I grew up in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, in a comely little town called Roing. To its north and east lay an arc of hills. They were ancient as all hills are. But they looked especially grave and grandfatherly because their cheeks were thickly wooded. A mostly leaden sky domed those hills and our town; rain lurked in some corner of it always. Often, sometimes several times in a day, like some brazen bandit, this rain rode upon dark stallion like clouds and came swooping down upon the land.
On some days, alas, they seemed so far apart, the rain did not raid the land. I remember we used to rejoice then. The washing would finally get a chance to dry, and I to frolic in the backyard, to build my castles and to explore my strange continents where even stranger peoples lived. On such days Baba and I took a walk in the evening. We generally walked down the road that led one to the southern limits of our town. It was a pretty road, even for a pretty little town. Much of it was flanked on either side by gulmohar and amaltas trees. As we walked past those little houses and a line of shops, I quizzed Baba on everything that was of pressing concern to me then, from how hot it is on the sun to why the leaves are not purple. He, on the other hand, would quiz me on the books or comics that I might be reading. Sometimes, I would say, “You know, if I get the chance to, I can make magic better than Mandrake.” I do not recall that he ever showed any disbelief.
The house in which we lived will appear strange to a plains dweller. It was wooden and rose above the ground on stilts of cement, each about four feet high. The teak planks that made its floor showed a few faint cracks at places. I knew all of them by heart. But to me they were not mere cracks but mighty canyons and valleys. They never posed a problem to me however, for I was a giant and could leap across them as one leaps across a rut in the earth.
Winter clothed most of the year. Winter flung its cape upon the land by the end of September, its hem hung in the air till the end of April. But no matter how long the wait, winter gave way to spring. It always does, everywhere.