Noel Ellis's Official Blog

I wield the pen to explore the vastness of the human mind

Category: CHILDHOOD

A BUS CLEANERS DAY AT WORK

In India quality of life is nowhere to be found for the common man. The reason why I make this statement is in view of the brutal murder of this little child in Gurgaon. It could have been any school for that matter. Many schools will wake up and do a self audit to plug any loop holes. Many schools will continue the way they were, taking chances till something drastic like this happens again. My issue is not with the schools, my sympathies are with the parents of this child, how heart wrenching it would have been to bid farewell to this small soul who had yet to begin his life’s journey.

I am just supposing that after his education in such a prestigious school a child would have got admission to a good college. I assume that the child would have got close to 90 % marks and could have been refused admission to Delhi University. The parents would put in their efforts to even pay capitation fee which exists in various forms and got him admission. Maybe his life would be much better off thereafter as career prospects would be multiple. Say this child would have got close to 80% marks; I can assure you except for a private college the child would have nowhere to go. Two things would happen then; either the child would pursue his studies in all sincerity or become a vagabond and be part of the educated unemployed people of India. My story starts here.

Say he becomes a conductor of a school bus. What is his life? Start early in the morning on a fixed route, meet the same people and children every day. Reach the school by the stipulated time and then do what! While away time, waiting for the 2’o’clock bell to ring and same routine in reverse order to leave the children. How much will he be paid for this duty? Peanuts are an understatement. Those hours spent inside or outside the school premises wasted playing cards with other conductors or listening to stories of other drivers and cleaners, just waiting. Curse the traffic, the government and anything on earth. Smoke a few biri’s or cigarettes sitting on haunches, abusing and picking up a fight with the other driver if that bus is parked wrongly or has taken his permanent space. People intervene, a compromise struck, a black eye and life moves on.

With the mobile era a few of them would be busy with them. I have yet to understand that such people get so many calls from all over especially while driving the kids around. The prime minister will also feel that they are busier than him. What content from the internet they would be watching I should not comment on that. What they discuss about the children and especially the bai’s/moms who come to leave the kids to the bus stop, kindly let your imagination run.

Let me now imagine the place where this person might be staying, or the colony in which probably he would find a shelter. Any guesses? The same fights for dominance of space and no place for ablution. Can we imagine his issues, no latrines, no water supply, no PDS kerosene for stoves, one small KHOLI, and probably he too will have a family. If God has been kind he would have two children, no system of health care, landlord mafia pressurising for payments, wife in family way expecting her third, pressure on him not to be late for duty, children playing next to the dirty muddy, murky Nala near the railway tracks, life goes on for him. He won’t even have enough money to buy a detergent for his uniform if he has one. Will he stink of sweat or of the firewood he burnt to keep himself warm on a winter’s night? One can keep conjecturing.

Where is his quality of life? What is his mistake to walk this earth even if he is educated but could not find a job matching his qualification? Why can’t he be given the same dignity of life as anyone else? Why is he insecure of his job? Why has he no access to boarding, lodging, healthcare, basic civic amenities? Why has he to survive every day? His children don’t go to school, his wife is dealing with her own problems, he comes back home with provisions then only she cooks, he now has got into a habit of drinking so besides the load of the household this lady has now to deal with abuse. The area stinks, the neighbours are no better, he lives life and that’s it.

Well folks I am not taking sides of this brutal killer but I am trying to imagine his psyche. Though he might be educated, might have a family but his thinking and mentality cannot go beyond the company he keeps. Governments and NGOs must be doing a herculean job in trying to give him his due but overall he doesn’t care. For him every day is survival, just survival to make two ends meet.

What came into is mind at that particular moment, needs through psychiatric investigation. Drivers and cleaners using toilets used by children need to be thought through by the schools. Definitely all schools need to pull up their socks. To expect total integrity from the lowest paid employee in the school chain is asking for too much. Lots need to be done, lots need to be introspected; quality of life needs to be improved for him, you and me. Who will do it? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

 

JAI HIND

LET ME CHANGE MY NAME

The jokes going around today is that we are soon going to change of name of Chowmein to lachhas of some kind to boycott anything Chinese and Rogan Josh to whatever. Will our love for the noodles die? Or will our stomachs revolt if we get something with a different name. Lesser said the better.

The pleasure we get in changing names of places, streets and roads etc is something which I don’t understand. As far as my memory goes as a kid, I remember JULLUNDER becoming JALANDHAR. This was very prominent on its railway station as we were frequent travellers unlike frequent fliers in those days. Our summer or winter holidays used to start with a steel trunk, a big holdall, a basket full of food, a surahi, loads of comics and long waits at Jalandhar for our connecting train. We were excited to see this change of name. As the train from Kapurthala chugged in, I had my eyes fixed at the board of the station which used to be the first thing one saw. My curiosity did not end at that till I dragged my dad to that board. The engraving of the old name was still there. The old name was clearly visible under the fresh paint. I am sure the old engraved name still exists even today on all boards as they too are part of our heritage.

What changed with the name, was it the location of the station? Was it the train timings? No. The ticket window remained at the same place. The milk booth did not shift. The aloo poori stalls did not change their menus; the water taps did not start pouring coca cola. The “pappar wali rehri” still sold papar. The cleanliness of the stations remained pathetic even after change of name. For the local folk the pronunciation remained the same even if the spellings in English had changed. As far as Punjabi was concerned the spellings in gurmukhi didn’t change. The only people who worked overtime were the painters. I am sure this painter would not know the English alphabet nor would have understood why this change. His job was to paint, that’s it.

My name has its own derivatives and people have called me Neol, Nawal, Novel, Nole, Navel, Ellie, Ellias, Alice, Alish, Elle, Elsh uffffff. In my unit many called me Elli Singh as I spoke fluent Punjabi. Did my character change? Did it make any difference to my personality? I tried changing my name in the Voter card thrice now but somehow these fellows have to make a mistake by interchanging a vowel or a consonant. Thank God my address and date of birth is correct and they allow me to vote and I vote for my candidate. My political affiliations don’t change.

I hope you people know where Rajiv Gandhi Chowk is in Delhi. Of course it is Connaught place. The auto wala will fleece you if you use the new name and may take you to your destination via Kirby place. Bombay became Mumbai and people take offence to calling it with a B. Fountain became Hutatma Chowk, Kings Circle became Maheshwari Udyan, Zoo became Jija Mata Udyan and Marine drive is Netaji Subhash Chandra Marg. What do we all call them in our daily conversation is the point I make? VT still remains VT and so does Jacob’s Circle. Some change I must say.

I used to love the name CAWNPORE now rhymes with ear-pur. As a child I have many memories of this mill and its chimney on which this name used to be written as ELGIN mills. I remember my mother used to pick up a lot of those white Turkish towels which were sold in the open market at dirt cheap prices. I believe Jubbulpore was one of the first to be renamed in 1947. Cochin, Madras, Waltair, Mysore, Bangalore etc are all in front of us with changed names. Has life transformed there? Has the infrastructure transformed the way of life? Has the name change cleaned the place better? By changing the name does governance improve? Does unemployment reduce? Does illiteracy vanish? Does health care come to your doorstep? I think all of you know the answers.

I am convinced that all the politics that goes into just changing names if devoted to things that are constructive would serve a better cause. If you try to obliterate history, it doesn’t happen. Faith, religion, beliefs, sentiments even if they take the centre stage we should preserve our heritage. Slowly and steadily I see our “virasat” turning to ruins as in case of most of the palaces. Our forts are falling apart, our heritage buildings slowly decaying; our names are going into oblivion. If just by changing a name our destiny can change, nothing like it but if it is done only for cosmetics and the heck of it, then is it worth it, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 

RAKHI A FINE THREAD

It is touching gesture to see ladies tie Rakhi’s to people of the Armed Forces. There are so many who make lovely handmade Rakhis and send them across to soldiers guarding the borders. I salute this love and affection and this warm gesture. This is true culture of India. This shows all those who many not be directly or indirectly related to people of the armed forces show solidarity with an unknown person, on an unknown mission, in a God forsaken place to feel that people are with me, people love me and care for me. Above all he gets the morale boost that he has to carry out his duty even better as now he is duty bound to protect all those who have taken time out to remember their “God Brother’s”.

I have seen moist eyes with tears on the brims when soldiers remember their beloved ones and especially sisters. The tears are a symbol that we too are humans and have feelings and care when they remember folks back home. Tears are for sisters who used to tease them, sisters who have now got married and gone away, sisters who are no more walking the earth, sisters who were their best companions; sisters who gave all the instructions till one got married. Many of the soldiers don’t have sisters but feel a sense of pride that now they too have one. It is sentimental friends, it is moving.

Be that as it may, behind the brave face that a soldier puts up is actually a wax like heart. He might appear tough in front of the enemy but a small letter from home melts him down. A soldier when he sometimes comes across a child who resembles his younger sister or even daughter actually wants to lift her up and throw her in the air and catch her like he used to do back home but his duty prevents to show his emotions. His feelings don’t change even if that child is related to a militant or any other family. This I speak from my own experience while deployed for OP Parakram. My six month old child did not know why papa is going or where is he leaving for. She could never question me as to why do you have to leave me when I need you most. She could not even speak then. Every child I came across, I used to remember her and felt like hugging the child, to play, to blabber, to make the child laugh, tickle her just to get a feel that through this child I feel at home.

The oath that a brother takes is to safe guard his sisters and to keep them away from harm’s way. It does not translate on ground. Sisters are murdered, raped tortured and groped everywhere. Therefore, I ask this question why can’t this promise be fulfilled by the people who are is positions in the government to look after women in particular. Don’t the women of this country want freedom to move freely, wear what they like, study what they like, work in which ever shift they want to, make friends with boys and feel safe in this country? I have a feeling that it happens because my sister is my sister and rest of the ladies I don’t care. If anyone who dares to cast a dirty look at my sister, I will tear him apart but if the same thing when happens to someone else’s sister, I will leave the scene as why should I get involved in it.

What about ladies who don’t have brothers or fathers or husbands. What about ladies who cannot protect themselves. What about ladies who are infirm, or differently abled. Who will look after them? I think it is the citizens and people in politics who are responsible to give ladies the confidence that they are free citizens of this country. Therefore, the onus of repaying the commitment when this band is tied on a minister’s wrist doubles. He has to ensure that the policing set up and vigilance to protect ladies is top class. The politicians are totally accountable and responsible for their safety and freedom. They shall fail in their duty and promise of Rakhi, if they can’t deliver on women’s safety.

Ladies and gentlemen many of us have daughters. They will walk into this mad bad world as they grow in age. They will be career women, home makers, soldiers, sportswomen etc tomorrow. Why can’t we give them a tension free life, a free atmosphere, a country with a broad minded mindset, the freedom to feel as a privileged citizen of this country rather than a person, who constantly remains in fear of being ogled, molested or being looked down upon?

This can only happen when our temples of democracy decide that time now has come to change. Time now has come to ensure that this change in mindset is brought about in their constituencies. The way PM Sahib is concentrating winning hearts and minds of voters for elections; I would suggest this same team should also concentrate on safety and security of women. All elected representatives should take a vow that they will not allow anything to happen to any lady under their jurisdiction. For this what means and methods they want to employ I leave it to them. Remember dear sirs, the soldier will never let the women of this country down but this thread of love tied on your wrist should not be just symbolism, it should translate into action. Will the brothers listen? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

BATTLE TANK VERSUS WATER TANK

As a kid I remember when Dad used to take us to an Army cantonment we used look at every piece of military equipment in awe. My kindergarten school had many army kids and they used to come in those old TMBs (Tata Mercedes Benz) or SHAKTIMAN trucks modified as school busses. We could spend hours sitting on our haunches imagining what all attachments it used to have, like the pick axe, the shovel, the jerry cans, mule tanks etc. Some trucks had winches on their front bumpers. The numbers painted on them used to be a mystery especially with an arrow pointing upwards. We at that time had gone through a phase of the war of 1971 with Pakistan so as boys our basic game used to be fantasising using all the military equipment we had seen in our lives to defeat of Pakistan.

I subtly remember while passing through Jalandhar Cantt there used to be these Pakistani Patton tanks at the entrance. I cannot describe how proud one used to feel just looking at them as Indian Army got these as war trophies. Even till today if I happen to pass by military equipment displayed in any town, I make it a point to have a look. I remember having clicked many photos on the tanks that used to be displayed in front of Sudan block in NDA. The feeling of elation and a sense of pride that crosses your mind moment you see a military convoy passing by is indescribable. One has seen many of them as a child, huge guns in tow, all covered with tarpaulins. Even one saw many military special trains passing by. One always waved to the faujis and wondered is war imminent. I used to long to be part of them, as I wanted to live that life on a train, with a tarpaulin tent made on a barrel of a gun, eating cooking and yet cheerfully waving to us going towards the border.

We used to have military equipment displays in school. One used to speechless when an NCO used to describe an Artillery gun or an Air Defence Gun or an APC (Armoured Personal Carrier) of the BTR-60 kind or SKOT. Heavens used to break loose when a KRAZ with a 130mm gun in tow used to come for a demo deployment. Though one could never understand the words of command but the whole process used to leave our jaws open. I clearly remember touching those practice rounds and getting bewildered at the size of the 130 mm shell. We even used to follow those tyre tread marks of the APCs. One could never imagine that APCs can fill air in them from inside. One used to think of one’s own bicycle, if this could be possible. The way the baffle plate used to go up and the propeller used to be exposed at the rear. To imagine that this huge beast could float was pure fiction. Though, I later joined an outfit which had both the BRDMs and BMPs as my bread and butter.

One really dreamt of joining the forces as a child. The starched dungarees with big pockets close to the knees were something fascinating, crisp uniforms, shining stars, glistening equipment everything used to mesmerise us. The wooden pointer with a white tip in a pocket on the shoulder was awesome. I even remember going through every detail of an army ambulance. One was very impressed by the fans inside as one had never seen them in cars also that time.

Today, during Republic Day Parade, the main highlight is the equipment that the country displays. It gives an inherent sense of security as the commentator gives the description of the various tanks, guns and missiles. The mind starts appreciating the skills of the pilots who do formation flying, or refuel midair, or do a vertical Charlie right in front of your eyes. Your mind doesn’t register when you hear that all these aircrafts have come from faraway air bases like Pune, Delhi Ambala etc on a precise call and accurate time. How can one stage manage a machine moving at double the speed of sound to fly past exactly when the last marching contingent has just saluted the President? Well friends, the coordination, the discipline is mindboggling and that is what impresses us.

The marching contingents are no less matter of pride and honour when all those Gorkha hats tilted at just the precise angle do an eyes right. The “turras” of the pagris suddenly appearing broadside like a peacock displaying its feathers is an awesome experience to see. The front foot lifted higher than the shoulder and dug in the tarmac for Dahine Dekh (Eyes Right). The dipping of the tank barrels and turning towards the President as a mark of respect is mind blowing. The commentator when he starts listing out the decorations of each passing contingent, one is really baffled to hear what mettle these people are made of. Yes one does get a lump in the throat and moist eyes when a widow of a brave heart comes to the President to take a medal which her husband won. It is heart breaking on hearing the citation about his bravery. Ones head bows down in respect and gratitude and a small prayer to thank the martyr that brother because of you we all are alive today.

I do not know what JNU people are made of. I am sure they would be more patriotic than all of us. Fortunately or unfortunately I too am a graduate from JNU only thing is my campus was in NDA. I wish you guys learn to make peace and also learn to be prepared for war. All those who oppose a tank being displayed in the campus deserve a water tank to remind them to save water. Please take inspiration from water tank and debate whether we stand by our Army or otherwise. If installing busts of personalities they want to emulate satisfies them, so be it. I only have one request friends that please ensure that no bird droppings are seen on those busts. Ensure every student knows whose statue it is and what he did in his life time. Please make sure that at least once a year you all go and salute this great man rather than sitting under the shade of the statue and make plans of how to create the next kanhiya like episode.

I having served my motherland more than 20 years in the Army would request you if you are so interested in history and are so vehement against putting a tank, kindly put a bust of all Param Vir Chakra winners with space for more to come for a change. I am sure they too shall form part of Indian history. These war heroes have definitely given you the freedom to attack your VC to fire verbal salvos towards him with words which neither have direction nor will meet any target. Will they ever understand why we say Jai Hind and Bharat Mata ki Jai, I wonder!!!!!!!!!

 

GULLY CRICKET MATCH CONTINUES

Yesterday I came across the same little fellows playing cricket on the road again. Today, the venue had shifted a little but the road under construction was the same. I again had a little time at hand to observe them closely as my wife had gone into the cream and shampoo shop and I had to twiddle my thumbs waiting for her.

The “arena” today was much neater and cleaner than the last time but was dug about two feet deep and a layer of cement had been put to level out the road. The whole field was 20 meters in length and about 20 feet wide. On one side was a water pipe line which they had earmarked as the boundary for the match. The other side boundary was the edge of the road itself. The wickets were a high metal stool given by the chicken wala uncle on which a big burly cat of the Garfield kind generally sits. The long on/off boundary was the beauty parlour board which was exactly 20 meters from the wicket. Today they were 9 of them including a wicket keeper in that virtual cricket stadium. Vehicular traffic was totally cut off as a little ahead of the parlour board was a road roller standing, waiting for its turn to roll the road.

Well, it was interesting that today they were batting as per a sequence; except for one aberration things were much smoother since last Sunday. One fellow who picked up the bat out of turn was called a YEDA God knows what it means. My main focus was the rules they made as to how one could get out. You hit the ball, one bounce and someone caught it you were out. You hit the ball over the dug road on either side you were out. Any ball going ahead of the parlour board you were out. Any ball cut and went behind the wicket keepers legs you were out, besides, bowled, caught and leg before as normal ways of getting out.

My goodness, what pressure it must be putting the batsman! In the given circumstances one could barely survive a single over. As I observed turnover of the batsmen was quite fast. The beauty was that none of the bigger boys wanted to run and do fielding. So the youngest of them was made to field at long on so to say. The only favour he got was for fetching the ball from far was a baby over that is he bowled three balls for his over in which rest of the rules were the same.

The guys were so meticulous in counting the number of balls left in an over. I heard even the batsman counting the balls announcing it loud like, three to go, followed by two to go in English mind you. The icing on the cake used to be, in case there was a controversial shout for out.  This was referred to a lady running this auto spares shop on the opposite where I was standing. Every one used to make the sign of the replay towards her, as done by the umpires. Auntie’s decision used to be final. Everyone used to cry in unison “out hai” instead of How was that. By the way all sockets in auntie’s shops were plugged in with mobiles of these fellows. In between they used to run to take their calls. They took incoming calls at the peril of the shouts by rest of them not to leave the field. Punishment of attending a call used to be missing your turn to bowl an over.

Well in those twenty minutes they would have bowled 10 overs, about 4 people got out; there were about 10 controversies whether someone was out or not. There were similar amount of referrals for decisions to auntie. Two fist fights for dropping catches. One chap kept picking up pebbles and hitting the fielders who were not concentrating on their job. As the heat of the match picked up my wife had finished her shopping. I had some change in fact a ten rupee coin and called their batting captain of my last encounter that do you need a coin to toss, to which they said “chal foot yede”. What did that mean, I wonder!!!!!!

 

KOI LAUTA DE MERE BEETAY HUE DIN

I remember as far as my memory goes mom used to take care of all small little things in life that one just took for granted. From waking me up, to bathing me, to dressing me up, making breakfast and tiffin, polishing the shoes, filling the water bottle, (though one drank from any tap or hand pump in those days), checking homework, tying the knot of the tie, ensuring the school badges are put correctly, check all the books were in the satchel, last minute peeling the pencil with “her” spare sharpener, knowing mine must be hiding in the mystic maze of my school bag. Let there be a button missing she could produce one and stitch it in a jiffy.  I used to dilly dally, refusing to dress up. I would hide my belt sometimes. I would lie on the floor and “faaat” used to come a tight slap. Simple words, behave or I call dad used to turn the tables. Drink your milk or else the dog is waiting and the milk used to go glug glug down the gullet. A neat little hanky used to be attached with a safety pin on the shirt with instructions to blow my nose, who cared. A small prayer at the door was the norm.  She never forgot to give a curt reminder to bring back my tiffin which I forgot yesterday. The list is endless and all this was done like clockwork and a whirlwind.

Moment you left the house your world was different, your school friends became the world. Maths teacher was the most dreaded one, the moral science teacher used to be the sweetest one; the best period in the day was games period, followed by arts and crafts. Pine cones used to be footballs during recess, every stray dog was a target for throwing stones. One odd fight a day used to be routine. How difficult it must be for mom in those days without washing machines, I can imagine now. Your tiffin was for friends and friend’s tiffin was for you. Lovely days they were!

How I got inspired to write this piece was that yesterday while on our weekly shopping trip to the market I observed a few kids.  After having had my hair cut I was waiting for my wife to join me and these kids in the street were ready to play night cricket under the street lights, five six of them, ranging from 5-8 years of age. I couldn’t help but laugh because I had been there for more than ten minutes and they could not decide how to toss. The toss winner was supposed to bat I assume, so one of them picked up a shiny packet of “gutka” with mangoes (AMBA) printed on it on one side. They agreed to throw it up in the air. “AMBA”, was the call by both teams and AMBA it was but then how can both win the toss. In the mean time one chap brought a thrown away carton to make the wickets, so they decided to call the toss once again after a heated discussion on who will call as I assume all were captains of their own kind. So one chap again called amba and he lost the toss. Well, he had the bat so he decided that sorry this is no way can a toss be held. So one sensible chap suggested yaar lets not waste time and finish with the toss as it might rain in another minute. It was no less than the national team so toss had to be done I suppose.

This time they decided to throw that gutka wrapper higher and they did. The wrapper got caught in a gust of wind and landed up in a wet mud pile standing straight. The road is under construction that’s how they were playing on the main road. So another controversy started. Heated debate and parleys, so ultimately they decided to flip a coin. Issue was none of them had a coin. Now how do they toss without a coin? Again discussions and debate to change the mode of toss and they found a piece of mirror with a deep orange colour on one side. Up it went in the air and down it came and got shattered, shattering the toss again. Now things were getting out of hand. Standing and watching the chaos and commotion took me back to my days. Then one of them approached me “uncle ek rupya cha nane hai kaye” (Uncle do you have a one rupee coin). I being the only vela and the only spectator was the person they approached. I peeped in my purse, unfortunately there was not a single coin inside, I meekly said “naye” (No) and sheepishly grinned at them. Just then I heard my wife say good haircut, I said thank God you came to my rescue and both of us scooted from there. Those kids must be thinking what a “fokatia” chap this guy is. Only thing he has is a big mush.

Well, nostalgia set in the way we used to write numbers under the bat and draw straight lines outside keeping the bat face down to decide the order to bat in the good old days. “Koi lauta de mere beetay hue din”. Well, I relived them seeing those kids yesterday. Would you like to relive them too? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

BEATING THE HEAT

 

Temperatures are heating up all over. The political ones are boiling for the post of President; the Pakistani posts are being pounded and roasting. The heated valley is being Gogoied. Congress and AAP are evaporating from minds due to heat of their inefficiency. Naxals are adding fuel to the fire. Here, the mangoes are falling off the trees and watermelons ripening fast due to the sweltering heat. The heated news debates are cooking only bitter venom. The retired Generals have gone “grey” in the heat of arc lights at the studios trying to drill in their two pennies worth. The bheja of the common man is being fried as he doesn’t see “ache din”. The farmer is waiting for rains after the summer heat. My wife too has decided to start heated arguments moment I refuse to get ice cream. Worst is all the colony bitches are in heat too. “Udi Baba” hot is getting as hot can be.

I remember as a child summer holidays used to be a time to beat the heat. In one of our windows dad used hang lots of “KHUS” bound together in wire mesh. On top of it used to be a perforated tube made out of old ghee tins rolled up into a pipe with lots of holes for water to drip down evenly across the “CHIC”. The pipe was drawn from the tap used for watering the garden. Inside the room used to be a “KESSELs” table fan running full speed. Mattresses were put on the floor. Mangoes were chilled in the buckets and watermelons were cooled by covering it with a wet cloth. Hand churned ice cream in those wooden churners was ultimate. Everyone wanted to eat but no one wanted to churn. Getting ice from the ice factory for the ice box on a cycle used to be my duty when I grew up. Empty rum bottles were used to chill water. The expertise to use the ice pick came with age and experience. We had no fridge, TV or scooter then. I remember as a child sitting on the carrier of my dad’s cycle, with 5 Kgs of ice, covered with four to five gunny bags. My bums used to be chilled by the time we got back home but the ice remained intact. In case there would be a party at home additional ice was put in a pit dug behind the house covered with saw dust. Good old days they were.

Summer holidays was a time to play, we never felt the heat, never got dehydrated, never bothered to cover our heads. We drank water from the first available tap. We actually never knew what temperature was. We sat on hot swings without hesitation. After that initial burn, the metal plate used to cool down automatically after a brisk rub on the bum. Cycles were put on road and additional valves purchased as they were the first ones to leak. Competitions used to be climbing the highest on any given tree chosen at random. At mid day, time used to be to run to the tube well for a bath. Odd time was preferred because the operator used to go for his lunch break, imagine having a chilled bath at 12 noon. Clothes used to be smeared with purple stains of jamuns. Half of us had only one eye to function with as the other used to be invariably swollen due to a wasp or a honey bee bite. Knees were always raw with bruises and cuts, elbows black and dirty; hair didn’t matter till they were on your head. Mine used to be short so used to be the saving grace during fights.

We used to know every tree, every shrub and every bush in the vicinity. We knew every fruit which was in common areas, we also knew all the pits where the litter of our favourite dogs used to be and play with them. We knew where parrots were nursing their little ones. Putting on socks on our hands, climbing on each other’s shoulders to get to the nest, getting bit by mom parrot, falling down like a pack of cards as red ants would have bitten the friend on the ground, then changing tactics to climb again used to be favourite pass times. We did not have even landlines in those days. Parents never bothered nor came looking for us. In case one got hurt, one knew the infirmary and Mr Succha Singh used to keep cursing under his breath but apply tincture or that bluish liquidy medicine for all cuts and bruises. That one neck less T shirt used to last whole summer till all the alphabets used to blur and mom used to decide to use it as a “poncha”.

Morning sleep used to be till 6 am, and if dad used to be in a good mood it used to extend till 6.15. Dogs used to be waiting for us to give that slight inkling of life and jump up and wash your face with licks. The excitement to go for a morning walk with us without any leash used to get them scratching the mesh door till there was no mesh left. Running and coming back just to see that you are still coming used to excite the dogs like anything. Your one call and all of them at your heels were the ultimate playoffs of that time. Cricket used to be next in agenda. The eucalyptus tree was the wickets with three parallel straight lines dug into the bark as stumps. To add authenticity, one perpendicular line used to signify as the bails. Evenings used to be pittho or satoliya. Play till the streetlights came on. Get home where dad used to be waiting watering his pots before he shouted for you. We were bathed and cleaned and pressure washed with the same pipe from the grime outside the house itself, even if you didn’t feel like having a bath. Dogs used to frolic along side and enjoy the artificial rain.

We never bothered for food. Wherever we were, in whom so ever’s house and whatever we got to eat was gobbled without any questions. Mom used to be shocked that we ate “lauki ki tari wali sabzi” at so and so auntie’s house. At home, there was no way anything of the gourd family would be touched, even by dad. Well, today things have changed, we have Maggie and lays. Everyone has a big smart phone, there are no playgrounds left. Outdoors has changed to online. Your status on whatsapp matters more than the real state of affairs I suppose. Tolerance levels have come down, patience levels have drastically reduced, broad mindedness has narrowed, open mindedness is nowhere to be seen. Social security of the child has been shaken for reasons best known to us Indians and our society.

The camaraderie has evaporated the number of friends and their love and affection is now limited to social media. The wrapping your hand around your friends neck and keeping it that way the whole day has long gone into oblivion. We are now living in an artificial world, where the heat generated in our thoughts is generating only hatred. In my hearts of hearts I am finding it difficult to balance between the past and present times. I think I need to chill more. Will I? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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