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Bachchpann Ke Din

The timeline post of yesterday got me thinking about my bachchpann ke din. Those lovely days of all fun and just a li’l bit of academics (there was no escaping that… ever.)

For some reason, I got really good grades in school and didn’t really have to put in much effort… was pretty lucky that way. This had a great advantage… my teachers in school thought I could do no wrong and that pretty much gave me the license to be quite naughty (not bad… just fun-loving). At home I was always a good girl… very obedient (though for some reason, mom termed my obedience as rebellion). But then, there is no cure for the Mom Logic!

Those really were the days… not a care in the world… except dodging the occasional school test or two… and the abhorred sports-day. I hated sports… especially, the ones I had to participate in. I love watching sports… but that’s another story. I despised athletic meets and the P.E. periods in school where the teachers expected us to do disciplined physical activity. I didn’t really have anything against physical activity… I loved climbing trees and walls… rarely took the normal road to school and back… used every shortcut I could experiment with, loved to trek the nearby hills and wooded paths. I loved the games we played… Lagori (Eleven tiles), Dodge-Ball, Dog and the Bone, Hopscotch, Four Square, Save Dolly… and so many others we had invented on the go.

Life in the colony (Anushaktinagar) was one big vacation trip… every day was leisurely for us kids. Beautifully laid out, with stately old tree lined avenues, lush lawns and flower-beds, hills on one side, the sea on one side, thick woods on the third; the colony has well-planned building (apartment) complexes and some 17 high-rises. It has a multitude of play-grounds and open spaces… and for a gated residential township it is one of the largest in Asia.

The summer holidays in the colony were delightful. It never would have mattered if I didn’t get to go on a vacation trip anywhere else. There was fun and then there was adventure to be had right there. The daytime would be spent with my nose buried in some novel and the afternoons were spent outdoors… playing with the friendly neighborhood strays, stealing the spiced mango & kokum laid out in the sun to be dried for pickling, climbing up the wild-cherry trees (I still have no clue what they really were) and the hundreds of mango trees for unripe mangoes (which we would eat with masala made by the neighborhood chai-aunty), building shelters of slate-tiles (multistoried… no less) for the stray cats and dogs and decorating them with wild flowers and electronic waste! The more leisurely days were spent playing board games… carom, Monopoly™, Scrabble™… even the Ouija board at times when we were in extremely ‘adventurous’ moods. Evenings were for some cricket or dodge-ball and the late evenings for sit-down games like Passing the Parcel, Chinese Whispers, Antaakshari or Dumb Charades. Sometimes, the evenings demanded long winding walks around the colony and a visit to the in-house cemetery… after which followed a discussion on the paranormal and exchange of ghost stories until our folks would call us from the windows (and that meant dinner time… well, our folks were just as happy to have us out of their hair for so long).

The winter holidays were equally fun even considering the fact that Bombay does not have much of a winter. The colony was always 1-2 degrees cooler than the rest of the city… thanks to the green blanket. One of the major events was finding a Christmas tree… of course, there were no conifers available… the closest we got were the Casuarina trees… the twigs of which we would break off and tie together in a way that there was never the remotest resemblance to a Christmas tree (Wasn’t really our fault… but they just did not have the required shape). Plastic trees were rare and not in our league. The ‘tree’ would be stuck in an old planter and kept on the first floor parapet of our building. The parapet was deep & wide enough to allow us to sit around the contraption. Almost all the decorations were hand-made… this used to be our task for the weeks before Christmas. The only adult help which we had was for putting up the lights.

After Christmas, the next event was burning the Old Man… a dummy which we made from dried twigs and grass and old clothes and newspaper… the dummy had a face made of a paper plate or sometimes it was a Santa mask (yeah… kinda evil that way). The last 4 days of the year were a frantic search for the material for the dummy and the fifth day was the making of the Old Man. On the 31st of December, at night… the adults lit a bonfire for us and under their watchful eye we burnt the Old Man. That was meant to instill in us extremely non-violent ideologies (considering our parents always encouraged us)… or maybe that was just us preparing for the ubiquitous dummy burning protests that may or may not be required in our adult lives.

That was childhood life in the colony… simple and memorable.

© Surya Murali

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