The beginning.

One of her closest friends from childhood was Shrija.

Every summer Shrija would visit her grandparents in their home. It was a beautiful house. Some said that it belonged to the queen a long long time ago and her grandfather bought if from her years ago. It had two big wrought iron gates that led to the circular lush green lawn in front of the house. And right in the center of the garden hung a wicker basket chair on the banyan tree.

Outside the house was a board that said, ‘kripya joote utar kar andar jaayein’ (kindly remove shoes when you come in). Four steps of stairs led you to the long marble corridor which felt so cool on the feet and were so shiny, you could see the entire house reflected in it.

Then you would pass four bookshelves full of books with tales from around the world. You might just spot one of the many servants, who never made a sound, and were always around. By this time you enter the spacious sitting room with a small tv, high ceilings and upholstered sofas. The whole house always smelled of something soothing, you would not know what, and they never had any mosquitoes. A wall with a fireplace divided it from the dining area and the kitchen downstairs.

The servant quarters were spread on another hill all the way down with the most colorful flowers and trees. It had several guest rooms and ensuites, all generously furnished with fascinating woodwork and again, cool floors.

She would wait for Shrija to visit her grandparents so that she could go to the big house with the mountain views and see Shrija’s new toys.

Shrija lived with her family in Bombay and being the only child, she was the apple of everyone’s eye.

The house was located at an elevation of 1500ft above sea level and was far from the city. Often she would stay over at Shrija’s grandparents’ home, for the warm sunny days would quickly dwindle into cold nights when they played together, in the lawn, in the hills with the servants’ rabbits.

One time we went to visit a Shiva temple located higher up in the mountains from their home. It was dark very fast and she was excited because she would get to stay with them for the night again.

On their way back, it began to thundered and poured. Shrija’s grandpa told the driver to change route. He was going to visit his guru.

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