Sunday, September 21, 2008

Childhood revisited ...Mornings!

I have read and immensely enjoyed posts by friends on the bygone era, the life and the times before the world started moving just too rapidly. Was it the 90's starting with the advent of cable television, offering too many choices at any given time of the day, followed by the internet heralding a whole new concept of globalization, bringing together in literally seconds folks 'saat samundar' apart. I have read, I have enjoyed and I have thought every so often about my own life then and I have wanted to pen it down here for the longest time in an effort to savor, to relive, in whatever little way, the time when inspite of the 'slow' paced life, everyone had so much time at hand to enjoy, to relish the simple pleasures one could indulge in. I read a lovely poem written by Dipali, an early morning walker and a dear blogging buddy. You must read it here.

The sweetest and a major chunk of the memories I have are from the summer holidays. My mom was a teacher herself and so this was the time both of looked forward to spend together with little activities planned for the whole day. In spite of being vacation time, our days started early at 5:30'ish as we got ready to go to 'Sanjay Park/Lake Park' in Laxmi Bai Nagar, a 40-45 minute walk from our government quarter in Lodi Colony. The path to the park was a treat in itself, wide roads, a cool breeze, chirping birds, the first rays of the sun just beginning to shine their way to illuminate the top of trees and make the dew on the grass glisten. I don't have memories of other people we met during these walks except the paper waalas who busily went about their daily grind always fascinating me with the perfection with which the paper landed on the floor it was intended for. The park was always a delight, lush grass on both sides of 2 ponds, a big one for the ducks and a small one for the fish, on either ends of the park with a stream of water running along the entire length of the park joining both of them. The major attraction of coming to this park, while passing another beautiful one on the way closer to home was taking small pebbled sized flour balls and feed the fish. For the same reason, many cousins liked to spend part of their vacations with us. There was another steps like structure made in the park, an amphitheatre kind of setting, where the steps were all covered with the green grass and the area just next to it was a slope again covered with the same rich carpet of grass. How much we loved to just lie down and roll our bodies on the cool grass, letting out peels of laughter and giggles, taking pleasure in an absolutely simple, yet pleasurable activity. The other end of the park which had the big pond and the ducks was then visited and we again delighted in chasing the ducks. We also picked up leaves and flowers to make that project as part of the Science holiday home work. As we paced our way back, renewed after the refreshing experience, and if the sun happened to be in its full glory by then sending out scorching rays to cause some discomfort, we spent a major part of our discussion on planning our day that lay ahead so that we could sleep just a little early and get up just a little earlier the next day to escape the heat.

The mornings continued to be full of activity, bais coming in to wash the dishes and sweep and mop the floors, mom making breakfast rebuking, at times playfully, at others seriously the bais for one thing or the other, papa getting ready for office, me sitting down to read or practice cursive writing or generally with the pages of holiday home work deciding what to tackle first. My mom used to make lines for borders on the chart papers that we had to make as part of home work and teach me several interesting patterns to decorate them. That was something I loved to do. The rest of the contents we worked on later in the day after finishing off the rest of the chores (which my mom was in a constant competition with herself and took pride in finishing 15 minutes earlier from the previous day). At times that would mean walking down to the neighborhood 'Khanna Market' to buy charts of fruits or festivals or birds, sketch pens, crayons, stencils. We also utilized this visit to make a phone call from the phone a friendly neighborhood shopkeeper used as a PCO to my friends or some relatives for it was not before grade 8 or 9 when we had a personal home phone. The shopkeeper joked that I pay him Rs 2 instead of 1 if I spoke in English. The stationery shopkeeper rented out Chacha Choudhary and Babloo and Pinki comics and as is the case with everyone, the new issue was never published soon enough to keep pace with the hogging me.

On alternate days after coming back from walks, I also had the responsibility of bringing milk from the Mother Dairy booth which was about 7-8 blocks away from our house. I think from grade 3 onwards I used to go there by myself. I used to chide my mother if she told me to get it on a particular evening because I liked going in the mornings. As I try to picture the reason in my mind, I think I liked the freshness of everything, the fruits and vegetables on the thelas the fruit and subzi waalas carted along, the freshness of the morning, the sight of people waking up from the charpais as I crossed one block after another, discussing the morning newspapers. It was one such fateful morning of my summer vacation, May 21, 1991, when the news being discussed was that of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The gloom and the total shock, the sounds and the sights, the aghast expressions still linger on my mind from that day as I went about my regular business of fetching milk. I also chided my mom when she asked me to fetch 5 tokens of milk instead of 4 (one token was/is half a litre) as it was a token too heavy for my arms. What all reasons moms get chided for?! In times when there was a temporary shortage of milk, the queue of people was long. Free from any responsibilities at home, I liked standing and just watching the people around me. I remember looking at how clean or unclean someone's clothes were, how long and shapely and perfectly nail polished a young girl's nails were and dreamt that I too would have such nails one day. At that time I didn't know that I would keep smudging my nail polish for the lack of patience in sitting still for 5 minutes after applying the nail polish. I looked at footwear, tried to form some pattern man, woman, man, woman; young, young, old, young young, old; or some such random series. Then after the first single queue, deciding on which one out of the three to stand in next strategically looking at the number of people as also the size of container they were carrying and then waiting to see if the decision made was correct.

Sundays were special too. The water flowed from the taps on any given day from 6 to about 9 in the morning and about the same time in the evening. When going to school/work it didn't matter but on Sundays that meant you still had to maintain some disciplined routine if you didn't want the amount of water with which to bathe to be rationed depending on the number of baltis filled. Also the heat as the day passed warmed up the stored water unlike the refreshing cool one straight from the tap. In addition there was the added fascination and the glory of the Pandavas and the Kauravas who made their appearance in the epic - mythological as well as televisional The Mahabharata. If you are from the era when it was aired, you would agree when I say life came to a standstill for those 60 minutes on a Sunday morning. The roads were empty with the only people being those who flocked the electronics shops to catch their favorite show on the televisions. In our family too, it was in deed a miracle to be sitting on the dining table with our breakfast exactly at 10'o clock every Sunday morning, bathed and prim, as the 'Yada yada hi dharmasya ...' played on in the background.

To be continued ... (I don't know when, I hope soon!)


dipali said...

Oh Neera, this was just lovely!
And you know,I used to live in Lodi Colony too. Good old Khanna Market.
But we used to walk in Lodi Gardens- never ventured as far as Laxmi Bai Nagar.
My Dad used to fetch the milk. But I really feel inspired to write more about those times.
Even though you are so much younger than I am, there seems to have been a lot that we had in common!

Monika said...

oh this was such a nice post... brought back memories of delhi....i lived in preet vihar... but in college days khan market was a regular haunt... i sued to study in dyal singh....

Mama - Mia said...

bachpa ke woh din bhi kya din the indeed! :)

beautiful beautiful post neera!

life indeed has changed so much!



PG said...

What a lovely post! Took me back the memory lane too. I remember our walks to Lodhi Garden, sometimes with my grand parents, sometimes on my own or with my sisters and cousines during vacations. The picknicks we made there. But, I also never went to the Laxmi Bai Nagar, though had seen it a couple of times there and heard about it from my school friend in Central School INA.

BTW, there is something for you at my blog!

Preethi said...

Sigh... that was so lovely!!! I took Cheeky to Ooty this time when I was in India. At the botanical gardens there are large expanses of grass and kids were rolling on them.. Cheeky joined in of course..and I clicked away!! It was so cute.. Life's simple pleasures!!

Making Memories said...

very sweet post neera, feeling nostalgic...wo doodh lene jaana, deer tak ghoomte rehna, playing badminton, cut the cake, chain on the can we forget ramayan and mahabharat. really bachpan ke din bhi kya din the, how i wish they never ended..
hope and wish to read the next part soon.

noon said...

Lovely Neera. What a lovely childhood you have had. I enjoyed this post so much. Makes me yearn for all this...

Mystic Margarita said...

Such a lovely post, Neera. You've captured memories so beautifully - you made me so nostalgic! :)

Swati said...


Anu said...

Totally nostalgic post Neera :))Remembered the good old times.. Makes me wonder how different the environment is for our kids..

Neera said...

dipali: Wow! :) Actually we stayed in Sarojini Nagar till I was 6 or so and thats when we got accustomed to Sanjay Parka, attachment with which continued even after moving to Lodi Colony. And yeah the world didn't change as rapidly from say 1947 to 1991 or so and in the last 17 years its been a whirlwind.

monika: Khanna market is the local market in Lodi colony where as Khan market is much more popular. I loved Khan Market too probably because it was a very upmarket posh looking area where for the first time I saw yellow and red colored capsicums :)

mama-mia: exactly and esp in the last few years. In fact when my dad read this post he said a lot of it reminded him of his own childhood which was a generation earlier than ours but still life hadn't changed as much then.

pg: I was thinking about u and nm and ur proximity to the area I was talking about :) I liked Lodi gardens too - very serene. Now there's too much rush like everywhere else.
Thanks so much dear for the award. Shall get to the tag also soon :)

preethi: Wow! I love it when I see children doing what we did as children. So simple and delightful :)

deepali: Absolutely when traffic and strangers did not pose a threat as they do now.

noon: Yes dear I consider myself blessed to have experienced a few years of the life which moved at a leisurely pace.

margarita: I am glad you enjoyed reading. I myself felt so good composing it :)

swati: Thanks so much dear friend :)

anu: I know, I too think about those times and these a lot and it kind of saddens me that kids, in general, instead of enjoying the natural simplistic pleasures of life, they spend more time with the artificial ones.

Suma said...

i read this post and didn't comment?!!! perhaps got struck by a strong nostalgia attack..
memories..what would we do without them?

you've penned them down so beautifully...and you lived in Lodhi colony? WOW!!!