I had been warned about a lot of things that happen in the 'real' world, things to protect yourself from, just like other normal kids who fear being carried away by a wolf if they venture outside the designated area. Or those who know the possibility of being squashed by a running vehicle if they toddle on the roads. I know, they don't really fear all this with conviction, being the little superheroes they believe themselves to be, but you have to admit that they'd possess a little bit of commonsense in between all that bratiness. (Chill. We're allowed to make up words. Shakespeare made over 1700 of them). Lately, though, I've been having misgivings about this assumption, especially when I take Scoot out. Roads seem to be a lot more safer than the narrow galis, because the children of today are completely convinced that no kind of moving vehicle can ever hurt them. If you doubt it, try riding a two or a four wheeler in a residential lane. Honking won't make them budge and giving them cold stares would make you feel ignored.
As I stood exasperated, still perched on Scoot, observing with near-amusement the group of small boys and girls on bicycles, giggling and calling each other names, choosing to ignore Scoot inches away from them and its unnecessary honks, I couldn't help thinking of my own childhood and what comprised the world for me. Probably it was a lot more simpler, what with the lack of smartphones and what-not, along with managing school on our own instead of feeling miserable in a tuition class. In any respect, I'm sure we all adore our childhood, however we might have enjoyed it. When I think back to those years in the 90s, vivid memories of various forms of enjoyment seem to be those I cherish the most. It feels somewhat remarkable, and sad, to know that we probably never would do the same things again. What's a better way than to write it down, so that even after years or decades, we can go back to them without having forgotten sweet memories?
|Pic credit: Self|
My brother and I were among the minuscule number of kids in our colony, so we were each other's closest playmates. That was probably what ignited our protective instincts for the other, along with developing a habit of hardly ever talking to each other without sarcasm. Till the time G was tiny and didn't know he was supposed to rebel the fountain-like or tiny ponytail hairstyles we made him have, he agreed to be the student when I proudly used a chalk on the small, rough blackboard. That was also when we collectively played with our toys, tiny dolls sitting on top of Anand Cola trucks and vehicles, falling off the tops repeatedly as the trucks swished on the floor. G was not to be restrained to make-believe games for long. He soon found a keen interest in cricket and games involving more physical activity. Having amazing powers of conviction mixed with cuteness, he managed to involve me in any and every sport or game he wanted to play.
Cricket was something I never said no to. It had soon become a family sport. The narrow lane in front of our home with the park having overgrown grass surrounding one side of it was not an ideal spot, since the ball (that dad later started calling the do dinn wali ball, apparently because it lasted two days before it got lost) was quickly lost, finding its way in an overgrowth or a gutter. Our dad was our favourite playmate, apart from each other. He moved our game indoors and the thin strip of our verandah became our pitch. He acted as the referee and mostly as the batsman who would hit the ball at just the perfect angles for a whoop-inducing catch. I loved catching the ball the most, just a little less than batting. Since the verandah was really narrow, it did not afford space to score by running, so we made our own rules, the most flexible of which I found the one-tip-one-hand rule. If there were more than three balls I hadn't got to catch, I just needed to gesture to dad and he would make the next one an easy catch thrown my way.
I miss that tiny verandah space the most. It was where G and I had stood because mom wouldn't let us in. Of course, if both of us were ghar nikaloed together, it would hardly matter, for we would start playing any game G would invent. The harder bits were when it was either of us who had been the naughtier one and hence, accorded that punishment. The only solace in that moment when we cried bitterly, lay in the fact that soon, our sibling would find a way to let us in. Sometimes it was G using his convincing skills, or grandmom feeling sorry for us, or the best of all, the alternate door to the house. We soon found a way to overcome our problems by simply, stealthily opening the lock to the alternate door and let the other in. The only hard part would be those minutes, or even hours we'd have to spend hiding under the dining table, cutting the hours till the time we knew mom would be opening the door to let us in.
It was also the safe space for skating, something I'd learned to love. Although my first independent 'walk' on wheels had been in our drawing-cum-dining room, the verandah had witnessed thousands of tiny rounds when the uneven road outside was deemed unsafe. It then became our basketball court when we got a small basketball, complete with a red netted basket. Cricket though, won over the other sport, being something we enjoyed the most. The verandah saw our first, horrific falls. It was surrounded by a low wall with a broad base where it met the gate. That piece of wall was the perfect spot to perch on, looking over to the narrow lane, the park and the main road beyond that. It was also easily accessible thanks to a cemented base doubling as a resting-stool-stuck-to-the-wall. When I had first fallen off that wall, G had not yet been born and I had made the drop towards the outside lane, fitting my small self into the thankfully dry naali. G's fall, a few years later, was on the inside. Nevertheless, it was our favourite spot. We would sit there in the evenings without electricity, playing games.
There was the letter-box opening in the cemented wall, through which G and I would shoot our water guns at passersby two days preceding Holi. The only scary moment was when one lady didn't seem to have liked it and had suddenly turned towards our house, angry. It was terrifying as we had quickly ducked and like little soldiers, made our way to the metal door leading into the house as fast as we could, the lady's accusatory shouts ringing in our ears as our hearts thumped madly. A few years later, the verandah was witness to and a participator in making me have my first stitch-requiring-injury. We were playing aankh me choli. It did not occur to my super-smart brain that it'd be better to move slowly and I ended up banging my head on a wall. I thought it was okay once I had paused and pressed my hand to the painful spot and the pain had seemed to recede. G was standing stock-still just where he had been and when I had removed my hand and smiled up at him to suggest that I was okay, he had called, 'hawww! khoon!', looking horrified. The next moment I felt a trickle of liquid down my face, the drops landing in red on the floor in quick succession and I had started shrieking at the sight and unnaturalness of it.
There was a tap right next to that letter-box opening and our perch, which was used to fill up water balloons and store in the bucket on the mornings of Holi. We would excitedly hand over balloons to dad as he sat on his haunches, filling up those water balloons and depositing them in the bucket till G would declare them enough. We spent most of our childhood Holis spraying coloured water on each other in the lane outside the gate, after mom and grandma would go back inside and dad would supervise the game, or click pictures. Balloons were mostly for ourselves, until we were joined by a couple more neighbourhood kids and we realized that there's more to those water bombs than we had imagined.
Then there was school, of course. I never liked school. It was full of bullies and stupid children who cheated on tests and never left an opportunity to make fun of others. Either this, or the compulsory lessons on classical dance: something or the other was always a flop in my idea of school. I remained in my own world nevertheless, having to come out and act smart only when G started accompanying me to school. We used to make a single-file line even on our bus stop (I still can't believe how they managed to instill that kind of discipline!) and G would sulk, or worse, cry, if he wasn't the first in line. It became a ritual of keeping an eye out on the road as we hurriedly dressed for school at 6.15 in the morning, rushing out to be the first to start the line. I was usually the first one to get ready, so it was an added responsibility to reach the stop earlier to avoid anyone else getting there first, because the not-so-appealing alternative would be to manage an annoying G all the way to school.
During this time, afternoons were usually monotonous, especially when we returned home. The perks were when we could see our grandmom at the gate to our house, waiting for us. An even added perk was finding our dad along with her. Our little hearts were filled with such enthusiasm at the sight of them that we'd quickly hold hands and cross the road, before G's hand would leave mine and he'd jump over the low wall of the park, cross it and reach dad before I could. Ever since we know, he's always had work in shifts, so we hardly ever knew when he would be there to receive us. If we would be feeling really excited, we'd chant 'scooter pe round' and dropping our bags in the verandah, we'd plant ourselves on the scooter and enjoy the round he'd give. I loved sitting facing backwards during these rounds that probably lasted five minutes, but made us happy for the entire day. Even though I was a preteen already, I don't think I even for a moment considered it as something ridiculous. It's fun, really. It was rather a let down when I badgered dad into letting me sit facing backwards a few days ago and he actually did not move more than a short distance because it was embarrassing. -_- See? That's why I say we need to cherish such things because they're mostly possible only during childhood. :')
There are a lot more stories surrounding childhood, most of which relates to things that were so important to us. Play time was not time pass. It was absolutely essential. It was an important part of our life growing up and made us learn a lot more than watching TV or playing video games ever could. We did succumb to computer games later in the years, but there was always, and still is, that special place reserved for sports or actively engaging games. It's not just something to cherish, but also something to be passed on. It's somewhat disturbing to find kids the same age as we were back then, recklessly driving gear-less scooters in the lanes, or being callous enough to not even consider a motor vehicle coming towards them.
Do you remember such games or special hangout spots of childhood? Aren't those just too precious? :')