Do you remember?
Everyone knows what is happening these days. But it is hard to imagine how life would have been fifty years back. Our needs and dreams were totally different from those of present day children. My grandson, who is three and half years old, now asks for Benton robots and wants to play his “Manchadi” DVDs on the computer. The trouble was so much that he wouldn’t let us use the laptop at home. Whenever we start doing something on the computer, he would come with his DVD, and wouldn’t budge till we play it for him. I found the solution by buying a small player for him.
Thinking about it, I was wondering. Does it make a difference,in what you are asking for as a child? Our needs and dreams are based on what is available and what is immediately possible in our imagination. Children are the same, in present or past. They remain so because of their innocent minds.
The older you are, it would be more interesting to think about your earliest memories. Times that you do not remember are times that are lost. As if you haven’t lived those years. People lose their memories due to many reasons, and they lose those years of their lives.
The earliest I could remember was going to the Asan Kaleri ( Something similar to the preschool these days).There was a small Kurisu Palli (chapel) belonging to the Cathedral. The church had permitted the Asan to run his classes there. I remember the thatched shed clearly. The thatch was of Palm Olas,( woven plam leaves) and the Kaleri had no walls, It stood on few wooden poles. The floor was filled with sand, and we used to sit on small wooden seats called Korandis. We would write on the sand in front, after sweeping and leveling it with our hands. Asan used to write our lessons on Panayolas ( Date plam leaves). The dried leaves were folded to a shape at one end. The leaves also had a hole at the other end to bind them together with rope. He would inscribe the letters with a metallic instrument called Narayom. Lessons started with Aa..Aaa..Ee..Eee. and so on. As lessons progressed the number of leaves we carried also increased, and we would carry them as a small bundle. There were no school bags or lunch boxes. I remember Asan as a kind old man. He used to wear a white Dhoti, and nothing on top. He never carried a cane. I don’t remember him beating up children. His name was Ammoonga Asan. He lived near our home. I remember walking the distance of about half a mile to the kaleri. The education at the kaleri used to take from few months to the most, a year.
|Similar leaves were used in our Kaleri|
I have clear memory of my first school day. I was given a new shirt and knickers and my brother took me to the St Josephs Girls High School. I started crying and yelling from home itself, Don’t remember for what. I didn’t want to go to the school. I cried all along the journey to the school, refused to sit in the class and had to be brought back.Being a girl's school, there were only three boys, specially admitted to that class. After two sessions there was an interval, when we were allowed to go out. The girls would go to the toilet and we boys used to go to the neighboring church ground. We would pee on to the wall, often talking to each other all the time. Occasionally we used to have competition as to who could pee the longest distance !. There was a huge tree at the church ground, which stood tall, spreading its branches all above the ground and gave a cool and comforting shade. It was a Sarkara Peratti tree. The long black fruits used to fall all over the ground and had a jaggery like pup inside.
My first teacher was Vincent Amma. She was the kindest teacher I ever had.I remember her bright eyes and slightly husky voice. I left that school after the third class, still used to visit the convent to see her. She kept track of me all along my education. She used to visit me when she came to Trivandrum on errands. She took pride when I escorted her to my teachers to show them the sick sisters she had brought along. She was taken ill when I was a final year medical student, and she used to hold my hands and weep in between her smiles, when I was at her bedside.
We had competitions of various kinds at the school. Music and speech competitions were the commonest. I had a tongue tie and could not pronounce many words properly. During speech competitions, one of my brothers would teach me a speech and I would go and reproduce it as it was, in my slimy way. Honesty, Humility,and Hardworking … were the common topics for the speech. Whenever asked to make a speech on honesty, every student would bring up the story of George Washington and his cutting the tree. It was, as if, there were no other honest person on earth. And on humility, everyone would talk on Gandhiji and his cleaning the toilets. And there was a common statement of introduction.
“My purpose of standing before you today…is to speak about… so and so” ( Njan Ningalude Munnil Nilkunthathinte Uddesom…..).
I never knew what I was speaking about or the meaning of words therein.
During one of the speech competitions, my eldest brother Babychayan had taught me a speech. He made some twists on the usual introduction and made it like this.
“My purpose of standing before you naked today is to talk about Honesty….
( “ Njan Nagnanai Nilkunnathinte Uddesom” ). I learned it by heart and reproduced it in front of the crowd attending the anniversary competition. Everyone had laughed to their heart's content, and I went on with my speech, without knowing what was happening. I completed the whole speech without missing a single word, and at the end, burst in to tears. Vincent Amma came and took me away. The Headmistress later came to our house and gave a good firing to my brother.
There was another nun sister who was my teacher at the 2nd class, Purackal Amma. She would come to the class with a single toffee, and would place it on her table. She would then draw a perfect circle on the blackboard, and ask us, kids, to draw the circle on our slate. She would then select five girls from the class and would start her rosary .Whenever we completed the circle and took it to her, she would wipe off one part of the circle and give it back to us, saying it was not perfect. None of us could make a perfect circle on the slate. She never gave that toffee away at any time.
I was just trying to see the earliest of my memories. Based on medical information, the average age of the first memories is three years, six months, with the vast majority dating their first recollection somewhere between ages 2 and five years. In general, the earliest recollections of females are earlier and more vivid than those of males, due to differences in how males and females interact as children, especially the types of conversations they have.
In a lot of ways I wish that I had complete memories of the events of my childhood, like I see in a lot of books..I have read someone remembering his christening at the age of two years!. I could add a lot more flashes to what I've written above, but it wound end up lengthy and boring.
I think the overall nostalgia comes from a time of innocence rather than things being easier back then. They were probably simple for me, but not for my parents who were trying to make ends meet or for those teachers trying to teach us. There are, for sure, a lot of people out there who've led a more interesting life than I have, and would have earlier and happier memories to share. But each memory has value because it is unique.
Memories are good things to have. And the sooner we can capture them, bottle them up, the better. Childhood passes so fast, that, if you think about it, it ends up being no more than a collection of memories. How truly said that some people lose years of their life by not being able to remember anything about them !!.