Category: Childhood

The tree with a swing #ThursdayTreeLove

The tree with a swing #ThursdayTreeLove

This is N’s favourite tree. The reason is pretty obvious, isn’t it? That tyre swing. She loves it and each time we go on a morning walk it is a given that I’ll let her have a go at it for as long as she wants. Do scroll down for a better picture of the tree. I love how its branches spread out in an all-encompassing manner.

It was I who first spotted it and exclaimed happily because we hardly get to see swings like these now. She couldn’t figure out how one would ‘get inside’. But once I explained, she completely adored it.

How I would have loved to have a go at it too. However I had this terrible mental image of getting stuck in that tyre with my newly acquired girth and having to roam around forever with it around my waist and the idea disappeared almost as soon as it had come. I decided it was safer to simply stand by and watch.

This swing reminds me of one of my favourite books The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Remember how a bored Bruno builds himself a swing out of a tyre? Have you read it? It’s a heartbreaking story.

When we were children our uncle, who was an engineer in the Irrigation Department, used to be posted in small towns and cities. The upside was that the Government bungalows he was allotted, came with a huge space around them. The one I remember best of all had this large Jackfruit orchard that was crowded with tall dense trees bent low with an abundance of fruit. A huge swing would be put up on one of those trees. It wasn’t anything glamorous – just a large very sturdy plank of wood held up with sturdier ropes. Four to six of us would climb up – the younger ones would sit down clinging to the ropes while the older adventurous ones would stand behind them and we’d swing really really high. The target would be to touch the leaves of the tree up above. Uff The thrill of it! The smaller steel versions at school didn’t even come close.

Recently when we went to the garden, to N’s immense dismay, the tyre had been tied up out of reach. How crestfallen she was! All we can do is wait and hope someone brings it down soon.

Did you ever play on a home-made swing?

 

Linking up with Parul’s #ThursdayTreeLove

The room on the roof

The room on the roof

Our house in my hometown is way larger than the flat we live in back home. To the twins’ absolute awe and delight it is a stand-alone bungalow, has a huge room on the first floor with a large terrace.

Till a few years back they were too young to go exploring and we managed to keep them grounded (pun intended!). My mum imagined them sliding down the steep bannister and running up and down the stairs and promptly issued a blanket ban. Then there are monkeys, no not mine, real ones – aggressive and fearless – that roam the neighbourhood. We all thought it was best to restrict the children to the ground floor.

Till they were about 5 or 6 they complied.

A few years later they made their way to the first landing then to the second until finally they ‘discovered’ the room. Since the holidays were almost over by the time they made this momentous discovery there wasn’t much they could do. They had to be satisfied with leaving notes all over the doors and windows labelling it as ‘H&N’s room’. And that was that!

Next year the moment they arrived they scooted up to assert ownership. The room was quite bare since it wasn’t much in use and the twins set out to rectify it rightaway. First, they decided, it needed to be furnished. During the long summer afternoons, while all of us adults shut ourselves in our rooms with the hum of the AC for company, the twins went to work.

They picked a mattress from one of the rooms on the ground floor (taking care to replace the covers back on the bed so no one would notice) and lugged it up. If you’ve ever tried walking with a full-sized Sleepwell mattress you’d realise how determined my 6-year-olds would have been. Next they needed tables and chairs. They decided the ground floor had one too many and dragged up some chairs too. The furniture was old, heavy and sturdy, lovingly made during my grandfather’s time. The twins, it would seem, were sturdier.

How they managed to do all of this in complete secrecy remains a mystery.

They put up some more notices at the door, instituted a ‘tax’ for entry and the room was done. That year they spent entire days up their fiddling with the large old broken down radio, carrying up food and juice and playing all kinds of pretend games. It was a relief to have them out of my hair.

Everyone is now reconciled to the fact that that’s where they’ll stay. Their bags are carried up the moment they arrive. They continue to love the place. Despite their fear of monkeys, they walk out onto the terrace and spend hours on the swing.

Last week they decided to have a screen-free day. They spent the morning going up and down busily. Then N pretended to be stranded up in a tower (or something of that sort) and sent down a rope while H tied all kinds of supplies – water and cold drinks and biscuits – which she’d pull up and then he’d run and join her for a snack.

I watched them, glad and grateful, that there was still time before they outgrew their childhood and that silly as their make-believe games might be, they still could trounce technology.

They continue to believe the room is their discovery – no matter that it was my parents who got it constructed after much discussion and many hours of pondering over the plans. “They might have got it built,” argue the little ones, “but then they forgot about it and we discovered it.”

Linking up with

Mackenzie at Reflections from Me.

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

Picture Credit: PIXABAY
The other day I was at the vegetable vendor’s picking out well.. obviously – vegetables. As I moved to the tomatoes I was joined by a boy of about 14. He dug into the basket turning the tomatoes this way and that, picking out some then dropping them back, then picking out some more. Finally he asked me, ‘How do you know which is a good one?’
Deja vu struck.
While we were growing up we lived in a joint family. While my sister and I did our chores (my mum saw to it) most of the mundane outdoor tasks were handled by others in the family. It might have had to do with the fact that we lived in a crowded area and mum wasn’t certain we could negotiate the roads safely on our own.

One day, perhaps the house help wasn’t around or maybe because my mum decided it was high time I learnt to do this, she handed me a bag, some change and asked me to go buy vegetables.

I mean, seriously? Vegetables? The teen me was completely appalled. I could imagine going out and buying stationery or books or sweets or clothes. But vegetables? What a mundane, unfashionable, low brow task to be saddled with! My entire teen self quailed at the idea rejecting it outright.
I refused.
“If you can eat vegetables, you can go buy them too,” said my mum and I saw her face settle into that familiar determined look my sister and I disliked and dreaded. If you know even a little bit of my mum you will know she can really dig her heels in, specially  when it comes to, what she thinks of as, teaching us a lesson.
I didn’t stand a hair’s breadth chance. So there I was with the most embarrassing jhola (cloth bag) in one hand and the money in the other off to buy vegetables at Chantu ki dukan – that’s what the vegetable vendor was called! I bent my head, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew, as I threaded my way through the crowded street.
I cannot recall what I bought. I just remember picking up a handful of something, mumbling out, ‘Half kg of this’, handing the money and walking home in a blaze of self-consciousness.

And here was this boy, how easily he asked for my help and how gladly I gave it! Standing side by side in a rather companionable silence we picked out tomatoes. I wish I had been more like him when I was his age.

So dear H and N, here’s the lesson for the day:
People are more likely to offer help than laugh at us if only we cast aside our nervousness and ask for it. We might be laughed at for pretending to know something but the moment we voluntarily expose our vulnerability and  enlist someone’s assistance we create a bond putting them firmly on ‘our side’, so to say.
No matter where you are – at a new school, at the library or in the sports ground, don’t be too shy or scared to enlist people’s support, even if they are strangers. Ask for help and you shall get it in greater measure than you ever expected.
Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you’ve been to embarrassed to ask for help? Do share. I’d love to add your experience to mine when I talk to the kids.

How do you eat your mangoes?

How do you eat your mangoes?

The other day I was watching my kids eating mangoes. The fruit is peeled, stones discarded, then diced into neat little cubes or slices (if I’m feeling lazy). I then leave it in the refrigerator to cool till we get on with lunch. Later, the kids pick the fruit off the plate with fruit forks or toothpicks.

Mangoes in Lucknow have always been plentiful. I had once stumbled upon this quote by Ghalib, Aam meethe hon aur bahut saare hon.
That’s exactly how they always are here.
During the summer our cousins would come to stay with us. Each afternoon all six of us aged 4 to 10, would sit around a tub of mangoes out in the aangan. The tub would be full of water to keep the mangoes cool. We’d be dressed in the barest minimum – vests and slips – as we fished out the mangoes, oblivious to the heat, and competed at amassing the largest pile of guthlis. We’d peel the fruit tooth and nail, quite literally, and bite right into the pulp, delicious juice dripping from our hands, running down our chins and smearing our faces.
One of our favourites was the Lucknow Safeda. If you know anything about this particular variety you’ll know it isn’t meant to be pealed and cut at all. It is more juice than pulp and has to be sucked on, not eaten.
There’s a whole art to getting through this fruit and I’m not sure I’m equipped to explain. Let it suffice that it has to be handled with all the Lakhnawi nazakat you can muster. No, I’m not being a snob – the nazakat is crucial. The thing is the fruit has an exceptionally fragile skin. A little inelegant impatience and you’ll have the guthli shooting right out from the wrong end (of the fruit, of course) splattering you with juice and pulp.
Each time that would happen the expression on the face of the callous offender would be priceless, giving us hours of laughter. What’s worse, he would get an earful from his/her mum because mango stains are the devil’s own work when it comes to getting them off.
Anyway, once you’ve got down to the guthli without accident you scrape it off with your teeth and discard it. Finally you slurp off the remaining juice.
I am sure we weren’t the most sightly of sights, yet it was the perfect way to form strong bonds of shared memories. Perhaps that’s why even though we don’t meet, sometimes for years together, we can take up from right where we left off, the sweetness never varying quite like that of the dussehris, langadas and safeda.

Aam will always remain a very khaas part of my childhood memories.
Sweet memories and some thoughts

Sweet memories and some thoughts

Mel from Stirrup Queens has invited us today to share a memory of our favourite childhood candy and I realised I had more than one. Don’t worry, though, I promise not to get carried away.

To begin with there were these phantom cigarette candies. I shared this on Facebook sometime back and heard from many many friends saying how they missed them just like me. These had a texture quite like chalk and were sweet enough to put you off sweets for a long time, or so I thought when I recently sampled them again. I’d thought they were dead and gone till one day I got a call on the intercom from my 9 year old asking permission for a cigarette that his friends were offering. I completely freaked and asked him to come right home. And this is what he got. It brought back many many fun memories. When we were young, we would put them to our lips and pretend to blow out ‘smoke’ during the cold Lucknow winters. 

I also remember a ‘sweet man’ who was quite a favourite with all of us. He’d stand outside our school with a huge box, which he hung from his neck, stacked with all kinds of sweets. My favourites were these tiny pink rose flavoured sweets that I cannot remember the name of. They came in a peppermint flavour too but the rose were my favourite. I remember the fragrance more that the flavour. Regrettably, I have never found them again.

Those were certainly simpler times. Sweets back then were simply an occasional indulgence, nothing more. They didn’t need to boast of additional benefits. Have you noticed how these days they come ‘packed with energy boosters’ or ‘fortified with glucose’?

And so each time our child has a meltdown and we reach out for a sweet to pacify our sad or angry toddler we can tell ourselves, “Wow I avoided a tantrum and I gave him an energy boost!” A win-win situation, right? And it’s way easier than helping him work out strategies to cope with his anger/grief. Advertisers have certainly made the whole exercise guilt-free.

Okay I’m over analysing this whole thing but I do have a lot of issues with sweets and the way they are marketed. For instance, have you seen how Kinder Joy comes in a boy version and a girl version?? I mean, must sweets (and toys and books and everything else) also have a gender now?

Despite all the advertising hoo-haa I wonder if my kids will remember them with as much affection and nostalgia as I remember my phantom cigarettes.

Linking to Mel’s #Microblog Mondays .

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