Sunday, February 26, 2012

Of Chhota Pleasures and badaa joys...

Ask anyone and they will concur, that their most joyful childhood moments revolved around the summer break. Two months of unbridled freedom from the tyranny of homework and exams. Expectedly schools did their utmost to play the party pooper and gave thick booklets that required us to forage for twigs and compose poetry around them. Build an igloo out of cardboard and cotton wool. Or better still, practise two hours of Maths daily. The smart alecs we were, we conveniently consigned such trivialities into the deepest, darkest corner of our minds and pretended they did not exist.

Now when I see parents trying to make most of summer break by enrolling their progeny for myriad activities, in a bid to transform them into a deadly combo of Einstein and Beckham - I feel sorry for the kids. Sorry that they are missing out on the simple joys of doing absolutely nothing. Sorry that their parents are happier to keep them out of their hair.

For me summer vacations were always special. That’s when I got my working Mom all to myself. She would read out stories to me and my brother, cook our favourite dishes and try to teach us Bangla. Lessons we would promptly forget the moment we returned to school.

As a parent, I have stopped measuring up myself to my Mom knowing that I will fail miserably.

My parents were and still are avid travellers. Come summer and they would get into a huddle and plan our next trip. Should it be Kodaikanal, can we squeeze in Pondicherry? Nah...lets stick to Kullu Manali this year. Baba would triumphantly arrive holding our tickets in hand, Ma would frantically start packing and I would dance around her in gay abandon.

I was about to touch thirteen when we all went to Ranikhet with our close friends. Sunil Kaku, Kakima and their kids, who were nearly our age.

Dawn had just broken when our bus driver announced that we had reached Ranikhet. As I rubbed my sleepy eyes, all I could see was tall deodar trees peeping from behind the fog that had enveloped this tiny hamlet in its embrace. It seemed I had arrived at a magical land atop the Faraway Tree.

Courtesy :Clipart.com

Our forest rest-house, located on a secluded spot on a hill, was going to be our abode for the next seven days. Surrounded on all sides by gently sweeping slopes and lush forests, our charming bungalow had its own pretty garden; crammed with flowers in full bloom, flower-shaped cacti and terraced slopes with flora in all imaginable colours.

Our accommodation had no television, no phones, no neighbours but for the cranky caretaker and few stray cattle chewing cud and ruminating on world peace. Every day we would trek for miles to have our lunch at a simple joint in the marketplace – where you could say Hi to all the visiting truck drivers. Yet, I do not remember any one of us complaining. “I am so bored” had yet to register itself in our lexicon.

In the afternoons when our parents would retire for the siesta, the baccha party led by yours truly would chase alarmed butterflies, look for hidden treasures in the pine forest, organize who- can fall- the- hardest contests, pretend there were ghosts in the vicinity and run around in mock horror. One day when I was feeling particularly reckless, I tied a red band around my head and voila I was Phoolan Devi with her band of followers plundering unripe guavas and pomegranates from the not- so- amused- caretaker’s little patch.

I even masterminded a clever strategy to pillage Amul Spray from the kitchen. Does anyone remember it’s sweet, gooey taste and how it would get stuck on the roof of the mouth! Ah...the sheer delight of licking it off with our tongue! At that time, it was like manna from heaven for us. To hoodwink the parents, we would pretend to have a loud dancing session behind closed doors. The youngest was assigned the duty to sing loudly, while I would shovel spoonfuls of the milk powder into eagerly waiting mouths. Being wicked never felt this good!

This was the era, when the weekly movie on Doordarshan was the highpoint of our weekend. Licking jam out of the nearly empty jar was Nirvana. A bag full of sand and assorted sea shells, colourful postcards from Russia, odd shaped buttons, stamps ripped off from airmails, were my prized possessions. The space under the bed was my private world where I would curl up with my favourite read. We had friends and a not a social network. The real world was offline and not online.

When I called up my Mom to get her version of our Ranikhet trip, all she could recall was how scary it felt to be cut off from civilization. Every night they would barricade the glass doors with heavy chairs and spend sleepless nights worrying about intruders. The noise of falling insects on the tin roof made it worse. It was too cold, it felt too lonely, they felt insecure.

Strangely all I remember is the sunny afternoons. Squinting my eyes against the sunlight and jumping high to catch the yellow frisbee, sounds of laughter and excited chatter, the beautiful meadows and the stately mountains in the horizon. A skinny dark girl barely into her teens, a mop of unruly hair framing her face - she didn’t need an excuse to break into laughter. A gypsy at heart, free as a bird, unmindful of the future that lay ahead.

Those were the days when the simplest of pleasures gave us so much joy. Joy that no amount of money can buy.
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105 comments:

  1. Aunitus's trip down the memory lane. :)
    It is fun doing nothing, just being there.
    And nowadays, we will get restless if we are not connected to the net for a day.
    Much of my Childhood was spent in our Bunglow in Delhi(it was very quiet then) and the Army Cantt (again quiet and peaceful).

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I wouldn't describe my childhood as quiet and peaceful :)

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  2. Those summer vacations were like dream come true. Two months of sheer bliss.

    "Cattle chewing the cud and ruminating world peace" - nice :)

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    1. And we never complained of getting bored!

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  3. I am SO with you on this one. It seems like such a loss to send kids packing away to some summer school of sorts. I loved summers and still do now despite the scorching sun and all. Its a wonderful reminder for me to stay young. Joys money cant buy indeed :-)

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    1. I am sure there are kids who enjoy such intense activities. I have often heard mothers comparing notes - Ohh I have signed him up for chess,taekwondo, jazz...It has become kind of a prestige issue...

      But I feel, this is when they recharge. Just let them be.

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  4. Purba,

    Those were the days. Your post has opened floodgates of my memories. Such fun we used to have visiting places as well as our grandparents or uncles during summer break.

    Take care

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    1. Yep..meeting our cousins..always upto some pranks!

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  5. I think people born in the 80s and early 90s are the last ones to know the joy of no internet, no cellphones and lots of cousins around :D..I miss those days!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. And look at me...my daughter hardly knows her cousins. We hardly meet!

      Sighs...such is life.

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  6. Some joys money cant buy for the rest there is ignorance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ignorance sometimes can be bliss!

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  7. Amul powder sticking on the roof of the mouth...Yum! And so was this nostalgic post.

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  8. A lot of nostalgia in this lovely post! Licking the jam out of tin and getting abrasions from the cut tin, sometimes... :)We invariable met Bengali families everywhere we went during summer vacations or Dushhera holidays!

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    1. Ha! there's no escaping Bengalis and their monkey caps.

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  9. I'm more the milkmaid kinda kid...

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  10. Oh I remember the amazing summer trips I used to have. My grandparents had a huge farm house.And many mango trees.We cousins used to climb those trees and pluck mangoes for ourselves.Used to be real fun.And then we used to build tents on terrace in the hot summer and take all the frootis etc etc ,books and what not!! Wow..this post brings me back memories!! :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Agreed...the best time we spent was with cousins. It was as if we had landed in heaven. And I used to cry buckets when we had head back to Delhi.

      And your summer break sounds straight out of an Enid Blyton book :-)

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  11. so beautifully written Purba ...
    We were not travelers and when we traveled we used to only visit to some temples outside the city. it was boring really!!!

    My school days were not that very exciting nor my summer holidays. I am from a very orthodox family and they did not foresee a rebel "in making" :-p
    I have woven my interests these days for travelling, but i prefer to travel with my husband. I am still a bit lazy to travel myself. If I have company then i like to travel.

    :-)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. But look at the rebel! How well she's doing in life.

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  12. Replies
    1. Have fun going down the memory lane.

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  13. yeah very true. now a days kids lack all that. now we have hundreds of friends on sites but rarerly talk to even one person on each day. i got misleaded by your title and was expecting more.but what ever u wrote is true.

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    1. It's about simple pleasures that gave us so much joy.

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  14. Awww...such a sweet and refreshing post, reminding me of my childhood days...and did you notice, amulspray stolen always tastes better than the bought ones?:P Not to forget the games of ghilli danda, marbles...Children these days are more confined to indoors. Sad.

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    1. Don't blame them! There's so much vying for their attention - from nintendo games to anime, they have it all.

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  15. Thanks for confessing about the Amul Spray... so long I have lived believing I was the only weird person who loved it. BTW I still love the milk power to the roof of my mouth ssshhhh let it be a secret.
    I have never taken my kids on long tours but we do have lots of fun during the summer. No planned activities for us.

    As usual it was treat reading your blog

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    1. And what way for me to discover that Amulspray has a legion of fans! Ha! and glad the little girl in you is alive and "licking"!

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  16. as I said on Alka's wall... they were the best days of our life :)


    Weakest LINK

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Well, you can say that again and again and I will agree.

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  17. Such a sweet walk down the memory lane...we actually had fun growing up and not speeded past it like is happening now with the kids...I have also given up on trying to be even 1/3rd as good as my mom-too many distractions and self absorptions.

    But then hopefully we all form some little bundles of experiences to share with our children...little memories like you've narrated to light up the dim corners of tired adult minds sometimes:-)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It amazes me, how our childhood memories acquire a halo. Gone are the unpleasant memories of fear gnawing at our stomach as we sat down for exams, dealing with the despair of - I hate my reflection in the mirror!

      It's as if a giant eraser has purged it of all it's unpleasantness.

      Delete
  18. What lovely memories of a wonderful holiday. My dad was a traveller too, but he used to love sightseeing. Jamming forts, sculptures, temples all in one day made it hectic, and also made for fond memories.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Oh...my parents had that annoying habit too, of jamming too much in a day!

      I even wrote about it :)

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  19. Simple joys that the kids today can never enjoy unless they are packaged and presented for them, because parents find it easier to do it than let kids find their own nirvana as you have so nicely put it. I love these posts of yours the best :)

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    1. Who doesn't mind walking down the memory lane - when worry was an adult prerogative and life was just about having fun.

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  20. Lovely!! I hope our kids too remember their childhood with such relish :-)

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  21. Nice childhood memories we all cherish. But, today's kids just cannot see the joy in these things. They are so caught up with gadgets -- nintendos, computer games, PSPs, Wiis. I guess, if we had these, we would be too. They are always cribbing about, "I am bored." Taking vacations also means hearing this sentence oh so often. And try keeping the kids away from TV or gadgets if you don't try to get them engaged. It is good to provide them free time, but they soon get bored with that too :). Such is the irony of childhood these days.

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    1. "I am so bored" has become the mantra of gen-now. And look at us, when we do get free time, we don't know what to do with it!

      Delete
  22. I so agree with you about parents pushing their kids to become an einstein+beckham these days! "Summer camps", abacus, and all fundoo classes ... kids miss out on summer sunshine and fresh air. Like you, I'm glaaad I had a more carefree childhood than this

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    1. It's a mad race Ambika and there's no finishing post!

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  23. you sent me on a trip dowm mmory lane with this one Purba ! Ah the simple pleasures of childhood and how I mis them ! Fantastically written as usual !

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    1. We wanted so many things and yet were happy. And now when we have all those things, we are still looking.

      Delete
  24. Oh the DD movies, with just one ad, which by the way would be the 30 minutes news, which dad MADE us watch. The Black white TV and then the color TV with no remote. Mahabharata, Malgudi days. Miss those days.Total nostalgia. Summer vacations for us, was heading off to Manglore, lazing around, eating mangoes right out of trees and swim around in the rivers! Nice one.

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    1. And your childhood sounds fantastic!

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  25. So right on so many levels. I used to beg my mother to send me to summer camp every ear, but she refused coz that was our time with the family and she didn't want her kids to have a hectic schedule when they should be relaxing and rejuvenating for the next year.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Parents are always not unreasonable. And it's only when we grow-up, we realize it's us who were being unreasonable :)

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  26. I meant every 'year' not 'ear' :-)

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  27. Oh thank God there is some sanity left.....I still send my daughter to play down every single day! No classes for her except dancing that she really really loves. And yes Summer vacations are sacred......we don't mess them up with any add-ons unless they are ice creams, cookies, masti and more masti :D Trust me when I say this, I am an outcast for not ensuring my kid has a hosts of things to do. Moms look at me and think, tch tch poor kid. And all I can think to myself is......childhood comes once in a lifetime....my kid is going to have that...even if it means a tad bit slow start in life. So what the heck, let her climb the ladder or look for an elevator, but I ain't plonking her in a plush 2 Bhk apt with no memories to put on the walls.

    Super post Purba.........Loved my growing years and I'm sure someday when my daughter blogs ???? from Mars???? she will share my ideologies :D

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    1. I have always felt(I may be wrong there) that the discipline required in formal classes, the routine, robs them off creativity. They are straight-jacketed into do's and don'ts and not allowed to think for themselves.

      But I am sure brilliance has bloomed under tutelage.

      Like you, I have always been the odd one out :) And my daughter(she turns 18 next month) hasn't turned out too badly.

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  28. You know... I have forgtten what it is to have a 'summer vacation' now. Ever since I left home, that concept has gone out the window. But while in school, summer holidays meant two whole months of doing nothing. All we did was eat kilos of mangoes at my grandma's house, drank home-made(grandma-made, rather) grape wine, read lots of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, watch tv, play desi cricket, eat a lot, sleep... Ah, those were good times.

    And you're so right in saying that these days, soon as summer holidays start, parents pack off their kids to a variety of classes- music, keyboard, swimming, drawing etc etc etc... As though even a day spent doing nothing is a crime. Tch tch...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Geez! is there anyone whose Grandma didn't have fruit orchards and a sprawling farmhouse!

      And grape wine! Damn! my childhood memories now sound so ordinary :p

      Delete
  29. yes yes yes ye .. summer vacation meant Visting my village and having FUN, there use to be hardly any electricity.. Tele was in black and white and that too ages later..

    The fun was running wild in open fields , stealing sugar cane from neighbours .. Or the berries or the oranges from the orchard..

    Or jumping into the the two rajasthan feeders running along our village.. in the middle of the afternoon .. Playing all sorts of DESI games, making of catapults and various things

    then some years we would be in paradise when dad would also have his holidays and it was trips to mumbai or kodai kanal or deep south .. I would hate to see my kids into PS3's or computers .. no fun till you are out there in the open getting dirty, bruised, huffing and puffing, running wild , fighting with fellow friends , crying and then making up again ..

    You brought so many memories Thank you so much YES indeed those were to good old days .. I will write about it sometimes .. Taking your post as a guide to write ..

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Why sometime later, when you can write about it now and make your readers turn green with envy!

      Do it, it has all the ingredients of being an entertaining read.

      Delete
  30. Jaane kahaan gaye wo din, sigh!!

    Wonderfully narrated. I liked shoveling the amul spray into my mouth too, and because of that I have eaten other milk whiteners with the same glee and found out that they were insipid.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Haha! et tu?

      I gave up on milk powder long time back! Do they still make AmulSpray?

      Delete
  31. Ahh... those heavenly innocent days. You have written it so vividly that I could see it happening. :)

    You brought back childhood days alive in front of my eyes. My mom has 7 sisters and 2 brothers and in those days, most of us and families would assemble at our grandma's house. And the villagers officially declared riots for the next 2 months. :P

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I can imagine! At one point of time, I couldn't imagine life without my cousins :)

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  32. Those days are just memories now. I do remember the sparkling candy in my path. You still get them but not easily anymore. And then there was 'Centre Shock'. That one had me over the walls! Oh, and I still have milk powder when I get some.

    It's always nice reminiscing childhood. :)
    I loved reading this. :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You were a dreamer weren't you?
      And centre shock is something my daughter had :)

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  33. Beautiful post.. the hills..the milk powder...the doordarshan movies.feeling nostalgic. Need to plan a trip home soon. A pleasure to visit here .

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    1. Nostalgia is a seductive mistress.

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  34. The milk powder description is just amazing and doordarshan movies.. Awwww. so nostalgic it is.. I loved dis post.. Ya u r right we dint had social network den but we had real friends and real games to play and not these digital one dat v have now.. :(

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  35. yes, those wonder years....and the feeling that i might fail as a parent as good as my parents were ...always gives me second thoughts on having babies!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The more you think, the more confused you"ll feel. Bringing up a child is stressful but a beautiful chapter of your life.

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  36. Nostalgic and touching! Loved each and every line in this post. I could visualize the scenes with the amazing descriptions.So many things to relate and remember,thank you for taking me on a trip down the memory lane.

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    1. Delighted that you enjoyed reading it :))

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  37. I really loved my summer holidays very much...and even now also I love my 6 years old son's (Aarya)summer holidays very much and I never force him to join any summer school or any thing else...all I want him to play......play.....play....play

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    1. That's how it should be. Why rob our kids of their childhood?

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  38. Hello Purba
    After a long sabbatical of months i have once again made entry into the high energy , high traffic lane of versatile writers like you and many others, feeling really nice to read your write up.Cheers!

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    1. Great to have you back Arpana. Hope the break was rejuvenating :)

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  39. Nani's house...running around whole day....reading chacha chaudhary and even champak...eating mangoes...heaven on earth...now i see my cousins glued to Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, I feel sad...

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    1. Wondering what the kiddy generation will say when they grow-up. Those were the days- when we watched Cartoon Network, non-stop :)

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  40. Those were the days of fun & travel. Come 1st April and entire family used to head towards Bangalore from M.P. to be with our grand parents and cousins.Those two months upto 30th june used to be full of fun going to parks,watching movies in front class with stolen money from drawers,eating roadside stuffs and above all, play all the time with absolutely no restrictions.Alas, same can not be expected now and we can not do much except pity the children.

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    1. We all have such a treasure trove of memories. It's a pleasure reading about them.

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  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  42. It is true that parents rigidly push their kids to summer clubs, some kids may feel bored of it and some may not. But there are some other cases like mine. As for me, I wanted to be a great chess player but i came to know my interest in chess a bit later and i hope it was too late for me to stir around chess at that time. probably a bit of negligence of my parents made me to deviate from chess by not joining me to summer clubs in my school days. Now also am great with my engineering, but anyway there will always be huge difference between passion and course, right?

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    1. Vinayak, just keep this in mind, it's never too late to pursue your passion. I started learning dancing after my daughter grew-up and I enjoyed it as much :)

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  43. Hmm. This post made me feel very nostalgic.

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  44. It sounds like a completely different world! I don't think I ever had the opportunity of plucking fruits from trees or running around in forests ever!. But well, the Faraway tree made me understand exactly what you are saying. A different land atop the tree, away from civilization.

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    1. Richa, as we grow up we lose our sense of wonderment. As kids, even the mundane looks magical and as adults even the magical seems mundane :)

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  45. I can still remember me & my cousin making the rolled up gadda a boat & pretending to row it all over the red sea. The floor at Dadu's place was that old kind, red center with black borders. Guarding 4 mangoes in the mango tree all afternoon in Kolkata summer. Dum dum park was peace then & everyone who walked by the house couldn't do so with replying to all our queries. Really those were the best childhood days.

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    1. Oh yes...crawling under the dinning table...playing house-house..The make believe world of ours was so perfect!

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  46. Nice nostalgic narrative. I had been to Ranikhet 2 years back and I fell in love with the place. So I can understand your fond memories of that place.

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    1. But when I went back, I found it dull. beautiful but dull. Liked Kausani better.

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  47. Very nostalgic narrative. It takes me back to my childhood trips and the days when I was at my most mischievous! :-)

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    1. I never tire of telling this to my friends - never let the child within you die.

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  48. offcourse childhood days are those days of our life which won't come back. but those are the special days of your life which makes you smile when at a later stage of life you look behind it!

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  49. i still believe .. our's was the best era and the way we were brought up, today's parents need a lot of learning from our parents...

    "This was the era, when the weekly movie on Doordarshan was the highpoint of our weekend" loved this line..i remember the days when we were young and used to watch Ramayan telecasted on Doordarshan every week and people from our neighborhood who couldn't afford tv sets would gather at one place and watch the sitcom...

    loved this post Ma'm !!!

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  50. @purba: its not that i didn't try. but as i grew things around me became complicated. every one expects me to be more accurate and precise than any, i mean, all want to see me in pinnacle of glory, especially in education. i spent my life full filling others expectations.
    ya, its true that it gives me pleasure as many are there to encourage me but my motto is not Edu. but heart is a magic spot the faith of my days turning good is still present.:) and thanks for replying.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You are still a young boy. I am sure you will find your bearings. Just be patient :-)

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  51. sweet post..i too want to visit Ranikhet now!

    yes, childhood is gay abandon - a state we wish to be in forever...:)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. But when we were kids, we were in such a hurry to grow up!

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  52. You were an active person then also?Do I say hyper?I enjoyed the post and I too want to go an relax and run behind butterflies.

    I know what it is being the gang leader.My mom had a name for it "Chootu kaati"..The one who leads way with the torch... :D :D I miss those good old days..

    P:S:Ah..I get to grace this post with it's 100th comment..

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    1. Active only when it came to cooking up pranks. One look at my school books and I'd turn into a sloth! :D

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  53. Not chhota at all - bada memories, bada pleasures, bada joys! 100% real and lovely!
    Thanks for visiting my blog - pls do read my childhood experience with nature too and share your thoughts :)

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  54. really childhood is the best part of life... reading about the amul milk powder, I used to eat it too and i still do.
    in childhood i used to eat it and silently come out of kitchan as if nothing happened, so that mom won't catch me eating that, and now when i eat i silently work in kitchan so that my husband don't see that and call me a kiddo again :D

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  55. Talking about childhood and those summer breaks has always brought back those beautiful memories. and yeah, that times used to be explore-the-world (or India). And our trips were quite limited to the northern hills.

    And talking about the Holidays' homework, the most I liked to do was to build models with Thermocole sheets. That was fun!!

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