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There was a lime tree in the center of my father’s courtyard. Sometimes my brothers and I would pick the fruit too early, in our rush for a glass of that sweet-sour-salt-sherbet. On cool winter evenings, we would linger in the courtyard, listening to our bellies’ duet with the neighborhood’s pressure cookers. The tree was never large, but I also don’t recall it ever being planted, or it’s ever growing. It simply existed; in that way that memory can sometimes fool you into believing in the timeless nature of things. In my mind’s eye, the tree stands today as I left it, immune to the dust from the concrete slabs being brought in, not hearing the pounding of rebar all around it, unaffected by the sweat dripping from the scaffolds of the workers hanging over it. The tree was uprooted years ago, but today I dreamt of it, the courtyard, my mother pickling the fruit, my father on the pat, my brothers fighting, my house across an ocean, and my memory of it all fading.
The house has now found itself in the center of town, a monument to the time of the Raj when inspectors and administrators each received his personal fiefdom. It was replete with servant’s quarters, a proper garden, and the ubiquitous pat - that flat wooden swing, hung from gaudy brass chains, ornamented with camels, elephants, and deities that all proper desi houses must have. The parlor was outfitted in traditional British style, unchanged, uninhabited, and now looking strangely uncouth. The individual rooms upstairs, each with cots and mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling, reminded one of hospitals in old war films - creaky, wheezing under the strain of the tangled mess of sweat, blood, and bile. I remember playing games with Darum’s son in an unfamiliar room across from the entranceway, speaking in that children’s Esperanto.
Touring around Flanders with a little cirque, day-tripping/canal meandering in Amsterdam, stumbling upon ruined castles and beer-brewing abbeys in the Ardennes, hamlet hopping in the Moselle, warm welcomes, whiskey, wine and champagne (in Champagne, naturally), but, upon reflection, I was partial to the company.