The best part of that house was its terrace. I was visiting my ancestral home in Bangladesh for the first time since my grandfather immigrated to India in 1953. The house, a mansion actually, was located amidst a mango orchard and adjoined a lake used for washing people and fishing.
It was winter time. The exact date was December 29, 2014. It was the year I met my whole family for the very first time in twenty years. I discovered to my great surprise that I was an aunt of five, grandmother of three and a sister-in-law of seven, not to mention a sister of God knows how many. Yes, my family is big.
As you can imagine, having being raised in a city in a nuclear family, I found the company of over 50 relations a little too overbearing and hence found myself escaping to the terrace often. The terrace is bigger than my father’s flat in Delhi and at night, one can lose oneself in its expanse. You see, that part of Bangladesh has very little electricity and the inhabitants take help of torches at night to navigate their way.
One of these nights, I was sitting on a khatia (a form of bed) in the terrace, looking at the night sky and admiring the constellations when a little girl came and sat beside me. I am still confused as to my exact relation with her. But it would be safe to guess that she was one of my nieces. I had seen her playing with the other kids and she seemed to be the ringleader to all the mischiefs.
She would be around ten years old and had bright, curious eyes. She was wearing her night dress and had a red ribbon tied to her head. She asked me what I was doing on the terrace all by myself.
I told her that I was watching stars.
“Can I watch with you too?” she asked.
To tell the truth, the prospect of watching stars with a kid beside me did not excite me much. Quite on the contrary, I dreaded it.
She sat down next to me and put her hand in front of her eyes. She then pointed her finger at the moon and dragged it to the nearest star. This gesture was followed by a question, the answer to which I am still pondering on.
“Mashi (aunty in Bengali), why do they say the moon and the stars are light years apart when I can join them with my finger. It doesn’t take me light years to go from the moon to the nearest star- just takes me a finger.”
The immediate response was to explain the science behind it all and bore the poor kid. She seemed not to want the explanation I was giving her and perhaps wanted me to say that she had bad teachers and recommend not going back to school. After my speech, she looked at me, called me a bore and left.
I smiled. I had never jelled well with kids. Their questions were either stupid or unanswerable. Some asked too many questions. But I had managed to bore my young companion enough that she had left me alone with my thoughts.
Smirking, I lay back and raised my finger to the sky. I too joined the moon with the nearest star in a straight line and it took me a second at most. It was that day that I understood the power of perspective.