I have quite the humongous extended family. For the sake of clarity, just my first cousins alone sum up to a hundred plus figure. My eldest cousin is older than my mother, and my mum is now in her early ’70s!
The definite plus side to having such a large kinfolk is a fun childhood, where every evening at my Nan’s place was buzzing with a wedding-like festivity. My grandmother’s two-storied house was always packed to its brim — aunts, uncles, their friends and their cousins, my cousins, and our friends.
Every evening, the aunts and the mums met up for some chit chat, while we played just about anything you could think of — tilo-express, four corners, dolls’ wedding and so much more.
It was difficult to get up to the roof top, so we had to resort to climbing the ladder, or better yet, getting a piggy ride on the back of the uncles while getting a shove up to the roof was the way to go. The rose garden of my grand dame was the place to hide all our secret treasures, it was all such good fun!
Munching packs and packs of plain potato chips from the adjoining chips factory, without having to pay a cent because it was Nan’s, was an adolescent- dream come true. Climbing guava trees or picking custard apples, playing with pots and pans under the coconuts trees that stood in a line, watching the uncles fight over whose girlfriend would get the first magnolia bloom, Nanu’s cupboards full of achars and biscuits, even taking a bath in the huge red-floored bathroom were all just unbelievably fun. Listening to cricket matches on the radio, watching BTV special movies together, listening to ghazals on record players with the older uncles, learning the meaning of the Urdu verses; these are all sweet memories that I cherish, and reminisce whenever I hear the words “Nanur basha.”
So now you can have an idea of what festivities were like in that house. Shab-e Barat, Eid, Pahela Baishakh; even national election days, were all packed with exciting activities. To me, every endeavour was pleasurable. We used to take money from all our aunts and uncles, and organise picnics while playing with our pots and pans, and held ‘choroi bhati’ or impromptu picnics on weekends.
Of course, the yearly attraction for the clan was our family picnic. Just planning it for months was fun in its own way. Hiring two red buses to go to the National Bhawal forest, having breakfast in the bus, singing songs at top of our voices, mimicking jingles, dancing to music, cooking food on the makeshift stoves in the forest… the banter, leg pulling, the whole getting lost in the forest and being scolded for it bits, even that guilty thrill of stealing a cigarette stick and lighting it—all had an exuberance of youth infused into them.
Unfortunately, all these activities are no longer viable; fun for me now means passing a candy crush level. However, I strongly believe it’s possible to still have that kind of fun, minus the prejudices, showing off wealth or anything. Friends, cousins or in-laws just head off somewhere in the distance and having a picnic.
A picnic at somebody’s house is just fine too, because then it becomes just a meet and chill. And while there, grilling a fish, tossing in some shrimps, adding a brisket roast, a few buns and potato croquettes, tomato salads, or even ordering in kacchi biryani would hit just the spot. And as for picnic destinations, just head towards Uttara 3rd phase, 300feet, 100feet, Zinda park, Shapla Beel, Arunapolli, or Jahangir Nagar, and set yourself a wonderful picnic.
And what better time to do all these than winter? Make the best of friendships and relationships. I implore you to try forget the daily gruel and head out for that wondrous winter picnic, now!
Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel
LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed