Childhood


The prospect of going home has always exited me. Only that the prospectus doesn’t have too many prospects per year. I have no idea why i’ve been so miserly when it comes to visiting home. I have had the record of visiting home only once every semester throughout my college. Only once was that jinx broken, when there was a strike in the college and the college shut down for obvious reasons for a couple of weeks. It was around Holi when this happened and that probably is the only festival i have celebrated at home since i moved out back in 2004. Seven years completing this May and only one festival celebrated with parents, I’m ashamed of myself now, especially because I came to Delhi thinking I’d visit home more frequently than I did from Chennai. But I guess this time around I’m more confident of a good trip back home and a long one too.

To everyone, their childhood memories are the best, unless of course if it’s been a traumatizing one. Mine was ‘luckily’ a happy one. Bokaro is a quiet town in the Chhotanagpur plateau. It fell under the Dhanbad district till around the late nineties, and then it earned the district status post which the crime rate increased too (I don’t know how the 2 could be connected, but it’s just the truth I state here). A small place with an area of about 183 km2 (for more info click here. The advantages of staying in a small city are known when you’ve stayed in one. You certainly don’t have malls and pubs, and posh restaurants and fun parks to spend time with your friends, but we guys don’t need that synthetic stuff to keep us upbeat. We find bliss in sitting in the garden with friends and elders together and have conversations over a cup of tea. We love gardening; we love long quiet walks which connect you to nature. We love going to people’s houses and bonding. I remember the day we’d plan to go to someone’s place it’d be a refresher of sorts from the usual life. We’d all get decked up and go on to the other house and the kids would be in the room playing games, mother’s talking about food and marriage of the neighbour’s daughter and sons, and dads about their office and politics (of the nation too). We’d be server different food and snacks. And some houses there were fixed menus which would add to the incentive of going to their places. We had friends from across the country and across religions. No inhibitions, no differences nothing, it used to be a perfect setting. There used to be occasional get togethers each community also had their own groups and clubs which would meet on a regular basis to keep in sync with their regional brothers.

We were exposed to different cultures and their practices, languages, festivals,  norms etc as a result of this collective community. This exists in most of the small townships and since our dads were all batch mates and hostelmates in their bachelor years, the friendship was thick as blood. And nothing could take us apart. The friendship was old, true and faithful. Everyone gathered to celebrate, to mourn, to care and to know. I remember we used to go to people’s place because either the uncle’s or aunt’s parents were in town. It was almost customary to visit friends when their parents were in town and take the blessings of the elders. It gave the parents  sense of assurance that there were people around their children who would come to the rescue in case of any mishap. The relations were strong. The same was reciprocated when my grandparents would visit us. We would’ve a flood of friends visiting us, and it used to be fun to play the host. Almost every day there’d be a family visiting and we’d play games with their kids. It was a beautiful bonding.

Then there were festivals. Holi was one that will never be forgotten. It’s start with the kids calling each other up and then getting together and playing in someone’s home and then one by one we’d pull out the elders and they would in turn pull the other elders out and soon there’d be a huge crowd of elders and children all playing with colors and water and no rules on who puts color on whom. We’d pour buckets on uncles and aunts and find new ways to fool them into walking into the trap. Oh it was fun!!! You need to be experience to know what it feels like. We’d play on till around noon post which there would be visits to people’s places and we’d all have sweets and namkeens at each other’s places, the whole group moving together. And once each house was visited, everyone would be back in their homes getting them cleaned up. The evenings would be about visitng the ones staying far away, whom we couldn’t play the wet holi with. The other was Diwali. This one was unique for us, because Tamilians celebrate everything in the morning, festivals, marriage, poojas everything has to happen in the morning. So the whole tamil group would go to the temple in the morning to offer prayers (after having done the same at home at around 5 in the morning, my dad hates that custom till date, says “Ek din to milta hai sone ko, uss din bhi tumhaari maa uthaake kaam karwati hai” ) J. So the temple used to be the meeting point. And from there would start the visiting business. One after the other the whole caravan of cars will move together from one house to the other eating sweets and stuff. And the children would’ve a blast of a time. They’d all collect and keep bursting crackers in every house. Each will have a stock with them in their pockets, and most of us had the same crackers since our dads would go in a group to buy crackers to get it in cheaper rates as the buy would be a bulk. I remember my dad would get a carton full of crackers and diwali for me would start a week early. Arnab Sircar, my friend used to stay in the house behind ours and we’d come out in the evening and burst crackers and innovate new ways to burst it. We’d keep a tin box on top of one of the ‘bombs’ (So we used to call it, I hope the CIA doesn’t track me down here), and would see the tin box fly up in the air when the cracker would burst. We did similar experiments with a lot of other crap lying around. We got hurt a lot of times but It was almost a pride to show off the burns,  a sign of how ‘risky’ my ideas were. Small things that boys do.  🙂

(To be cont.. )

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