Long ago, I wrote this post which related experiences from my childhood. I decided it is time for more reminiscences and so here is another vignette from the past!
When I was small, we used to have a lot of family gatherings during vacations. All of my extended family used to meet up at one family's house (the selection of the host family usually used to go in a round-robin fashion to avoid undue burden on just one family) and spend a bunch of days either visiting fun spots or just hanging out together at home.
One of the things I remember loving about these vacations is how the hosting house used to almost burst with all the visiting people. With so many visitors, any day-to-day activity, including eating and sleeping had to be fine-tuned, planned and well-orchestrated to avoid chaos.
For eating, there was no way that all of us could fit into a single room with any comfort. So unless the meal was special (like the elaborate Sunday lunches or the lunches hosted to celebrate a festival), the eaters would generally be divided into three batches: kids, men and women. Or sometimes into two batches: kids and adults. Either way, we kids always had the privilege of eating first :-). After we were done eating, the older kids would take on the serving duties (with an occasional "aaarhgh, don't spill stuff" from the adults) or the babysitting of the younger kids while the others ate. Every meal-time, especially lunch, was a big affair by itself. During dinner, if the menu featured dosas (rice pancakes), woe betide the cooks. All of us kids once sat for more than an hour and a half at dinner eating dosas until we could be satiated!
The next difficult task was making sleeping arrangements for everyone. Those days, during all such gatherings, most of us slept on mats on the ground. We kids would try to group together in a single place while settling down for the night so that we could whisper and giggle into the night (or at least until some irate adult asked us to shut up and sleep). Each family brought its own blankets but the pillows were usually from the hosting house.
One of my uncles, C, used to be very particular about the kind of pillow he wanted. During one vacation, after trying several of the pillows at the hosting family's house, he decided upon one he liked. But how to pull out the "correct" pillow from the pile of bedding night after night? So he hit upon a brilliant idea: using a red pen, he lightly marked a corner of the pillow case of his favorite pillow with his initials. Tada! Now, night after night, as we kids watched, he would triumphantly pull out his favored pillow from the heap.
Soon enough, my sister hit upon an idea for a prank. One day, when no one was watching, we cousins got hold of a red pen ourselves and quietly marked the corner of every pillow's case with Uncle C's initials. And replaced them all back and waited for night. Sure enough, that night, uncle C pulled out the pillow that had his initials but then doubtfully said "Oh, I thought my pillow was thicker than this". One of us innocently said, "Oh uncle C, you are holding the wrong pillow. See, this one has your initials on it". As more of us jumped into the conversation with, "Look, I found THE pillow with your initials", uncle C realized that something was amiss. It wasn't hard to guess what we had done and we all got a sound scolding. But we kids almost cracked our sides laughing that night - so I guess it was worth it!
Hmm, writing about all this makes me wish that I could rewind and go back in time. Oh well, even just recollecting feels good :-)! For now, I shall settle for that!