Every year around this time I sit down eagerly to cover the children’s schoolbooks and pronto: Vamankaka comes visiting me.
The smell of glue and paper of the new books is an invigorating memory filled fragrance, which propels me back as I diligently slice the paper and fold it around the hard covers.
Around this time, every summer holiday, Vamankaka would return home from the Sachivalaya (The secretariat), change into his “vesty-lungee” & half sleeved banyan, spread the bullet hit limp leg (He was shot in a police firing during the freedom struggle) across the floor and assemble the books with the help of his walking stick and draw them close to the neat pile of brown paper covers.
We would return from our evening play, wash up, change and gather around him with our comic books and the new tv remote.
Vamankaka would continue dexterously covering the books crease-lessly, as he spoke to us about our day. The aroma of the freshly made many layered rotis (papudras-polees) would waft in from Shaku Kaku’s kitchen.
The neatness of Vamankaka's actions were impeccable, and Sharad, Bandu, and Munnee had the best covered books in the school for the year.
Watching Vamankaka cover the books reminded us that the summer holidays had come to an end and the time to return to Pune or Vadodara from Bombay and the round of adventures had indeed come.
By this time, Vamankaka had taken us to Kohir, to Manyarpalli and to Hyderabad in his favorite ride; the white ambassador with white turkish towels smelling of some Andhra dhobhi-ghat soap.
By this time we would have had our fill of mangoes from Shankar anna, enough bullock rides, loads of well swims, and farm romps.
And along with the umpteen train rides, cycle rickshaw rides, gorged sambhar and muddipallya from Vatsala Atya’s Adikmet house, an eventful holiday with our myriad cousins from Karnataka, Andhra, and Maharshtra had been had.
It would be dark by the time Vamankaka finished covering the books. We would light the Diya and intone “Shubhankaroti Kalyanam” & “Divya divya deepatkar” loudly, stomachs cringing with hunger and in anticipation of Shaku kaku’s great dinner.
Invariably, some elder cousin would drop in; Arun dada from Ambernath, or Ramesh dada from Thane, and stay back to escort us back to our homes the next day.
So every year this is a ritual that I lovingly dabble in, with Vamankaka next to me; albeit without the accompanying young brothers and sisters.
I could list a few dozen things he could do with his walking stick, or a few hundred ways he expressed his love as we grew up, but that wouldn’t surmise the teardrops on Veer’s book right now.
So till next year kaka, adieu!