Just yesterday I was looking at some Facebook pictures uploaded by one of my friends. The album was titled 'my first trip to a village'. At first I was amused. I thought how could someone not have visited a village all these years? But then reality quickly dawned on me. Most of my friends have never really seen village life or lived beyond the confines of the city they have grown up in. They don't have a so-called native place, which they could have visited during their vacations.
As I was thinking these thoughts, my own childhood memories came flooding back and I was overcome with emotions.
Growing up is fun and it only gets better when you have many cousins to join in. I had my own share of them scattered across different cities. Things were quite different when I was a kid, no life changing revolution had taken place yet. We could not ping, buzz or chat with each other like we do now. So the only thing we would look forward to were our yearly visits to our native place Siddar, near the Goa-Karnataka border. Our visits in May and December were almost like a ritual, set in stone. It was our only time to visit our beloved ajji (grandma), meet the extended family and have a great time
Siddar was no ordinary village. One look at it and you would think you are staring into a textbook picture. Dusty roads, rickety buses coming once in an hour, villagers working in lush green fields, buffaloes grazing, kids walking to school, a small grocery store with just a handful of items on display, a narrow river flowing by, magnificent mountains in view. This and everything else that can depict a quintessential village life
Siddar was our own sweet escape from the hustle bustle of the city and the many restrictions it imposes
Our arrival was a great source of entertainment for the villagers as well. For them we were the modern city dwellers on vacation. They would often drop by to meet my uncles and aunts and we would do the same. We were always about 20 people in the house, sometimes more when other relatives joined in. It was just noise and clatter but it was exactly what we missed back home. While mummies would be busy in the kitchen cooking, laughing and gossiping, daddies would be around teasing and pampering us.
We would trek the jungle behind our house to eat kanzas ( tiny round fruits that grows on a certain tree) getting pricked by thorns every now and then , sit in the fields and chat, play hide and seek in the whole village, run, shout, fall, get hurt, swim in the river under watchful eyes, climb trees and steal mangoes, sit atop a huge rock we had named thumbs up( I don't remember why) and take in the view while listening to the sweet melody of marathi bhajans drifting from the village temple
We were hardly at home except in the afternoons. Even then how could we sit quiet? We would patiently wait for our dear ajji to fall asleep so we could stealthily enter the storeroom and steal laddoos. We were the only once with a TV set in the village but it was of no use since there was absolutely no reception. We had an old tape recorder but ajji would always yell us at when we tried playing it (our screams and shouts were enough music for her ears ) We tried very hard to convince her, once even chanting and clapping to a hindi song all the while telling her it's a form of modern bhajan. Of course that didn't work
Evenings were beautiful with its sunset and but as the darkness set in, the sounds of insects would pierce the silence. Many nights we would walk back home along the jungle and the elders sensing perfect opportunity would tell us stories about wild animals and ghost. I remember how scared we used to be, sticking close to one another and trying not to look into the surrounding darkness
Once home would play antakshari, card games, fight hard and loud when someone cheated, laughed at silly jokes and played badminton matches till late in the night.
Every vacation there was always something different to add to the excitement. A village wedding, visits to a nearby town for ice cream, peacock sightings in the fields.
How we wished for our vacation to never end
But of course it had to. With time all of us got busy and our visits became less and less frequent. But the memories somehow made up for the no-show
Even today when life becomes too stressful I sometimes take refuge in those beautiful moments and come out feeling reassured and happy.
Unlike me my friends don't really have such memories to share. My childhood amazes them for they have not experienced this kind of pure joy, uninhibited and wild. I wish they had but as they say to each his own. As for me I will be always grateful for having lived the kind of childhood many only read about in books and novels
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