Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The bad old days - Child

Once you hit a certain age or, more to the point, once the next generation hits a certain age, it becomes customary for you to start saying things with the preface, "In the good old days..." Were the old days all that good?

Back in my long-gone childhood, in Neyveli, I could still remember how few avenues for entertainment we had. Once you had seen the movie in the lone theater, which would not change for the next 3-4 months if it was a hit, and listened to the cricket commentary on the crackling static-ridden transistor, which happened at best 2-3 times a year, you had sort of exhausted all avenues of BEING entertained. Unless your family made a trip to Chennai or Bangalore, where you had more theaters and, thus, more movies. (TV? What is THAT? And I'm sure you are intelligent enough not to ask about computer games, Internet, Smartphones and other such works of sorcery.)

Yet, somehow, I do not remember being bored. I remember the lot of us neighborhood kids rambling through the woods all day - on holidays - and parents assuming that we will come back in the evening, dirty as usual. (AND not even bothering to say "Surf Excel hai na?" to excuse the dirt. Being dirty was a given for kids!). Between lunch and dinner, a variety of food would have found its way into our bellies - the raw tamarind that we knocked off the trees by pelting stones; the lone half-ripe guava, acquired after a five minute fight with Senthil, along with a half dozen unripe ones; The sucked nectar and petals of hibiscus flowers (Sorry! We kids saw EVERYTHING in terms of eating it); gooseberries, raw mangoes and even cashew fruit. What is more, our parents used to assume that we did not go hungry. And bored? No-one ever heard of a bored kid then - except when sick and kept to his bed. As long as he/she could go out, there was no question of being bored. (I believe things have changed now. NOW if they are allowed to stay in bed with their smartphones they are not bored, apparently; what bores them is being forced to go out. But what do I know? I get my info from parents and they are obviously prejudiced.)

As for games, the toy scene was pathetic then. I mean, a top and a handful of marbles just about completed the entire toy set of an affluent kid. The less well-off used to make do with ball bearings scrounged off the streets, and with bicycles being the main mode of transport other than walking, there was no dearth of them. (Oh! Did I forget the bows and arrows? Made of casuarina branches and twine, with broomstick twigs for arrows. We were a total menace to passers-by.) Such a poverty of toys must have made for really pathetic entertainment (not to mention lack of mental stimulation.)

And yet...yes, they sufficed. There seemed to be an infinity of games that could be played with those small spheres of glass (or iron) and we played them all. Everyday, we could hardly wait to toss off our school-bags and rush out to join the gang. If we lost our marbles (not figuratively, only literally) we could always engage ourselves with our tops. And without tops, there were still games without props - I spy etc. No, I do not remember that even having NO toys ever hampered our joy. AND, when, after relentless pleading, your parents deigned to replace your lost marbles, the excitement, the squeals of joy! There was none of this "Oh! This one is old, has only 57 games. I thought you would get me the latest" about us!

The rush of joy when you heard the tinkle of the ice-candy man's bell. The thrill you felt when, for once, your dad thinks that he can spare the 25p for the cup ice-cream instead of the customary 5p candy. (No 'Oooh! You bought strawberry icecream. I like only chocolate') A life where blueberries and roasted groundnuts were treats and almost all savory snacks and sweets were homemade and you drooled with the anticipation as the smells of cooking filled the house.

The old days were not all that bad, after all!

14 comments:

  1. These two sentences summarize your post well :"...Were the old days all that good?..." and "...And yet...yes, they sufficed..."

    In my childhood, options were very less, but there was depth in enjoyment and experience. Now I have multiple options and resources, but somethin seems to be lacking, the experience are now more superficial.



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    1. We rush from on experience to another with no time to savor each one

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  2. I feel sad for this generation of children. There are kids in the locality in the age-group of 6 to 12 years. They are being sent to some special coaching classes -- IIT-Preparatory it seems. The girls are sent to dance and singing class in the evenings and the boys to violin/guitar class. I hardly find the young ones playing in the grounds. The grounds have come down in number with all fenced plots and houses. Mango orchards are diminishing at an alarming rate. I still remember my summer vacation after relocating down south - we would wait for the rains of the summer. We could then go to the maan-thoppu and take all the mangoes lying down on the ground after the rains. If the past two decades can cause such a shift, I don't know what the next generation will do. My generation was perhaps the last one to enjoy the freedom of all the points you listed above; and yes, we fought for guavas as well and the naavalpazham/jaamun a cherished fruit indeed :)

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    1. Yes, all of that, and it is sad that all is nearly gone now

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  3. Most of the games we played in those old days have almost vanished from the ways of life and whenever i see few kids playing those game which is pretty rare a smile lights up on my face with memories of my childhood. Advancement and technologies have made computers, Smartphones affordable to almost everyone in India and with advent of social media networks and gaming sites physical gaming has been forgotten by the younger generation. Well i have had fun playing all of the games you have mentioned Suresh. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Just sharing the fact that the absence of these gadgets did not mean that there as no joy in life :)

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  4. Nostalgia at its best! Just the other day I was telling my son about a pastime boys his age pursued back then. I still can't figure out what was so entertaining about running all over town chasing a cycle tyre with a stick. And let's not forget Pandi or hopscoth for the girls, shall we! I had done a post on the same lines, 'Ring out the New, Ring in the Old' I say!

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    1. So many games that it would take a book. I skipped them cos it would take too many pages to explain what each game was top those who never played them :)

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  5. This is awesome. Just shift the scene a little up north and I view my childhood. Nostalgia does keep its dose high but are we honestly fair to our children when we keep harping about the good old days? They are in process of making their memories and lets be fair they are living in a world what we are providing. So 40 years from now they too will take out the essence of their good old days to tell stories of their own kind.

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    1. Well, if I fail to tell the stories of MY times, how will those memories survive? :)

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  6. Nice ! This was the second blog post in recent times which made me remember "the good old days" when life was simple and games were invented. First being the post from Zephyr.

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