Some of the best days with my cousins Kuljeet and Prabhjot were spent in a beautiful colony of IIP, Dehradun. As their father (my uncle) was working in IIP, one of the CSIR labs, in Dehradun, he stayed with his family in the residential complex, within the campus, which is one of a kind. Spread over hundreds of acres of land, the colony was full of trees and tea gardens. With the flora, the fauna also flourished and animals like monkeys and jackals were easily spottable, and even leopards too (which was rare though), the area being adjacent to forest range. Due to this proximity, the residents avoided stepping outside their homes late in the night.
I used to visit my cousins often, especially during vacations. Before my elder cousin, Kuljeet got married, I stayed there for a couple of months. Her friends, Dolly and Archana, became my friends too and we used to have lots of fun. Our houses were very close and hence frequent hopping from one house to the other was common.
Since we used to laugh out loud every now and then, my uncle, who used to get up early in the morning, had put this 10 pm constraint, stating that most of the people in the society sleep by 10 pm and since our voices could travel far away, we were not supposed to talk or laugh out loud. Though we were not restricted to go to each other’s houses, we were careful enough not to make noises of any sort. We followed a ritual of late-night tea and each one of us was assigned days. So, when it was another friend’s turn, we would cautiously go out, have tea at her house, chit-chat, roam around a bit, and then come back. On days when it was our turn, our friends used to come over our place. Our laughter was out of force of habit, so to avoid our loud volumes, we would bite our fingers and laugh. Crazy we were and crazy were our talks. We could go on laughing endlessly and over any trifling thing.
Another important aspect was the midnight birthday celebrations. Careful planning and execution were done to do the needful. The birthday songs were sung in a hush tune and the birthday bumps were given silently.
Our late-night conversations and celebrations still make us nostalgic. Though our volumes were restricted, our friendship bloomed and those were the wonderful days of our lives.