A story of a boy who was crazy about red grapes!
“Anuuuuu, auto”, called my Grandpa.
As always, I was in a dash, and my auto driver was waiting for me at my main door.
My grandpa asked with his usual soft tone if I took my lunch box or not. He also raised his eyebrow while asking about my breakfast. Like always, he wanted my confirmation if I had mine or not.
It was my every single morning story. Customarily, I glanced at him to answer his question while tying up my shoelaces in haste.
“Hurry up or I will leave you”, said my auto driver in a loud voice. I said, “ No no no, wait please I am comingggggg”.
I ran holding my stomach like a turbo engine. I then handed over my bag to my auto driver Sunil uncle, and jumped inside the auto.
On that day what I saw inside my auto was not pleasant for me. I saw that my favourite seat was already occupied. A new boy was sitting on that seat with one of his hands holding his other hand’s elbow. His posture looked completely stooped. Seemed like he was lost in thoughts, or somewhere. I could not tell for sure, because I could not see his face, as it was bent down.
Annoyed by all this, I told him in a loud voice, “Window seat is mine so you have to move.” He looked up with red bloated eyes, and said sorry with a shaky voice.
Without making the eye contact, he moved quickly to the other side. He seemed quiet, but his face looked pale as if I have frightened him. I suppose he must have found my words forceful.
I was in 6th standard at that time, and my school was about 13 kms away from home. So, everyday it was a long ride. Our driver Sunil uncle interrupted the awkward silence by introducing this new boy to me during our ride to school.
Sunil uncle said, “This is Neeraj, and he is your new neighbour and school mate. Neeraj’s mother told me that he is a bit upset as they had to move to this place suddenly.”
He further told me, “It would be nice if you could help Neeraj find his classroom. As Neeraj is a new entrant in the school, it would be good if I be friendly with him. With bumping shoulders, I said, “Okay I will do my best”, and smiled. It’s amazing how fast kids can change their moods.
I thought to start a conversation with this new boy to make him feel better. I could imagine what he must have felt with the unwanted change happening in his life. And I blamed myself for being rude to a newcomer.
I thought to start with an easy communication to make his awkward situation a bit comfortable. Then I made an eye contact with him and apologized for being rude.
I introduced myself to Neeraj, and said with a wide grin, “Don’t worry I will drop you to your classroom, and don’t hesitate to ask if you need any other help anytime during the day”. He thanked me and smiled back. Then I saw his eyes turning bright and shining.
After reaching school, I asked him about his class. He said it’s 5th B.
He asked about mine, and I said that it’s 6th A. I also told him that his class is on my way. I showed him his classroom and walked towards mine.
In the evening while coming back to home, I asked about his first day at school. To my surprise, he seemed eager to talk, and looked very excited as if he was waiting to tell me all about his day at the school.
He told me all about his day and also how he really liked the school and enjoyed with his new classmates. After reaching home we bid adieu to each other.
Then, everyday, we both used to chat throughout our journey to school and back. We used to talk about either school friends or about our colony friends. Since I was a year older than him, he used to call me Anu di.
Neeraj and I also used to play in the evenings with some of our colony friends. Like a younger brother, he has become such a good friend of mine.
Some evenings my grandpa narrated beautiful stories to all us kids. Ahhh! it was so much fun for all of us.
Everyday I reached home at about 2.30pm. Then one day, when we came back from school my Mom was waiting for us at the door. He asked Neeraj to also get down the auto and spend the evening with us, because his Mom had an urgent piece of work somewhere and that she will be back later in the evening to fetch him.
Our eyes glowed, and we got thrilled just by imagining how much fun we can have together on that day. We chatted like chatterboxes while finishing our brunch.
It was a ritual for me that I would visit my grandparents’ room everyday after finishing brunch.
If I tell you about my grandparents, they were so in love with each other. They loved to spend all the time together. They were the most loving couple I have ever known.
On the day when Neeraj was at our home, it was around 3:30pm, which was my grandparents fruit-snack time. They were peeling oranges when Neeraj and I entered their room.
There were some red grapes too in an another plate. We sat at their bedside, and I started talking about my school. My Grandpa offered some oranges to us. I took some slices. I also knew that Neeraj did not like oranges very much. So he childishly said staring at grapes with his wide eyes, “Wow grapes! I just love grapes — they are seedless and easy to eat! 🙂
Anyone could see his love for grapes, and my grandfather also sensed that. My Grandpa laughed and offered him a bunch of grapes joyfully. Neeraj hugged him and thanked.
Neeraj gave me his wicked look and challenged me to finish my orange slices faster than he could finish his bunch of grapes.
I accepted his challenge with a high chin. My grandpa gave the green flag by counting to 3. I wanted to win so hard, so I just swallowed all the orange seeds within those slices to save some precious time. I tried real hard, but could not win.
And after that day, I always opted for grapes over any other fruit whenever there was a challenge. I learnt an important lesson that day — ‘Never overestimate yourself and underestimate others’. This lesson is still serving its purpose in everything I do or care.
Neeraj was just so crazy about grapes — he could have gone miles to eat anything made with grapes.
We were neighbors for 5 years. Then Neeraj’s family moved to another city. I remember that we both cried badly for hours the day he was about to leave my city.
We talked to each other over phone occasionally. Then, I started my college and higher studies, and got busy with life. I don’t exactly remember when we lost the contact completely.
I think when our priorities changed in life, it was eventual for us to lose connection when we had nothing to share and nothing in common.
And recently, after so many years, I bumped into him on Social Media.
I hope that we will see each other face to face again with our kids and spouses.
He pointed out that incident with my Grandpa, and told me that he’s still crazy about red grapes.
It’s really hard to forget childhood friends. I know you all feel the same especially if you have shared some memorable time with them.
Presently, whenever I buy red grapes, it always reminds me of Neeraj. So friends, my today’s grape recipe is dedicated to him.
‘Red Grapes Onion Cucumber Raita’ is the name of the dish. It’s simple and delish.
If you are not very familiar with Indian Raita, this is a refreshing and cooling yogurt dip.
Red Grapes Onion Cucumber Raita is one of those dishes which can be prepared quickly in just a few minutes. Not so much messy, but super rich and creamy — a perfect treat to serve at a lunch or dinner or at regular get-togethers to accompany your meal .
Raita has all the qualities which make your palate more appealing and refreshing. Grapes are sweet and provide slight crunchy texture. Addition of red onions and cucumber would make this side dish a winner.
Served chilled with rice, curry and bread.
- natural yogurt - 2½ cup
- salt - ½ tsp (or as per taste)
- red chili powder - ¼ tsp
- sugar - 1 tsp
- cucumber chopped - ½ cup
- red onion, chopped - 1 large
- cumin powder - 1 tsp
- red seedless grapes, sliced in half - 2 cups or 300gms
- cilantro leaves, chopped
- Add yogurt, salt, cumin powder, red chili powder, cilantro leaves, and sugar to a mixing bowl and whisk well.
- Add grapes, onion, and cucumber and mix well.
- Refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle some red chili powder and garnish and serve chilled.
Camera: Nikon D7100
Lens: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
Setup: Used natural sunlight coming from left, and a reflector on the right side of the frame.
Angle: I clicked these photos with 90°, 70°, 50°,
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