Sunday, January 10, 2016

Childhood Musings- "The Seven Tiles"



All that it takes to know what one missed in life is to pause and look back into one’s childhood. The bareness or near loneliness of child hood, without friends, being free to make friends, bring them home go to their homes, fly kites, play football and 7-tiles, cycle along together through narrow alleys, but could only watch from the sidelines with envy, what they  little fellows did. All that you always wanted to do as a child! Later, when one could gather the courage and temerity to venture out in the sly, enjoy and be delighted in the fun filled moments, you do that often not forgetting the severe reprimand and punishment that awaits you back home. Oh, those were miserable times from which those occasional rendezvous, clandestine ventures and rapture of those experiences can be savoured even today.

In childhood days the norm at home, a sort of joint family and which unfortunately was ruled by regressive despots who were often at loggerheads except in the matter that unified them and that was the dictum that ‘friends are dangerous and a child’s duty is to study and mind his lessons not play with friends’. So you can imagine the miserable state of mind and body of a child amongst such dystopic mindset.

Father and maternal grandfather were like the Old Major in the ‘Animal Farm’. There were also women heads that were quite capable of rivaling them in terms of regressive, domineering and annoying mindset. The standing decree that was to be zealously and unquestionably followed was that friends are peril and children shall not make friends, go out to play with any or to their homes, unless otherwise vouched and vetted by the elders. This monstrous state continued till late into my late teens when rebellion was the only recourse. The oft quoted role model was my maternal uncle who was the youngest of my mother’s siblings. This bloke my uncle, while he was kid and even later, in his youth would never let any of his school mates or neighbourhood boys into the perimeter of the house. When some school mates came looking for him, he met them outside the gate to the house and disposed them off there. He made no friends! He would not go out to play. After school, he would bother with his homework and lessons. What estimable quality! My mother and grandmother used to sing paeans of this guy. His story was often mentioned as example of good of good behaviour and grooming; what a child should do. The epilogue is that he is in his late seventies and hasn’t changed much.


Near where we lived, lived a family that had three boys of which two were my age and a little yonder a few more of fellows of my age. I suppose they were economically not in the same class as perhaps we were and ipso facto socially too, perhaps. Moreover these chaps were all going to the local government school of notoriety. It was also true that none of them were excelling in studies and were below average. I could not recall something more that could be added up against befriending those boys or spending some time with them playing innocuous games children play. Most evenings, after school I climbed and perched precariously on the wall to watch their revelry and banter. On few occasions I was attracted to venture out to where the kids were and join them that provoked severe rebuke and censuring at home. I can recall one evening that registered in my mind as ‘the evening of infamy’. I rebelled and was playing cricket with the boys. One of us hit the cricket ball pretty hard and it flew foolishly towards my house and landed on the terrace after bouncing of the terracotta tiles. It was my grandmother and aunt who secured the ball and refused to give it back and ordered that I go back home. Foremost, I was recalcitrant and the cricket ball was a hard nut - stone like and  the game with such nasty thing was dangerous to play. How I wished that the ground beneath my feet caved in and took me within, else would the earth split and took in both my aunt and the old grandma fore ever? It was piquant situation and I was shamed in front of those boys and their folks who were witness to the priggish and gauche of my folks.

There was an exception to the rule. There was a fellow in the neighbourhood with whom I was allowed to befriend; he could come home and I could go to his. But his folks were more churlish and annoying than my folks. They wouldn’t send him nowhere or befriend kids. Once we were given permission to visit the library and unbeknownst to us they send one of his elder cousins to shadow us and report if we were at the library or we took a detour or went elsewhere. I may have been about ten then and that incident still ranks as nonsensical attitude of grown-ups.

Later, in the teens ostensibly going to the British Council Library which was a kilometer away was a ploy to also spend time at the stadium near there and watch folks play. There were times when I would join some chaps to play cricket. However getting back home disheveled and soiled would blow the cover off the library alibi.

The fascination for cricket was rebuked as much as footballs, as both games were seen dangerous. The reason for sentencing football as a grievous sport was amusing and idiotic. One of my maternal uncles who were poles apart from the prudish younger fellow I mentioned before was once hit by a football on the chest while he was watching guys play the game. He ailed from asthma since then for quite some time, it was told. Remember he did not play but was a mere onlooker! Doesn’t that go to show how unsafe the sport is?

I was fourteen or fifteen and I managed about five Rupees stealthily from home and bought a pair of sneakers to attend the cricket coaching every evening at the stadium. An apparently convincing tale of late evening classes in school was the handout alibi. However the lid was blown off somehow, the cricket coaching ended abruptly and the sneakers confiscated.
Going to the movies was severely frowned upon and cinema was considered as of a medium that can debase children. But what I could not gather was what fucking moral corruption can happen if kids indulge in games and spend childhood as children naturally are inclined to- a vital aspect of healthy growing up?

Teens brought with it temerity. Summer vacations were spent in the uninhibited surroundings of Ambalapuzha. Swathes of green paddy fields, rivulets, brooks, backwater, and ponds added fascination to the milieu there, besides the ubiquitous groves with folklore surrounding each and huge mango trees that beckoned kids with their elixir filled succulence. Elder cousins were entrusted with life guard duties of taking care of kids from cities who were not trained to be buoyant in water. Not knowing to swim was often undermining one’s vanity. Local fellows took to water as fishes do while we were confined to the fringes and edges of the water and always under the watchful eyes of the elder cousins who were natives.


I guess I was thirteen or fourteen when the idea dawned upon me, well take swimming lessons and what better way than sneak out to the swimming pool in the city! A few hours in water there cost 50 paisa. Some friends were in cahoots and we used to slip away from school to take to the water. And swim we did, soon to be able to show jump and dive off the spring-board and the raised floors into the water.

Finally when it was time to make the summer trip to the country side, it was uncontrolled excitement , eagerness and joy abound that plowed me down; eagerness to see the faces of those folks there- the cousins gape in wonder about how this city lad swims in water. They just could not believe how I acquired the ability to swim and I dared not tell any.

(Pictures from Google)



5 comments:

ranjith said...

Well written. Poetic😊

rudraprayaga said...

Your childhood musings travelled through your mind smoothly.Whatever you write you think about it well and hence the sequence goes correct.But a bit of rebellion I smell in all your topics.Despite that I read them with interest.Now I've understood how this rebellious attitude dwells in your mind.Your childhood musings tell it very well and moreover the present society as a whole changes everyone to be rebellious.

I am a village-born person,brought up there allowing all the freedom with small restrictions on certain areas.I've written about it in four parts in my blog-sphere.Anyway done very well.

Shilpa Chandrasekheran said...

Cherishing childhood
Happy new year
http://shilpachandrasekheran.blogspot.in/?m=1

Shilpa Chandrasekheran said...

The pics u have put in makes me feel to visit palakkad 🤗

Loco mente said...

what is life without good childhood? After schooling, life is hit by monotony - work. earn. marry. have children. save. DIE!

We live only when we are children... the memories we make as a child let us live during our later years... when we meet childhood friends (even after an eternity) why do we feel young? why do we feel attached to the school where we would have spent a maximum of 15years of life or college where we spent only 5 years as compared to a work place where we might have slogged upto 35years (or even more)?

your post truly makes me think... and even understand things better!