Was it because those years were laid back…because technology was still a safe distance away…because our lives were still full with warmth, laughter and people…because our goals were still simple…because we still had simple things to derive our pleasures from…because we were still in touch with nature?
Or was it because we were children then and thus, alienated from the sophisticated, complicated, ugly blobs in life? And so, we only saw what we wanted to see…what was simple and beautiful?
Back then, the world felt like an exquisite garden…it was like being let free in this garden…a garden where we could pluck our own little trinkets of happiness. We plucked our trinkets and then put them into a gunny bag. Back then, we were ignorant of the value of these trinkets we collected. But today, as we wander across gardens that have sophisticated paths, but no trinkets to collect, I love to open this gunny bag and take out my trinkets. One by one, I take them out and hold them close to my heart. They take me back to those times when we wandered aimlessly and leisurely…when we sat down to rest under the shade of a banyan tree and gazed up at the crystalline blue sky that seemed to mimic the tranquility we felt within our own minds…when we let the breeze caress our flushed faces… when we watched bright colored butterflies flutter their wings on the flowers that blossomed in the garden. Back then, I was unaware of time ticking by. The days seemed to stretch out endlessly before me, and life was full of sunshine.
Those were days when even cartoons and comics drew similies from life. I loved comics and cartoons. To me, the characters were real; there was nothing fictitious about Donald, Pluto, Richie Rich or Phantom. They were as real to me as the characters in my real world. In my mind, the boundary between the imaginative world that these books presented, and the real world in which I lived, was blur. I guess that was the most painful part about growing up- the sharpening of this boundary. I had a collection of Laurel and Hardy comics(is it possible to get those comics now?) and I would beg my brother to get me more of those from his friend- it was perhaps the only time I would try hard to be ‘nice’ to my brother. When I got into the world of books, I would lose myself completely into them- I lost all sense of time.
Then there were the Enid Blyton books that seeded a spirit of adventure in us. I was a die-hard fan of Enid Blyton. I loved living the lives of her characters in my mind- wandering off on a boat to a remote island inhabited by seagulls, pitching tents on farms, befriending gypsies, circus folks and their animals, riding off on a caravan across the countryside, eating tinned pineapples and drinking lemonade (it sounded fancy back then!)…and of course, owning a dog like Timothy or Loony. There were also the boarding school series that I loved- the Malory Towers series and the Chalet school series that would take me to life in the mountainous Alps…amidst frozen lakes and chalets.
Of academics, I remember very little…except that our English and Hindi texts had beautiful stories of birds, animals, children and farmers in them. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered that I wanted to be a farmer’s wife. I fancied being a farmer, but then I had not come across a female farmer in my texts, so I decided to be a farmer’s wife instead! Only occasionally, when I read about the cakes, tarts and pastries that the baker baked, I had second thoughts about marrying a farmer!
Childhood was a phase of immeasurable space within my mind (the gunny bag). All along, I filled it with beautiful trinkets (my perceptions). Wasn’t that the beauty of R.K.Narayan’s ‘Swami and friends’? The laidback life of Malgudi and the infinite space in the mind of a child, into which he fills beautiful trinkets…