In my childhood, I did not have most of the things that present day middle-class kids in India have and apparently seem to enjoy — fairly enough money in the hands of parents to buy things they love to have, good dress in excess, a vehicle in the house to go on outings, occasional dining out in good hotels, going to see movies in posh theater complexes, a TV at home, Cartoon channels, fast food, Computer/ video games, some means of transport to school (so that you don’t have to walk) and so on.
But despite all these in existence, the present day children seem to be gripped in boredom and their level of contentment is far less than what I had in my childhood. In my childhood, the family was big (with parents and 5 children in our home) and consequently parental love was in short-supply, money was scarce, sources of entertainment were few and far between, living comforts were less and physical exertions were more but still, when I look back my life, invariably, my childhood memories were the happiest!
It is not that my rest of the life was fraught with worries and tribulations. God had given me one of the smoothest life journeys; I had a good job, an excellent wife, wonderful children and no great calamities in life to shatter mental peace. But, still, with all these wonderful gifts of God, the relish and joy I get by winding back my childhood memories are incomparable.
When I analyze about it, I could attribute a few things for it.
Unlike the present day children, we were accepting many things as they were, without protesting or demanding. A large family means adjusting and accepting whatever resources available to you without demanding a larger share of cake.
Expectations were less and comparisons were less. The boundaries of middle class were understood by us without preaching or teaching. Yes. There were richer people around; there were poorer people around. We had fortunately had the mentality of not comparing ourselves with and yearning for what the rich had and not feeling elated with what we had when compared to the poorer ones.
The level of contentment was far better those days. Going to movies only once or twice in a year? Yes; fine. It makes seeing a movie all the more curious and memorable! Having only a pair or two of new dresses in a year? Yes! That makes those dresses prized possessions that you have to wear only on special occasions! Buying a toy once in a blue moon? It means each toy had quite a longevity before they were thrown away deep into the shelf!
street plays- The joy of childhood!
Then for me, comes the village life. Oh! The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that it is one of the greatest elements of joy, that my own children, who were born and brought up amidst the concrete jungle of the metropolitan (city’s) suburbs could never be gifted with.
The sprawling house we lived in (having about 10 times more floor area than the suburban houses where my children lived ), the huge backyard with lots of trees and a vegetable garden, the paddy fields, the virtual absence of motor cars in the streets, the range and variety of street games and plays we played, the river, the ponds, the local temple, the solitary railway track with occasional trains pulled by steam engines whizzing by, , the sedentary lifestyle, the unpolluted air, cows, buffaloes and bullock carts, the chirping of birds, the street vendors, the snake charmers and so on.
Somehow I seem to be gifted with a very strong memory base for my childhood happenings. Interesting happenings that took place a couple years back are forgotten, but not events of my childhood that took place some 45 years ago! Now when I look back, I grasp that I had a much keener eye, a strong sense of grasping, a good capacity to analyze and register so many happenings of my childhood that got etched deeply in my memory.
On umpteen occasions, I shared these memories with my wife and children; there are these stories that when I finish narrating, my wife and children will conclude commenting “Oh! I have heard it from you hundred times” just to tease me, but nevertheless listening them curiously with all ears till the end!
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The sprawling village house! Umpteen places to play hide and seek!
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The paddy fields…
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The bullock carts….