Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Those carefree days!

The move to Saraswathi Puram when I was about 9 years old was sudden. There had been no prior discussions at home about moving houses and I hadn't even imagined that we will be leaving our familiar surroundings ever. But one day, Anna came home from office and casually announced that he had seen a new house for rent in this new locality and we will be moving there. Within a couple of weeks, we had already moved.

The change in environment couldn't have been starker. In Agrahara, we were used to narrow roads, rows of dilapidated brick and mud houses with tiled roofs, road-side drainage, gallis where mangy dogs and pigs used to roam freely. And suddenly we found ourselves in this modern locality with broad roads, huge playground right opposite our house, beautiful parks, rows of identically designed houses with gardens, modern drainage system, and so on. It virtually opened a new window to the world for the 9-year-old boy in me. Looking back, I can clearly see the mind expanding with the open spaces available everywhere.

Even though we were surrounded by large houses with gardens, and it was a pleasure to just see those houses as we walked past them everyday, the house we had rented ourselves was just an outhouse behind one of those large houses. Sure, it was bright and airy, was spacious enough for us and certainly an improvement over our previous house. But I remember feeling a bit awed initially by the other houses in the neighbourhood.  Oh, look at those spacious study rooms looking out into the garden and their well-equipped study tables with a globe and all! Can I compete with children in those houses? Those doubts were soon put to rest, as I found out that the boys in those houses were not only  friendly and accessible, but I was actually doing better than them - be it in studies or carom or cricket. Initial diffidence soon gave way to confidence and I started enjoying my stay there even more.

Summer holidays were naturally the best times in those days. Our day used to start at around 8:30. Laze around for an hour reading newspaper and magazines, take a shower and have breakfast at around 10. And then, off we went to play with friends. Cricket and lagori were the preferred games. We used to pop in to the house for a quick drink of Rasna around noon and then some more playing in the hot sun. Come home at around 2, quick shower under the backyard tap and then lunch time. Post-lunch used to be mainly indoor games - either carom or short cricket. And then some more cricket in the evening, followed by an hour of 'katte' - just sitting around with friends chatting. Back home at around 8 and we were still not done. Some more indoor games amongst us brothers - handball, short cricket, anything. And then a late dinner around 10. Same routine repeated for entire two months of holidays.

Hindi - yet another window to a new world

Around the same time as we moved to Sarasawthi Puram, I also started learning Hindi outside of school syllabus. Till then, apart from a little bit of English that we used to learn in school, my life was mostly dominated by Kannada. Kannada medium in school, Kannada newspapers and magazines, Kannada movies and music and so on. So when Amma enrolled us to learn Hindi, I was naturally excited. But I had little inkling  of how much joy this new language was going to give me over the next few years. We started off with construction of simple sentences and translating small paragraphs from Hindi to Kannada and vice versa. Pretty soon, within a year or two, we were studying mature essays by some of the best writers in the language, logically constructed argument pieces, beautiful poetry, dohas of Kabir and Rahim and even some Urdu poetry with subtle turn of phrase by the likes of Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir. There was even a novel about a determined small-town girl (Warija) who goes to a big city to become an actress but ends up being a rich man's mistress. At the age of 12, I wasn't sure whether I should be studying a 'mature' novel like this, but needless to say I quite enjoyed it :-) Again, I probably didn't realize at the time how important learning this new language was, but looking back, I have no doubt that it had a significant role in enriching and expanding my young, adolescent mind at the time.

But even better part about Hindi classes, other than all that literature we had to study, was just going to the class and coming across a remarkable woman, our Hindi teacher. The classes used to be conducted either early in the morning or in the evenings and I used to particularly enjoy the morning classes. Getting up at 6 in the winter months of December/January, walking alone in deserted roads, watching the dew-kissed parijata flowers in full bloom along the way and then listening to the Hindi teacher delivering her lecture in her soothing, cheerful voice was indeed a beautiful experience. A few words about the teacher - Mrs. Indira. She had seen many a hardship in her life. She used to stay in faraway Delhi, but had moved to Mysore with her three children after the death of her husband. In Mysore, she was staying with her spinster sister, a doctor. She had to support herself and her three children on the meager income she used to earn from these Hindi classes. But, despite all these hardships, she always maintained a cheerful and positive attitude. With a book in hand, she used to forget about all her other worries and immerse herself in conveying the beauty of literature to us students. Maybe, that was her way of escaping from her problems for a little while into a world free of worries. Whatever it was, all I can say is that she was a remarkable woman and she left a huge impression on me in those days.

Pretty soon, I completed Hindi studies up to a certain level ('graduation equivalent' we were told in those days - not sure how true it is) and a year later, I also completed my high school uneventfully. We again shifted house around that time, but thankfully this one was in the same area, just a couple of roads away. This new house wasn't as well-lit and airy as the 8th cross one, nor did it have some of the better features like a playground opposite. This could have dampened my spirits a bit, but luckily, there were other vistas opening in my life. I was about to turn 15, started going to college, love was in the air and the beautiful world of mathematics - with trigonometry, calculus, analytical geometry, etc - was opening itself to me. But more than anything else, I was about to discover the joys of old Hindi film music thanks to All India Radio's Vividh Bharati service. Soon, Rafi, Mukesh, Lata and all those countless listeners from Jhumri Talaiya became my constant companions. I used to come home from college, have lunch while listening to aapki farmaish, and go back to college. We used to even record the songs from the radio using an old Sanyo tape recorder. Evenings between 9 to 11, the radio had to be tuned to VB. Soon came the television and it added another dimension to entertainment. But Vividh Bharati continued to entertain in the afternoons and late nights.

From PU college, moved on to engineering, but the routine remained pretty much the same. Most of the friends had also joined the same college, so we didn't feel any change between PUC and Engineering. Attend classes in the morning, back home in the afternoon listening to radio (or even earlier if there is a cricket match on tv), go for a round of cricket and katte with friends in the evening, back home around 7:30 and get glued to either radio or tv. Unless there was a test or exam approaching, I don't remember spending much time studying at all. If I were to draw a pie-chart of my waking hours in those days, it would probably look something like this:

Overall, when I look back, those 12 years I spent in S. Puram between the ages 9 and 21, were some of the happiest days of my life. We had multiple activities to keep ourselves engaged (sports, friends, tv, radio, magazines, discussions and a little bit of studies). We used to interact with so many different people on a daily basis - uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, etc. In a way, each one of those interactions served to enrich us as human beings. There was never any sense of jealousy, envy, bitterness or anger in any of those relationships. What's more, it hardly cost our parents a fortune to maintain this lifestyle. We didn't have to buy expensive gadgets or go on expensive vacations. Just eat simple home-made food (or at most, an occasional panipuri), soak in copious amounts of sunlight, play, talk, be merry and have fun. Wish that life could be as simple for ever. If there is anything to complain about that life, I guess it is that it spoiled us. It provided us with such fun and simple pleasures, it left us not aspiring for anything else and inevitably, anything that life had to offer us later was bound to be a disappointment. Boring meetings when I could have been watching cricket? Getting stuck in traffic instead of cycling down gulmohar tree lined roads? Expensive cars instead of the good old Luna? Who wants these things?


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Siri said...

hi anna,
Siri here. Really you lead such an awesome life. and your summer holidays. oh god! even i want such holidays. And of course as you know i would have not understood your PUC stuffs.:P. Anyway you might be missing it.

Siri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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