The last 3 days have been spent going through my earlier years reminiscing about escapades long-forgotten. I wonder if its nostalgia that does it or did we really just love those amazing long days as children, running around in the garden, coming up with creative games, making each afternoon count? Even now if i throw my mind back i am assaulted by the smell of grass and sweat. The reason this post has been hard to write is that childhood just seems to have been an adventure, so talking about one in particular seems almost sacrilegious. I would possibly keep interrupting myself to insert other quick memories and would get totally waylaid by random moments pushing their way into the story.
There were however a few common themes our childhood adventures ran around. one larger than life was our grandmother. she just couldn’t understand us being as she said “angrez di aulad” . Her lip would curl into a sneer as we launched into our day’s stories in english and she would keep tossing her head in contempt, muttering to herself. For us of course this was the high point of any dinner table event, leading us to constantly invent ways to irritate her and provoke her into a punjabi tirade, her anger rising with our increasing amusement.
We would regularly sneak into her pantry while she was asleep in the hot afternoons, and steal her prize pickles. By the time she discovered us we were off and away and she poor thing just couldn’t follow. When she was feeling happy towards us she would make little ice cubes of ovaltine milk which we would devour instantly. i remember eid being cause for the most altercations. As a yearly tradition we had qeema samosas, halwa and crates of coke, fanta and pakola. She would as was common with all grandmothers hide most of the drinks for the guests. We would beg the cook to fry the samosas for us and we would eat them with pakolas and cokes. when she caught us there was hell to pay but when she didn’t oh the glorious fun.
There also featured a “maulvi saab” in our stories. One in particular, who eventually stuck it out and is still around today, started out getting the full brunt of our childhood mischief. the afternoons according to us were meant for traipsing around the garden, singing on the swings, playing games and not for sitting quietly reading the quran. one of us quickly decided this was not going to fly and we began earnestly planning our tricks, one for each afternoon. when he wanted water, we gave him water but with so much salt he almost choked and the water came out in spurts, which reduced us to joyous tears. to avoid reading the quran we would sit with our heads between our knees till we were flushed red and then insist we had really high fever. once we even tried dropping a cockroach on him. eventually of course he lost his religious patience and complained not to the mothers, but to our fathers and that obviously put an end to any games.
i keep going back in time and more than these silly adventures i keep coming back to the spirit of adventure. it wasn’t about what we did, but what we could do. the possibilities seemed endless. being allowed to sit with my grandfather after dinner while he watched “Madam” sing gave us 5 extra minutes of being awake in the day and not being allowed to talk during the song made it seem even more adult-y. the sense of excitement at being sent to our room to sleep, because we knew inside the room we wouldn’t be sleeping but playing quietly under the covers; the famous “ghar ghar” (which i wonder now if everyone played?) reading out to each other, planning the next afternoon, just busy being children. our love for wednesdays because that was drive-in day for my grandparents and if we were lucky we would be allowed to go with them. amongst hordes of families with parents inside the cars watching the movie, we joined the children in climbing atop and perching on the bonnets to laugh at the scenes we didn’t understand and be fascinated by the sound coming out from those strange speaker contraptions. it was almost like listening in to some secret. the highlight would be when we were given Rs. 5 to go buy something to eat and we would run off to those little shops selling treats for adults and children.
there are so many more that seem to now be flooding my mind and i suddenly feel i must try harder to remember them and write them down for posterity. Tim might want to read them out and laugh thinking of the alien world his mother lived in. a world full of simple magic and very simple children.