I was driving today to the office through an old residential colony. It is one of those localities where time seems to have stopped with its quiet neighborhood and houses with vintage British style construction. Huge trees spread on both sides of the road and delicate creepers covering the footpaths make it a different world in itself. When I passed from under one of the neem trees, leaves were falling down with the cool breeze. How I wished I could just stop for a while and catch some of those.
I remembered my childhood. I come from a small city called Akola located at the center of the country and I was one lucky girl to have lived my childhood when nature was synonymous with life.
Rains were welcomed with a great fervor and getting drenched and sticky was a pride. Cycling to the school through those muddy roads was like climbing the Everest. Heavy rains ensured a “chhutti” to the school sometimes and the day was spent watching the drops gliding through the window glass, navigating the paper boat through the puddles and throwing pebbles at the frogs. And imagine at night, classical music playing on the radio mixing with the “rup rup rup” sound of the downpour outside. Heaven !!
The beginning of winter was synonymous with fresh harvest. Every day was a feast munching on guavas, berries, raw green gram and sugarcanes. Afternoons were spent encroaching someone’s backyard, climbing trees and plucking guavas. Rustling of leaves was music and a cool evening breezes were accompanied by orange sunsets.
Spring was the best time of the year with the trees shedding their leaves preparing for the scorching summer. Catching the falling leaves while walking home after school was one of the most loved game. Summers were hot and sweaty but that did not stop us from running around the colony picking raw mangoes. I just can’t forget grandma bathing all the kids in the open courtyard with the copper bucket and the jug or essentially the “Loti” used to pour water over your head. Even “Lifeboy” was a divine perfume.
There were also those monthly visits to the “Village”. The small festivals and events celebrated as per the family culture and traditions were awaited. The scent of soil mixed with cow dung was the finest fragrance one could ever inhale. And the aroma of delicacies cooked by mother were the greatest appetizers. Dogs, cats, cows and birds were a part of the family. And the farms, the field, that drawing water from the well with the rope was a part of life.
Today, when I think of myself, and things which made me, my childhood plays a vital role. It is because of those treasures and memories I lived as a kid, I get that strong sense of belonging to my hometown and my culture. I bring with me a unique flavor of my region which helps me stand out in a crowd. But today when I think about my child, I feel sorry that she might not get the same treasure I acquired. Being a part of today’s cosmopolitan global culture, everyone is losing that little distinctive country flavor. The relation to nature today is just restricted to minor gardens in our housing societies and a couple of vacations to hill stations. In the times when global warming and pollution are a constant companion, isn’t it imperative to make our children realize how they can uphold their culture by taking respite in the nature?
I guess, we need to plan for more and more trips to our native towns and villages and that too for longer durations. Rather than living in posh hotels, live with relatives or small home stays. Let our children explore the qualities of living in harmony with nature and form their own memories. Let them get dirty while playing in the mud, let them fall down and get up while climbing the trees, let them roam through the farms and get bitten by ants, let them play with the cows and dogs and make mud forts. Its only when they have some retentions of the place and life, they will start understanding and valuing the rich cultural heritage they belong to. While having a modern vision for the future, they will have their feet firmly grounded to their soil. And only through this we can ensure happiness.
Let us make our childhood part of our child’s life. Let us not make it a bygone era, but a thriving culture.