Vanishing childhood




We used to wait eagerly for the school bell to ring. Then it was a non stop run.Many of us would have already taken off the shirts and fly them like kites over the head, all the while running , stopping only to stone the mango trees. None of those mango trees had low hung mangoes, that was not permitted when we were around. Reaching home ,throw the books on to the table, deposit the shirt , and then to the Palli ground.It was foot ball or some other games for everyone till the bell rings at the church for the evening prayer. The heat would have calmed, the cool breeze soothes the skin eruptions we used to call “ weather” ( Only after many years I learned it was what we call the prickly heat) Pulling buckets of water with the coir rope over squeaking pullies was tough job. But when the cool water was poured over head and splashes down , it was worth all the efforts.There was no game called cricket those days. And so we used to have all kinds of tournaments at the municipal grounds. During vacation times, a touring circus would come to the ground. They used the well in our yard,, and in return ,offered us free passes to the circus. I was a regular visitor to the circus, and used to occupy the front seat during most of the matinee shows. I used to adore those artists, I used to dream of those trapeez artists who used to dance in to the podium, and under the blue lights they all used to look beautiful.


The best part of my childhood memories are the summer vacations. My mother used to help me pack my small old steel trunk, with my pocessions of two crumbled shirts and knickers without buttons. The bus to Kumily used to start from Changanacherry at about 5 in the morning. One of my elder brothers used to deposit me beside the driver, with instructions to deliver me to Kallarackal Mathechan at Kumily. I used to call him my Aliyan, it was a joke for every one to hear me call him Aliyan. I couldnot properly say that word, because of my tongue tie.. In all my memories till this age, I cant remember a better human being than my Aliyan at Kumily. He used to carry me on his shoulders wherever he went, and colored my childhood with all the wonderful memories I still cherish.. Mathachan was a phenomenon at Kumily at those times. He had the largest piece of land connecting Kumily to Thekkady. About half the land was a sugar cane plantation and the land had boundaries with the forest reserve, with those beautiful thick bamboo growths. He had a large herd of cows and buffaloes, and a team of Tamilain labourers to take care of them Early morning they will walk the herd deep in to the forest to feed and bring them back in evening. It used to be chilly cold in the morning.The mist would cover the whole air around, and nothing could be seen beyond few feet. One could hear the frequent houling of those Tamilains to signal others around.The steram behind the fields used to team with small fish and there used to be many wild chicken in the bamboo growth.I used to spend many of my morning days, trying to catch these wild chicken, with a cane basket tied to a rope, and hiding in the thickets to pull the rope, when the chicken would walk in to the basket to feed on the rice.

During harvesting time, it was fun and business. A “ Chacku” was installed in the farm.It was a metallic roller pressor and used to be pulled by oxen or buffaloes. When the roller starts moving, we had to place the sugar canes between the rollers, and the juice would flow down in to a basin. Pluck an orange from a neighbouring orange tree and push in between the rollers along with sugarcanes, and flows down the best tasting juice in my memories. The juice was transported to a shed where it was processed to make Sarkara ( Jaggery).

Ocassionally we used to get visitors from the forest. Wild elephants used to walk in at night and tramp the sugarcane plantation,,eat to their hearts content and carry another big pack on their trunks, before retiring back in to the forest. We used to beat drums and throw fire arrows at them, with no use.

My mothers home was at a place called Thuruthy, few miles away from Changanacherry. Her youngest brother used to live there and ran a small tea shop.. It was a one man show,where he used to grind the Dosa mavu himself on the stone mill, beat the tea himself and serve the customers himself. Thomachans tea shop was a favourite destination for the villagers and there was not much of a competition for him. The most pleasant job for me, was finishing of all the unsold banana fries and vadas towards night, before closing the shop. I still remember the long walks to Thuruthy with my mother. Buses were infrequent those days, and most of the buses had these long noses at the front. She would buy me a small mittai from a wayside shop, to stop me from crying, and all the while saying..it is near..just around the curve. It was one curve after another till we reached my Ammachans house. It was a small house with a long verandah at the front. Some other children from his wifes side also used to come there,and we had wonderful times .Morning time used to be at the lake, catching fish with the torn thorth mundu. All around the lake side were the berry trees of different kinds. We used to be so full by evening.The cool breeze over the paddy fields used to carry the intoxicating smell of all the fruit trees around. Nights were more fun with all the giggling and laughter,and stories of those Arabian princes and princesses. Sometimes I used to see those princesses in my dreams. Cant remember how beautiful their faces were.

Everyone of us at home had some kind of duty or other to do. We were seven sons and I was the youngest.I had advantages being the youngest, in that I used to get all the extra bites and left overs. But on the other side, used to be the victim for all the elder brothers. Everyone used to show his authority on me. Summer time at Changancherry was not that enjoybale. It was harvesting time at the paddy fields,I had to carry the food for my father from home to field,few miles away.The river beside the field used to shrink in heat,and it was easy to catch the Pallathi fish.The pulayars used to pamper me calling Kochambran,and I still remember my friend Vasudevan who was our Chief pulayans son.He used to be my accomplice in all the activities.

By early June,monsoon sets in and a long with that, long days and nights of torrential rains,and glimmering sunshine in between. The drain in front of my house used to be flooded and washed clean over few days,and fish used to swim in that. We were not allowed to play in that water, but could make paper boats and float them,it was a race to see whose boat reaches the longest distance. After the rains, rivers shrink and along with that the nullah in front of my house.

My mother used to grow chicken.Every house used to have some. There was nothing called broiler chicken. Once in a while, when a guest comes from distance, my mother would ask me to get one of those unfortunate roosters. I had to run after him for miles, around all the trees and hurdles he knew, to get hold of him.Every hen had a fovourite place to lay the eggs,and I was more sure about the place than anyone .After laying the egg,the hen would come out and make a special ko ko sound,and I know it has laid the egg. Before my mother knows, I would snatch the egg and hide in in my knicker pocket and would slowly walk to the St George bakery on the road side. The bakery used to be in a thatched shed,and had a wooden table on which used to stand few large tin boxes with glass panes on front. They used to contain rusk and biscuits. The glass shelf at his side used to hold those precious small cakes and George would immediately know I had the egg in my pocket. He will give a knod with his head,I would secretly hand over the egg,and he,in turn would give me a small sponge cake. I would go to the palli ground and sit under the massive Sarkara tree and slowly relish the cake, enjoying every tiny bite of it. Later I knew that my mother knew about my trips and she had knowingly let me go and enjoy the cake. I was her youngest son.

No one pushed me to study. No one forced me to choose anything. I made my choices. It was always study and games together. Fun and frolic. Uncles and Aunts, weddings and funerals, Christmas days of Palappam and Duck curry, Sunday schools and church choirs, Youth seminars and music programmes, till I joined the medical College. I used to go back home every weekend, because I was so home sick. Staying away from home was the first time experience.

I wonder sometimes. What kind of childhood my children had? They were born the children of a doctor, and as such, many of my childhood luxuries were nothings for them. Times changed. We never let them go to a relatives house for vacation.No one invited them as well.They had classes and then, home.They were lucky that I worked at a country side hospital, and had schooling there, and always used to accompany us in our trips to medical camps to those hilly areas of Idikki. Still, I know their memories would not be as colorful as mine. May be ,the choices of present day children are different. And they don’t realize the value of things they receive.

I read an article in a magazine recently which discussed at length the rat race that starts early for kids because of their ambitious parents, resulting in a burnout and much more than that ….. losing their sweet childhood.

There was this story of a mother who kept a tape recorder near her womb and “taught her six-month-old foetus” various subjects like literature, history and science Taking inspiration from the stories of Prahlada and Abhimanyu, she strongly believed that the baby would be ahead of other students in her kindergarten school. “We did this to our first son also. The result is excellent,” claimed the parents. They enrolled their one-year-old son in a brain activity school that promises ‘twin brain development, baby yoga, concentration games and baby Einstein DVD concept’.

“Like their wealth, gold and building interiors, the children have also become status enhancers for the parents,” says Van Ryan, who authored the book ‘The Show Case Piece’.

He gives four reasons for hyper-parenting: Their own academic failures, frustrated ambitions, guilt feeling for not being able to spend more time with the children and… the kick of being able to exhibit their child’s achievement before others.

‘Thoroughbred’ is the word used for the race horse rigorously trained for its purpose. There is nothing wrong in building a child’s bright future. But do you know that there is a school that teaches sixth class students for admission into another school that coaches them for entrance test into Ramaiah’s coaching centre which in turn gives training for IIT entrance? .

We train them for so many things. But deny them their rights of having a normal childhood.They don’t learn the values which we proudly claim to hold.And they don’t see those many colors when they think of their childhood. Many of them satsfy the egoes of the parents.Can we give them back their childhood ,we ripped them off?

Comments

  1. my chidhood memories r almost similar to urs .upto sslc i used to go either to thuruti or to kumali for vacation and enjoyed similar lifelike urs. still iam fond of these memories .....thats i still enjoy going to these places at this age...

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  2. Never knew you had a Idukki connection.. I myself grew up in this district - Peerumade.. nd the most beautiful place on earth it was!

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