My twelfth year was arguably among the best years of my life. Life was all about the little pleasures. I lived in Mumbai back then. It was 1999 and my father was due to be transferred to another city the next year. However, in all my childhood innocence, I had managed to convince myself that we would be living there forever and our lives would never change.
The Mumbai I remember from 1999 is wildly different from how the rest of the world saw it. The city had not become harsh to me yet. I lived with my parents and my twin sister in a spacious two bedroom flat. It was on the seventh floor. We lived in a large colony with five wings. Each wing had eight floors and each floor had two flats each. All the wings were arranged to form a circle with a vast garden at the center. Our flat overlooked the garden. I absolutely adored our flat, our home for the past five years. To this day, thinking about that flat brings nothing but warm memories, full of mirth and contentment. My favorite part of the house were the large French windows in all the rooms. Now that I think about it, that flat is the source of my predilection for houses with large windows. I always equate large windows with happiness. A long, hilly stretch of road enveloped all the wings of the building. This was not a public road. It was well within the gates. Probably the most functional feature of the building, this is where I learnt to ride my bicycle. Teenage kids drove their parent’s cars for the first time here. Be it long walks, parking vehicles or playing hopscotch, that road was a part of everyone’s lives.
Although I lived in Mumbai, I had not embodied its urgency yet. It did not reflect in my personality. It was merely another piece of information about me. My life was in the building I lived in. My building could well be uprooted and taken to another city, I would not have cared. To this day, I have not been able to count the number of friends I had there. In retrospect, it was a strange thing to have; a plethora of friends at an age where the relationship itself is a mystery. There is no denying that twelve was an awkward age. I was not a child, neither was I an adolescent. Surprisingly, I was not puzzled by the things changing within me. Even at that age, I was exhibiting signs of the calm, uncomplaining person that I am today. I somehow sensed that this is how nature works. I was a tad puzzled by the changing behavior of my peers. I am not going to lie, girls were beginning to get insufferable. I somehow did not feel any solidarity for them. I did not notice many changes in boys around me though. They seemed to go on with their lives, playing cricket and hitting each other. From where I saw it, the transition seemed to be easier for them.
That year was the last year of my life where I spent majority of my time outdoors. My love for reading had already sowed it seeds but a desire for social life had swayed me from it for some time. I, along with my sister and friends spent most of our time playing. We never wanted to come home. Our parents could spot us playing from our window and would yell at us to come back home. But we kept playing, tactfully averting our eyes and ears. It was the last year of scraped knees, childish tiffs and innocent jokes. Had I known this then, I would have played some more.
One day in April 2000, my father called from his office. He told my mother that the transfer order had arrived and we were supposed to move to Piravom, a small town in Kerala. This seemed drastic to everyone. Moving from the biggest city in India to a relatively obscure one; it is still one of the most contrasting things to have happened to me. I was inconsolable. I also knew that I had no choice. My parents were sad at leaving too but not as sad as my sister and I. Well acquainted with the mercilessness of the city, they on some level were looking forward to a quiet life.
So one morning in May 2000, two months before I turned thirteen, I bade adieu to that building. My friends were there to see me off, hugging me, saying tearful goodbyes, promising to keep in touch. I was slightly jealous. I could not bear the fact that someone else would now occupy my lovely home with large windows. My friends would find a replacement of me. Their lives would go on while I would have to start from scratch. I had not yet realized that this was actually a gift. I did not know that some day, I would be stronger because of it. After all, I was only twelve.
Written in response to a prompt on Writing 101 – Size Matters