-8. Our flat was 2-BHK, but smaller in size as compared to our flat in previous society. The playing area was also smaller in size, we had to move aside the bikes/ scooters parked in front of the buildings.
At first, it was a little difficult for me to adjust to new friends so I and my cousin used to play with each other. Soon I got mixed up with my new friends, I adapted myself in the new friend circle and then playing cricket and football in that small area seems fun.
In the beginning, a few things were still missing in my new society like during summer vacations other children would gather in the parking and they would enjoy gossiping and chatting, and we were not invited, and as time passed by even we had personal invitations for gossip.
But, the festivals were not celebrated so much, I guess due to less space in the society. Even in Ganesh Chaturthi, people would come down only for evening aarti.
Holi was great in both the society since everyone loves the festival of colours, and we have never celebrated Diwali in Nagpur, we celebrate it in our Village.
I felt that people in this society are more segregated and do not like to get involved with anyone. But soon this feeling started to change, I could see aunties from society coming into our house for tea parties and gossips, and my mother and jiji being invited to their house for the same.
In summers, we children started playing cricket till midnight, we were developing good bonding.
I lived there for three years and then we all again shifted to our own house. All my family now live together, and we all have a lot of fun. But we all cousins miss those days a lot, and we even talk about those days.