Very recently while fighting with a dear school friend over Whatsapp messages, tears came rolling down my cheeks and I started missing my childhood badly. I started wondering how beautiful, innocent and simple childhood was and how it wasn’t as complicated and as binding as today’s adult life.
Life was as simple as getting up in the morning when Mom woke me up and getting ready for school – always in a mood to not go to school (mostly for no reason). Tiffin box and morning breakfast along with a hateful hot cup of milk would always be ready on the dining table before I got ready and I would gulp it down my throat without ever realizing the efforts that Mom had to make behind putting up such a good show – a tasty lunch menu for school lunch breaks – every day – 10 months of the year!
Cycling to school would be like a fun ride, cycling pedal after pedal like a free bird, enjoying every meter of that ride to school. The sound of the cycle bell still rings in my mind, making me want to go cycling on those roads to school – again at 06.45 am in the morning with fresh air going past my neatly tied oiled hair and soft young cheeks. I never had to worry about car insurance, fuel refilling and car servicing due date!
A day in school was no less fun. Meeting friends, gossiping about teachers, enjoying each others tiffin boxes, playing cows and bulls on the last page of our notebooks trying to pretend to the teacher that we’re busy solving the most difficult numerical in the book and going to washrooms between classes just to kill time till the period got over – everything about being in school was so beautiful, fun-filled and packed with energy and joy.
Coming back home was like returning to life and peace (despite having lots of fun at school). I never had to worry about where the house keys are- if they’re in my pocket, in my purse or if I dropped them somewhere! My mom would always be found waiting at the doorstep, as there weren’t any complicated mobile phones those day to mess up communication and the only option she had was to wait for me till she actually saw me with her eyes! She’d open the gate with eagerness and run into the kitchen to serve me hot chapatis and some finger-licking food. She’d wait for me to finish and then would start having her lunch, just so that she could make me eat hot food with all peace and satisfaction.
I never had to worry about what to cook for lunch each day nor worry about which container I need to use to heat the food or serve it. How to not waste the leftovers and consume them happily on the same day was also not a task on my list then!
I’d only take the smallest pain of putting my used plate in the kitchen sink and wash my hands there – at which Mom would always ask me to go and wash my hands only in the bathroom sink! She’d also expect me to ‘semi-wash’ my plate with water and not leave it in the sink as it is – she’d say, “bartan sookhay rakhnay se lakshmiji naaraaz ho jaati hain!” (Goddess Lakshmi will get angry if you leave the used utensils to dry!)
I didn’t bother much about her principles and took them really lightly then as that was my age probably to not think much about all this and to enjoy life carelessly without covering myself up with responsibilities!
Every afternoon, after having finished the lunch served to me – something that would always be really very tasty – I, like a princess, would lie down on the sofa to enjoy random TV serials or Bollywood numbers. Half an hour later or so I’d fall asleep on the sofa itself only to wake up to my Mom’s touch – when I’d find her covering me with a light blanket to help me sleep better. If she’d find me open my eyes and look at her, she would immediately ask me to move to the bed in the bedroom and sleep more comfortably there.
After having a peaceful, undisturbed and sound sleep of at least 1.5 hours I’d get up to the smell of some hot piping ginger tea and mouth watering hot snacks (never cold or dry, always fresh and hot ones!). I’d only ask my Mom, “Aaj kya banaya hai?” (What have you prepared today?), (as if it was her job to feed me hot snacks every evening) and she would immediately serve me some hot pakodas, bhajiyas, cutlets or kachoris in a plate and I would settle down to eat them. All that my Mom would expect from me was a statement (not even a genuine compliment) assuring her the goodness of the taste.
After eating up everything, I’d go out with friends to play! Chhupan chhupai, cheenti dhap, chor police, pakdam pakdai, Red Letter A – were our all-time favourites and we would spend hours playing these without really worrying about what to cook for dinner and what to pack in the lunch box for the next day.
After at least an hour of play, I’d go back home, freshen up and settle down for studies. Mom would insist me to work hard, be sincere, not be over confident, be careful – and all that. ‘All that’ because I never paid attention to what she said, I’d always say “hmm, hmm, hmm.” Probably, all of us at that age think that we’re all too smart and Moms are creatures who are always preaching to people!
Soon it would be dinner time and I loved this time of the day, because the whole family would be present at one place -the dining table, and we’d exchange our thoughts, experiences, joys and sorrows – at dinner time. I never had to worry about what to cook, how to serve, whom to serve, how much to serve nor about clearing up the table once everyone got done!
After dinner, ironing my school uniform, polishing my black shoes, arranging my school bag according to the time-table, sharpening my pencils and cleaning the erasers by rubbing them on a clean wall – were some of the daily rituals that I did to prepare myself for school for the next day. Many a times I would realize that my notebook’s cover is torn or my black shoe polish is over or we are supposed to take a yellow chart paper to school for the SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work – which we’d jokingly elaborate as ‘S’ome ‘U’seful ‘P’eriod ‘Wasted’ ).
I would realize the reality about my things not being in place at 8.30 or 9 in the night.
I never had to worry about where will things come from at such a time of the day, who will go and buy them, how much will they cost – just because it was childhood! Dad would immediately go running to the nearby shop, visit a farther shop if the nearer one gets shut and buy me the stuff I needed.
I’d go to bed in peace with the biggest worries on my head being, getting up on time the next morning, writing correct spellings in the English Grammar class test the next day, reciting the poem in one flow without stammering for the oral recitation test and getting the brakes of my cycle repaired!
I never had to worry about paying the electricity and the phone bills, giving salaries to maids, ordering diapers and getting them delivered on time or buying an appropriate gift for my husband’s uncle’s daughter’s son’s naming ceremony!
Life was so simple back then, why did I have to grow up?