Summer Mornings in Civil Lines

Three identical mugs of milk. That’s what we woke up to every morning. A warm welcome by Nani’s soft hands and soothing voice. It’d be a wild rush between my brothers and I to shower and get ready before Shakuntala came to clean the bathrooms. I’d come out of the shower to three sets of clothes (often matching) that Mummy had laid out for us to wear, and the smell of Nani’s delicious breakfasts. The most exciting mornings were when I’d come out to find Rajan mama sipping his tea with Mummy and Nani before heading out to work. Having these three to myself before my brothers were ready was priceless. Rajan Mama and Mummy would poke fun at each other while Nani intently filled out the daily crossword. I’d go to hang my towel on the balcony and on a few special days I’d see a peacock on the lawn below shyly spreading it’s feathers, as if it were a secret that only we shared.

Then came the part that we’d ingrained in our schedule for countless summer mornings. Taking the back gate to the Big House, my brothers holding both my hands as we dodged stepping on the fallen Jamuns. Phool Singh would push open the green gate to our favorite sight: Contreau frantically lapping up his breakfast, face in his silver bowl and tail wagging around with excitement. And behind him, stood the house that had been standing just as grandly since 1911. The house that we’d grown up calling “Big House”, where generations before me had taken their first steps and where some of the people that I looked up to the most lived. The same house that I’d fallen in love with unknowingly on one of these summer mornings, simply due to the countless irreplaceable memories I’d made there.

We’d walk through the kitchen and greet Brijesh who’d ask us if we wanted Limca or juice, making my brother’s eyes light up. We’d manage to catch Kaddi Chacha finishing up his breakfast and putting on his shoes at the same time and Mini Chachi on the phone, greeting us as “bachchas” and juggling her errands. On our lucky days, Bharat and Adu mama would be there too exclaiming with excitement that “Kakey” and “Sid” had arrived. I’d go straight to Shahzad aunty who’d look up from reading the newspaper and affectionately call me ‘Suneni”, embracing me at the same time. Once everyone had gone and the house had settled, the three of us would sit with Shahzad aunty and play taash, chatting and asking her to sing for us, lingering onto her every word.

After hours had unknowingly passed, she’d get up to get ready while Mini Chachi would take us around the garden with Cointreau following our steps like we were her four shadows. I’d sit on the big white swing while my brothers cautiously pushed me and I’d listen carefully as Mini Chachi showed me the fresh Bhindi and flowers that had just grown. We’d make our plans for the day, weighing our endless options. Were we following mummy to go shopping and sightseeing? Was Shahzad Aunty going to take us to her music school and then to Wengers on the train? Was Kaddi Chacha going to take us to Nirulas in the Qualis? Were we going to get to play video games at Bharat and Adu mama’s apartment in the evening?

It was all these small and simple things that built up the most exciting parts of my childhood vacations, not the fancy hotels or days full of sightseeing in numerous cities around the world. Perhaps because I was tracing the memories my mother had once made as the youngest daughter, crafting them with my own bonds of love.

Last week we lost the woman who’d made our summers in the blistering heat of Delhi so cool. I revisited a piece that I’d started writing a while back to relive some of my fondest childhood memories. Shahzad Aunty’s legacy continues with the memories she made for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.



  1. Rachna says:

    Brilliant piece of writing. This was my childhood too aptly captured by my daughter.❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shilpi Mathur says:

    Beautiful composition Sunena. Loved reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Radha B Kasi says:

    Excellent piece. Writing style is simple and good.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Poornima Kulkarni says:

    Beautiful …walked in your shoes. Through it all. Your discrptions are picture perfect… almost wanting me to go and see if all… fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rashmi says:

    Very nice article. Very well done!


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