The very first signs of oldage or wisdom as I would call it, is the joy one gets just comparing the current scenario to some years or decades back. Many elders had been doing this and the baton has been passed on to me now.
Nobody had heard about kindergaten or preschools in the 1970’s. A child would enjoy the comfort of its parents, aunts, uncles, neighbours till it was 5.5 years and the nearest school was chosen for its education.
The childhood memories of 1970’s are golden classics for me. As a child, I could remember all the neighbour hood ladies talking to me, pinching my chubby cheeks and in general was poured with lots of love and affection. The same is true for many kids who were with me.
We were made to practice walking, standing,sitting and each was celebrated with a small sweet prepared at home and enjoyed by the entire ‘vathara‘ or the collection of houses. Each house had an extension in another house where they would borrow things like kerosene, sugar etc and accounts used to be settled by 1st of next month. We kids managed to graduate from walking to jumping, running and finally the nightmarish tree climbing.
I still remember those food starved Indira Gandhi days. Mother after standing in a long queue had got some sugar and 2 liters of kerosene. There was a cute small pump with a marble at bottom which was used to pump the kerosene to a brown bottle, which would find its way to the kerosene stove.
One day when mother was outside drying cloths, I just walked and thought let me pump the kerosene but was afraid my dress would get drenched and I would get caught. So, I just moved the open sugar ‘dabba’ and pumped the kerosene. After a minute of pumping with my small hands, the kerosene fell into sugar and disappeared. I kept watching the same until mother came and nearly fainted – having lost both sugar and kerosene. All neighbour hood ladies consoled mom saying that was kids do out of site!
The cluster of houses or the vatara comprised of many kids of different ages. The elder ones or the gurus decided which games to play. For girls it was mostly ‘mane atta‘ meaning playing with a small version of barbie doll as mother or kuntte bille – a game played with a small piece of stone drawn on ground.
Boys got all the joy of playing cricket – this meant lifting the heavy bat before the ball is bowled. You could see wickets drawn on walls using red brick pieces. Lagore – a wonder team game played with a small ball and 8 pieces of stone was a great one. Chinne dandu was banned as it had injured some bypassers and was only practised in fields.
Night times would mean playing ‘kalla police‘ or ‘Ice Piece‘. I just dont know the meanings but just still savour the games. The vatara had atleast 8 houses in a posh 700 x 300 plot with gardens in front and back. We would just get into anybodies house and hide under cots, big vessels, old trunks.
Shesha was the master of the art. He would hide as a boy and emerge out with his grandmothers blouse and saree and make the poor chap hunt again. All these in the moon lights until elders called us back for the evening prayers and study.
Slowly as we grew up, our pranks quotient too grew up. Sunil was one of the new young boy in the block who had a tricycle. So we made friends with him and started our own BTS bus service from the front of the gate to the last out house. One guy used to sit in front and his younger brother behind. The rest used to push the cycle. Sometimes the pushing and joshing around would end up with fights. All fights were settled by sunil when he asked ‘whos cycle is this?’
Since I was the only child of my parents, eating was little tough for me. I used to go and sit promptly in the neighbours house when food was being served. Understanding that I wanted company, mom used to put my food along with the neighbourhood house and I became part and parcel of their household! In fact one of the daughters of those house taught me economics in my Pre univercity and just couldnt believe she was teaching me – a kid who was hand held and fed by her!
I continued my ways and started going to school gate of one of my neighbour hood girls and noticing this, the teacher asked mom to get me admitted into that school. But I was still 4 years. She told – get krishna next summer and we will admit him to 1st standard. I smiled with joy and said OK.
to be continued….