Memories Intact in the Innards of Time
When boys pass thoroughfares for playgrounds, balls pass unsuspecting heads for wickets. It was one such ball that hit my head, triggering a volley of vignettes. Vignettes of memories lying intact in the innards of time.
Memories of a childhood that ran riot over a vast landscape dotted with areca nut trees, jackfruit trees, few mango trees, guava trees including several nameless ones…names we never bothered to check, that is. For me, that was the place where Pandavas were trained in archery…or Rama and Sita endured their Vanavasa. I mean that’s how I visualized every scene in Mahabharata, Ramayana, other epics, stories and fairy tales.
It was an assortment gifted by Mother Nature, wrapped in greenery that would turn the kids of this concrete jungle green with envy!
We were privileged to live in one of the handful of independent houses ( to draw a parlance from the realty trade in Bengaluru!) in a vast compound in Kasaragod, a town then. Nevertheless we were more footloose than whatever the word ‘independent’ connotes, in the most happening city that is.
Every season was a sort of festival for us! Following the pre-monsoon showers, fireflies would mercifully descend on a few huge trees facing our house to turn the night view into starlit like in a planetarium. With the unrelenting drizzle as the background score amply supported by the orchestra rendered by a team of frogs, crickets, owls and a chorus of some nocturnal birds, or the ones awaken and wowing at nature’s amazing opera. Like a file made PDF, the memory refuses fade.
Not for us the conventional games in spite of the ground each house was gifted with fit to play squash or kabaddi or even cricket. Our national game was hide & seek. Like golf, it stretched all over the green field and hence would go for hours on end. Like the police or sleuths during the dark days of emergency in India, we had an unconditional right to enter any house with no search warrant. Unmindful of our nuisance value, we would make the game as tedious for the opponents, as irritating it was for all.
A week hardly passed by without our spotting a snake here and there. Or the rodents, except rabbits, vanishing into a classic of a wonderland we never found, but just dreamed about. Our owner’s cowshed was like a zoo we would visit as our favourite pastime, his push cart our favourite amusement vehicle. Each tree was a challenge and so were the tiled roofs their braches stretched out to. No words can describe the taste of a guava you get by climbing its tree and plucking it from there. What beats that taste is its memory. As we climbed the trees, the ants and other insects would follow suit. We were for the ants what the trees were for us. So the adventure sports had all the oops, wails, squeals, fretting, and finally the wow of a triumph!
‘Beware of these boys!’ The stray dogs around would warn one another thus since we spared none. They were the not- so-easy targets of our shooting skills, armed as we were all the time with pocketful of stones. Once or twice in a year we used to erect a makeshift house using palm leaves and scrap, so small in size that we had to enter it stooping like into a dog-house. Our occupation movement would last only for a few hours since it was bereft of any lofty goals except for the joy of pitching a tent. Today whenever I see ramshackle hutments in poor localities, I am reminded of the times we the kids endured inside those improvised dog-houses of ours. For us it was fun. For them it is life! And my heart goes out to all those homeless in the US.
Answering nature’s call literally meant so since both the bathroom and the latrine as well were at such distances that if in Bengaluru the denizens would have taken to their two-wheelers! When it comes inventing excuses for polluting environment, no one can beat a Bengalurean.
Since my dad never insisted and the owner never bothered, the bathroom and the toilet didn’t have power supply. Unfortunately nature never checks these things and keeps calling at odd hours. So if anyone had to go after sunset, my mom would first light up a kerosene lamp. My brother or I would go along as a company! One of us holding a cell-torch and mom carrying the lantern, we would march ahead, to help the one in trouble accomplish his mission. The dangers that lurked among the woods and the grass, made the escapade as thrilling.
Every torrential rain would submerge the entire surroundings in knee-seep water. When the exhausted clouds would sweat it out as a drizzle, my brother and I would step out holding one single umbrella, as if duty bound to assess the havoc nature’s fury wrought in. During one such outing, a snake morphed as a big question mark sprang from the water, bewildered as it was to find those two strange creatures! It vanished as fast as it had appeared! Instead of sending shivers down our spines, it drew hearty laughs from us!
Those days, transistor was like a semi-luxury. Cinemas, dramas, Navaratri Veshas and annual fairs were the only entertainment. Time ‘snailed’ along so that we could savour every moment of it, so as to help us cherish it for life.
How truly it is said that all good things come to an end and how soundly it holds good for childhood!
Our owner was such a gem of a man that we simply felt he was one among our neighbors! Now I can fathom the pain he felt when his financial obligations compelled him to sell a portion of his property and hence he could not help requesting our dad to vacate the house. Thank God, the summer vacation we were enjoying in our granny’s home spared us from the heart rending sight of curtains coming down on a dream world around which our childhood revolved. I wonder how our dad managed it all alone. I mean the task of vacating the house! Anyways, summer vacations over, we returned to an entirely new place where all our efforts to have an encore of the previous paradise, fell flat, with a ring of last rites to what was lying buried down in the past!
So, mine was a childhood that was like a joy ride stopped abruptly on the tracks. What would be its psychological consequences? Who cares, every loss is like fertilizer to the field upon which creativity blooms!