Monday, 22 November 2010

global warming and childhood

      How many of us have smiled and laughed when relating childhood antics to friends and children? I guess, all of us...provided they are incidents you can retell :) And the place where we spent those precious days, leave an indelible mark in our memory.
      But a report in yesterday's TOI  of Delhi edition jolted me from one such reverie. According to the report, many low lying areas like Vellachary, Kotturpuram of Chennai, will nowhere be on the map in fifty years time! Something snapped in me.
     Part of my childhood and most parts of my adolescence was spent at Kotturpuram. The gang of the neighbourhood always played in the park adjacent to our building...come what may...rain or sunshine (hardly any of the former and overdose of the latter). We had many a moonlit dinners on the terraces of the buildings and organised fete... just us, the kids of the block. Playing Rounders was the high point of the evening games in the park. Rounders was a rudimentary baseball where we used the hand in place of the baseball bat.And yes, we have had our share of breaking people's window panes which, in some cases, we had to repay with our pocket-money( that pinched!)                                                                                                                            One such evening, we must have been playing either Rounders or Seven Stones( Pitthu), when we heard the sound of shattering glass. All the groups of children playing in the vicinity stopped in their tacks, for we didn't know which one of us was it. As luck would have it, it was Us that  day!All hell broke loose when we realized it was Female's window pane! Now I don't remember why we honoured her with the name, considering she was a female. It must have been one of those casualties of childhood... Probably the fact that she was always ranting at us even after we had long gone home, must have helped us, to arrive at such a nomenclature.On that fateful day, female was sitting on her throne in the loo,  when our naughty ball broke that very window pane!!We ran helter-skelter to hide at our homes. And female, that evening, ranted like never before... Now when I think of it, we should give her a box of chocolates, like they show in the cadbury's commercial,for all the nuisance we must have been.            
            Kotturpuram, gave my brother and I, the freedom to grow and explore our childhood. We cycled down, on its then wide road, to IIT campus where another set of friends were there. With them we explored the IIT jungle with impromptu picnics, treasure hunts, enjoyed a good movie( Sound Of Music, Chitty chitty Bang Bang etc) at the Open Air Theatre...
       And this very Kotturpuram, they say, will be submerged in fifty years time. The Kotturpuram, that is testimony of our childhood. And there are many such places, which I am sure has many memories for you all that will meet the same end...And I am not talking of faraway Maldives, Mauritious and any other exotic landscape...thanks to Man's insatiable greed...                                 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hidden Treasure

   It was a chanced remark made, in the Nehru Park on 14th November that prompted me to share this with all of you. Four families were out for a picnic, so the kids could  have a free run of the green expanse. Most importantly, it kept the kids out of our hair and they in turn, were out of range of our nagging.
         After the games of badminton, football, flying discs  we were just lazing on the grass and discussing everyday stuff, dishes and snacks( recipes of 'litti' and 'thekua'- part of eastern UP and Bihar cuisine), time of the year it is made, non existence of school pressure on the kids, what the world is coming to...Now when I think of it, we must have sounded like old hags who had "seen- all -and- done- them".
         One of us, who has just started her domestic life and was juggling a career also, very excitedly related how at the fag end of the month she had sold the old newspapers and added Rs eighty to her household kitty!! And immediately, we( the seasoned ones) pounced to narrate our own stories of apparent hardship days, or you can say the initial days of household mismanagement( not that we do a great job now).
        The first dinner I hosted single handedly, after marriage was in Jullundhar in the peak of summers( someone who's been there at that time of the year, will empathise). To be on the safer side, the bachelors were my guests. Being officers and gentlemen, they would refrain from making any comments on my culinary skills! But even they could not finish the humongous amount of food . Anyway, the bright side of it was- I wasn't slogging over the stove for the next three days( if you ask my husband, he'll say seven...they have a habit of exaggerating). The flip side was- we couldn't look at 'rajma', paneer' etc for the next few months...
       Having been flung to all God-forsaken places, we were very happy when in his 17th year of service, he was posted to civilization, I mean, Delhi. We gaped at malls, like a simpleton awed by the high-rises, the affordable food joints were explored sumptuously after much hunting, the escalating school bills and other related bills were paid. Thank god for places like Sarojini market! Oh! and the movie halls were awesome with Dolby digital!!!And the guests... ( we love entertaining and having people over)!!! It was wonderful!!!!!
    ... By the 17th of the month, we were staring at Rs 800 in the account, in a place like Delhi, with two school-going kids and guests announcing their arrival... So when I find tokens of Goddess Lakshmi stashed under the clothes and long forgotten, or by selling old newspapers- its a Jackpot for me!!!!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Summer Camps at Grandmother's home

     Modern Day Scene -  Long summer vacations today mean tripping over children and their play things at home. And they, of course come with unusual sounds and eerie silences( giving a premonition that all is not well).So whats the next best thing we do ? Scan the ads and papers for "summer camps", hobby classes...anything that will take them off your hands, and at the same time teach them valuable lessons in life.

   Flash back 30 to 40 years - Vacation time!! We have been waiting for this for months now! All my cousins will be there, has called all of us. My favourite mama  has already come to pick me up. The best part of the deal is - No Parents!! Yippee!!Finally we all land at Aita's place and there are so many things to share! We wake up to hot tea(a strict no-no with my Mother). We are allowed to make our own chapati on earthen stoves.All the chapatis turn into maps of various countries and hence we reinforce our geography lessons. And then we go into the fields just for the heck of it. There are so many trees to be climbed and so many fruits to be plucked. And the science lessons seep into us( not that we think of them there...are you crazy!). The impromptu picnics in the middle of the huge vegetable patches.We love to help Aita and Mamis with spinning thread and weaving. Every darn thing is home-made...
                  Evening times are spent playing "hide and seek", "house- house",making dolls out of old clothes and all the games of childhood. Under the starlit night we listen to Koka's stories of their heydays amid the distractions of catching fireflies!When a cousin reminds us that catching fireflies makes you wet the bed, we immediately stop.Sometimes we enact plays, complete with home made costumes and screens and props! How we rehearse! They eventually end up in squabbles and fights...but we make up too after the sulks. And the D day for the show has enthusiastic grandparents and uncles and aunts, clapping away and laughing at the silliest of jokes!!!! Then the Party Pooper...holidays have come to an end. Hey! Where did the days go?Never mind, there's always a next time.

  Back To Modern Day - I am sure my mother also must have said "Yippee!" when she packed us off. On the hindsight, that was a true Summer camp with loads of bonding, team spirit, life enhancing skills, EQ, IQ,organic lifestyle... all thrown in together but enveloped in unconditional love of grandparents, uncles and aunts...

Monday, 8 November 2010

Morning rush

I am yet to hear anybody claiming that their mornings, on any given week day is orderly and quiet. Especially if you have school going children. As in other places, schools in Delhi believe in starting the learning process early- which implies that the parents wake up at ungodly hours. Waking up the children begins with gentle cajoling (unless the parents themselves are late). And then the quality of the voice and the intensity of the pitch increases, depending on the position of the hands on the clock. Socks not found, the expression on the childre's face of "how-did-this-homework-come-up", new notebook to be dug out, half wailing kids with "teacher will kill me" and the retorts "you deserve to be."All this while there are other distractions of saving the lunch from burning, pushing food into their mouths.
And finally when they tumble out of the house, I sit and wonder why does this happen everyday in my house? How do I make this more methodical as in an "assembly-line"?

One such morning, after having packed of the kids, I had the luxury of looking out of the terrace. There were children in various uniforms waiting or rushing for their bus. My house had the advantage of being bang at the common and last stop for all school buses in the area.There were screeching tyres of cars, parents ensuring that kids don't miss the last stop.Some senior kids had books open but busy in discussing other interesting facts( there were exceptions though).There was a child of 5 years, dressed up as Hanuman who had to be lifted and pushed into the bus because he refused to go dressed the way he was.In the course of the event, it looked like a reluctant Hanuman flying into the bus, accompanied by unwanted sounds comming from the bus. A mother was pulling a half sleepy 6year old, whose brother had already kept the bus from leaving his sister behind.

After most of them left, I was enjoying the morning sounds when the last school bus pulled in.And the final lot of the children boarded. And that, I thought was the end of the morning chaos.However the bus didn't move for a few minutes. The conductor stepped out, craned his neck for some stragglers since the number of children must not have been complete.As the bus inched forward, the conductor gave one last try for some missing child. And then I saw, from my vantage point...a cyclist furiously pedalling like his life depended on it. As he came closer, I saw a child sitting behind him with school bag on his shoulders, a water bottle around his neck with both hands holding on to the seat of the rider...he had a chapati rolled and stuck into his mouth. Some hapless mother must have been at her wit's end and as a last ditch effort , she must have shoved the "chapati" into the child's mouth. As he came near the waiting bus, the conductor sprinted, lifted the child and transported him into the bus. The bus left immediately.

And so ended another uneventful day for every home in my area.