*yawn* Ooops, sorry! I just read my own post below and fell asleep. So watch out!
When we breeze through life these days, don’t we at times think life was much simpler when we were kids? As if the entire world got complicated over time while we have still remained the same? All the speed around us, the mad rush to go nowhere, the less times spent smiling, more times spent frowning and then worrying about wrinkles on our face?
But deep down we all know that it’s not only the world that changed and became complicated. We did too. We grew up. Oh, what a mistake!
Childhood was a simpler time. The biggest worry was the Half-Yearly exams (the Quarterlies were light and the Annual exams were a cakewalk) and the hardest time of the week was a Sunday evening – because that’s when you realize you need your white canvas shoes to be white by Monday morning, the white shoe polish bottle is empty, the shops are all closed and there can’t be a last ditch attempt at whiteness because you used up you last bit of white chalk. Not to mention the admonishing you get from your parents for your exemplary planning and memory when it comes to school activities. And then there were the little punishments for not using black ribbon on your plaits on a Tuesday and forgetting your Hindi homework book at home (well, its homework! so I left it at home! duh!). Oh, and those times when you were the class monitor and had to write the names of the talkative kids on the blackboard? Used to feel like someone made us the President of the USA and the entire world (which had all of 58 noisy kids) was at our mercy.
Weekends were completely spent on the street, playing with the other neighborhood kids and all games were uni-sex – including gilli-danda, seven stones, cricket (coconut tree branch bats, rubber ball, coconut tree sticks as stumps and girl batsmen get runners and girl fielders don’t have to field. Oh, the boundary for a four was a dustbin), bambaram (top, in english) and the all famous, hide-and-seek. Thanks to living in office quarters, one had an entire block on flats to hide at, jump out of and basically get lost in. The worst that could happen is you end up seeking 5 times in a row because of some kid or the other who always hid well and came out last; not very surprising given there were around 10 hiding in various nooks and crannies of the building. Those were games. Not Minesweeper or Age of Empires or Solitaire (that’s my entire knowledge of computer games right there!).
Sleeping in on a weekend was never an option then. Not because our parents said no, just because it was more fun getting up early and getting straight into playing without wasting time. Saturday mornings found us knocking at our Christian neighbor’s house at 6:30 AM asking permission to pluck flowers from their huge Pavazha Malli tree – it was fact among us kids that Christians dont use pavazha malli for their prayers and so it was their god-given duty to let us pesky kids shake their tree out of its roots trying to make the flowers fall. Armed with huge steel vessels, the little army of 8 yr olds used to run amock in that little garden, vying with one another for picking the most flowers. And next? Sit in front of one of our houses, needle and thread in hand, and string those little flowers back to back. All this when our respective fathers were still getting ready to go to office, so that we can keep the garlands ready by the time they turn up at their respective puja rooms to do the morning puja. We had timetables to follow, mind you!
Breakfasts, TV and lunch later, we all get chucked out of the house by our moms who want an undisturbed siesta. You’d think we’d be bored out of our wits, sitting out on a hot afternoon, not able to run around and not able to watch TV. But no. This was the perfect time to raid mango trees. More precisely, steal mangoes from the mango trees in every single house in the entire street. My own house was neglected because no human being could eat those mangoes raw – they were sour beyond normal levels and we ended up winking at each other involuntarily when the eyes twitch due to all the sourness. In a gang of 10, we used to take turns to disturb our moms once to beg for some chilli-salt mixture to go with the mangoes. I’ve had umpteen raw mangoes since, but not one of them tasted as good as those we used to steal, wash in the moss-lined overhead tanks, break open on the granite washing stone (8yr olds cant be trusted with knives, you see) and eat it right there, in the sweltering heat of a summer afternoon, under the shade of a huge mango tree. Life felt truly blessed for some strange reason.
So why am I suddenly all nostalgic about my childhood and submitting you to this endless monologue? Trust me when I say this, I do not know. Last night, all these memories just flooded my tired brain (remember the elf with the hammer?) and I so longed to go back to those streets one last time and see my 8 yr old self, playing marbles (goli gundu!) on the street, concentrating real hard on hitting my purple marble into the little goal-hole or see me hiding from the seeker behind the rundown Lambretta in the space beneath the staircase and come out covered with cobwebs and whitewash, sheepishly grinning on being caught, wondering how much more dumber I could be to hide in such an obvious place or swinging on a swing made with rubber tyres strung together, hanging from the branch of a neem tree.
Like they say, inside all of us there is still a child refusing to grow up. But hey, the day that child decides to grow up is the first day of the beginning of your end. So hold on to those childhood memories and if you’re really lucky, you can live it again through your own kids.
And if I don’t post tomorrow,
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, dear readers! Here’s to this great country, her past, her present and her glowing future. May we all make our country proud in our own little ways and cherish this independence which we more often than not, take for granted.