We had a family house in the city of Pune
and it smelled of vacations and childhood summers.
we used to tip-toe a weekend or two there
far away from the grey skies, the trees were greener and the air was saltier.
It was the time before selfies and skype
so we used to play with pebbles and our laughter
used to elate like the helium balloons we used to leave behind on the ceiling.
Time used to laze around,
all the homework assignments forgotten
and a certain carrom board was our battleship after scraping our skinny elbows
while climbing the trees picking all the mulberries.

I, three years chubby in my carefree knickers,
learns climbing like I learn alphabets back at home.
My cousin, three and a half, braids all of my hair and we beam
like  movie stars as the braids unravel curls that look like telephone cords
and in the evening, we stuff our mouths
with strawberries as we memorise all the songs
from the only cassette, we have brought along.

I, eight years skinny in my bell-bottom pants,
learns to chase grasshoppers on a pedalling bike.
My brother, nine, complains that his sisters never play cricket
as we run from the backyard to the front of the house
with dolls in our hands blaming unknown accusations as someone falls
on the wet ground. Mothers peel mangoes happily
as we consider climbing the fence to pet the dogs on the other side.

I, twelve years shy, in my overalls,
writes another poem on a rough sheet of paper,
My cousin, twelve and a half, teasingly ties it with a thread
on the highest branch of the mulberry tree in the front lawn while
I threaten her to drench her frock with a water pipe in my hand
which does not terrify her at all. Brother learns to ride a scooter
from the trusted elder teenager who lives next door.

We had a family house in the city of Pune
which was home to many first-time’s and cheerful injuries.
There, we were not just children on vacations
but proud owners of walkmans, marbles and pebbles.
We played games that never made it to mobile phone apps
and we danced on songs that we would never understand
and plucked berries and poems from the trees
as we danced barefoot in the showers of the waterpipe.