When I was four years old I left my life in suburban NJ and went to live with my maternal grandparents for a year and half in the village in India where my mother grew up.
Three hundred people lived in Aneemudugu. There were no street signs or house numbers. News from my parents came in aerograms with only my grandparents’ name, the name of the village, the state they lived in and “India” written at the bottom.
We, like most of our neighbors, did not have electricity. Our modest house was lit by kerosene lamps. All our water was drawn from a well and transported to our house by paid laborers. I took my baths in a big metal bucket of water heated by a coal fire. We slept on jute cots out in the open until monsoon showers sent us indoors. Buffaloes stood guard in the front yard tethered to stakes.
There were no stores in Aneemudugu, only a few stands where you could buy odds and ends. Traveling sellers would come through on foot with pots, pans, buckets, other housewares wrapped in a massive bundle they carried atop their heads. The traveling barber and the vegetable seller might follow.
The daily bus that went to the nearest town 3Kms away began its journey by a row of thatched roof coffee stands alongside Aneemudugu’s watering hole for livestock.
It is hard to remember exactly how I passed the days. But I have memories of attending school in a one room school house. Of my grandfather walking across the street every morning to break off a twig from a tree and using it with Colgate Tooth Powder to brush his teeth. Of visiting people’s houses and being given guavas. Of using smashed cooked rice to stick together paper kites. Of watching a soon-to-be uncle arriving on a motorcycle to see his first glimpse of his future wife, my mother’s cousin.
It is easy to romanticize a place.
But how do you not mythologize a small village in the middle of nowhere, where you first remember experiencing quiet?