Sunday Morning (8 AM).
Brushed my teeth. Check.
Logged into Facebook. Check.
Commented on someone's status. Check.
Had breakfast. Check.
Watch a movie, have lunch. Check.
It's only 2. How do I kill the rest of the time?
Sunday (6 AM) - 10 years back.
We (my brother & I) tiptoe to the door. The door slightly groans as we pull it open. We step out and pull it shut. And then we run. Did I brush my teeth? Would it really matter? Because I'm out to play cricket, not act in a toothpaste commercial. It's almost noon when we get back. Hunger & fatigue are not on our minds, at least till the time we return.
Initially, our cricket kit included a rubber ball and the bough (not past tense of bark :P) of a coconut tree.
Stumps were three well-cut stems of a fledgling bamboo tree. Our pitch was a gravel-base and the ground was in the middle of a coconut grove. Apart from the opposition fielders, we had to comprehend with the coconut fielders in order to score runs. Our game would resort to Messrs Duckworth & Lewis method as soon as we lost the ball. If the matches were played in the evening, we would play out till darkness encompassed our "stadium".
After lunch, we would sit down and play cards or chess under the Mango tree. During summer vacation, the trees would bear in-numerous mangoes which generally made up for dessert (we had 6 trees, all of which bore different types of mangoes). We would slice the ripe mango and dip it in a mixture of salt & red chilli powder. My mother would cut the mango while we drooled, waiting for the biggest piece. As the sun headed west, we would head out to the paddy fields for a game of soccer. April generally meant that the fields were barren and appeared as our Old Trafford. The game would last even after dusk set in (till the time we could kick the ball or the opponents feet). We would make our way back to the house through the rear entry after washing up near the well. Bruises & wounds would be hidden from mom's observant eyes. A quick dinner and a good night's sleep would keep us fresh for the next week.
I remember one specific incident from my childhood. I had gone on a trip to Chennai to visit my father's relatives. The house was adjacent to a Mango Grove and the ripe fruits tempted me. We stood on the terrace and threw stones at the mangoes. A couple of them fell on the other side of the wall and in a flash we jumped over the wall to retrieve them. The very next moment, I felt a hand on my arm. An old lady was talking to me in an unfathomable language. She dragged me to the house and rang the bell. My dad and his uncle quickly came out and negotiated with the hag. She wanted 50 Rs for the two mangoes and got away with it. After living close to nature all my life, I had imagined mangoes to be free of cost.
Most kids of our age had never seen a television set. They had seen more of real life than reel life. Babies grew up seeings crows & sparrows, and listening to frogs croaking during monsoon. They grew up touching flowers & leaves, and playing with the mud.
Today's kids grow up with cellphones, laptops & game consoles. A bee might scare the wits out of them & walking without a pair of crocs is totally unheard of. It would take a lot of convincing to muddy their feet and taste the sweet nectar from the banana tree. The sting of the bee hurts, but makes up for an experience. I hope that my kids get a similar chance in life to grow up in nature's lap. Far, far away from the madding crowd.
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
- The Tempest