Diary of Hobbitt

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Childhood Summer Vacation Revisited

Summer vacations today are carefully planned out well in advance and there are a whole lot of options to choose from. The current "in ' thing these days -that is if u are not travelling to one of those exotic foreign locations((considered the most "in" thing,but also the prerogative of only the rich & famous!~) ,to indulge yourself and the family in the innumerable attractions these locales offer or if u are not travelling to your hometown( to which the"aam janta" resorts to,) to which the average mumbaiya refers to as 'muluk' to meet your near and dear ones( never mind that your youngsters would rather spend it with friends than do the round of visiting dada, dadi,nana, nani ,aunts ,uncles,cousins...the list of the Great Indian Joint family goes on like Hanuman's tail in Ramayan !)-is to enrol kids in 'activity'classes for the two months,where kids learn things like painting, drawing, singing, skating, dancing,pottery and innumerable such other activites. The current craze thus triggers off such classes mushrooming all over the city to cater to the demand (and to make a neat sum of money of course!) The average child today is more busy during summer vacation than he/she is during his/her term days !If however you think differently and allow your child to enjoy vacation engaging in his/her favourite hobby of say, painting ,dancing and many such activites without sending him/her to the neighbourhood activity school ,you are considered 'out' rather than 'in' !
During my childhood days, when there were no such things as activity classes and technology was not what it is today,life was a lot less complicated as the confusion,which arises due to varied options,did not exsist. Summer vacation meant either making annual trips to meet relatives or receiving relatives from outstation. For thousands of Indian families living outside their home state, summer vacation provided the annual break to go and visit their 'native place'.Everyone in the family would plan for the trip with much fervour and enthusiasm.

Train tickets would be bought well in advance(private airlines vying with one another to offer reduced air fares , did not exist),new sets of clothes bought and last but not the least ,gifts for near and dear ones ,in addition to all the things which sombody or the other would have asked !I still remember, half a dozen modas(Delhi speciality those days),marble chappathi rolling boards,(whether it was ever used for that purpose God alone knew!), Nutan stoves(Delhi speciality again!), handbags, fancy slippers,forming part of our luggage along with our personal belongings !Whether all these were ever used was quite doubtful as the same list would be sent to us next year before we left for Chennai ! As the day of the trip grew near our excitement would build up till a peak would be reached when the great day finally arrived. As kids we would fight to sit next to the window and the lucky one would invariably be the eldest sibling with the other younger ones yearningly waiting for a chance to be allowed the seat when the parent took charge of the situation !
Travelling by a/c chair car was the ultimate in luxury (there were no ac sleepers those days -of course there was the ac first class sleeper but it had very few takers as it was too expensive.) The Delhi-Madras( as Chennai was referred to those days) Grand Trunk Express also had a dining car where one could have breakfast ,lunch or dinner sitting at the table , watching the world go by.There would always be a rush during breakfast time as most families would carry large food hampers containing lunch and dinner.The typical Tamilian family's food hamper consisted of lime rice,or tamarind rice, thair sadam(curd rice), idlis, molgapodi(gunpowder),potato curry and vadaham(fritters). The trip to the dining car would be to savour the experience of dining at the table in a running train rather than to actually have food.I still rember having hot buttered toast with jam and enjoying every moment ,watching the passing meadows ,fields, rivers,villages.cows , sheep-all from the cool confines of the dining car .
By the time train neared Chennai after a journey of 45 hours our patience would have reached the limit and we would be counting the minutes before it pulled into Madras Central. A funny practice those days and to which we were also prone to doing, was ,to wear a fresh set of clothes before alighting at Madras Central ( without having had a bath during the entire journey !). A wave ,of happiness would sweep over us as uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents enveloped us in their warm embrace and for a moment chaos would prevail what with everyone hugging everyone and at the same time safely unloading the luggage. The atmosphere would be charged with excitement,fun and happiness all the way home. For us yet another enjoyable summer vacation had just begun and forgotten were the cares of exams and homework for the coming two months.

Welcome to Summer Vacation - days of getting up late, lazing around, playing with the calves in the courtyard,eating tender coconuts,.jackfruits, mangoes, munching granny's murukkus, cheedais, relishing iddiappam, palpaniyaram(Chettinad speciality),athirsam,laddoos,mysorepak,thengai burfi, and many such other delicious snacks, playing in the mangrove with cousins, visiting the local temple with granny to light the lamps,bringing water from the pond in polished brass kodams(or matkas),learning kolam designs from aunt,watching tamil movies( with all its loud melodrama and fights),in the local non a/c theatre, listening to stories from grandpa and going to sleep under the stars on the open terrace with all the cousins- Indeed I do miss the summer vacations of my childhood.
Todays kids may think of such vacations as boring . For them it is difficult to imagine life without cable TV, DVDs, computergames , amusement parks, shopping malls, mobilephones,mutiplexes-For those of us ,whose childhood passed through times when technology had not yet advanced and life was more laidback,it seems as if those were the golden years.


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