Friday, August 12, 2011

My Childhood - Loose Bloggers Consortium (LBC)

Welcome to the Loose Bloggers Consortium, where Akanksha, Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Ordinary Joe, Magpie11, Maria the Silver Fox, Nema, Noor, Padmum, Paul, Ramana Sir, Will knot, and I write on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs to get seventeen different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Anu.

Whenever I am reminded of my childhood, a sweet nostalgia sets in until my cheekbones are sore with pain from smiling. I was born in a small village in Western India (somewhere in that valley: picture below). At the time my Father was doing fairly well as a property developer and my Mother was a research scientist. A very odd combination for a couple indeed!

Anyhow, eventually they settled in Mumbai, where I spent the first 15 years of my life. My childhood during this period was shared between the city of dreams as some like to call Mumbai, and the small village of my birth. I could not understand this then, but reflecting on it now, I feel glad this happened as it kept my connection with the soul of my country and culture alive. It may not seem like a big thing but it is not at all difficult to experience a severe identity crisis for those who grow up entirely in urban areas. Whereas the time in the city was spent going to school of which I loved everyday, enjoying "urban" activities with friends and being groomed and conditioned by the society to believe the purpose of life to be tangible material achievements; the time spent in the village of my birth would provide me the much needed recluse and solitude. Life in this village was very calm and serene. It was almost like a gateway to the wonderland for me. I could do everything my big city friends couldn't even dream of!

The day there would begin being woken up by the chirping of a million birds and calls of peacocks. The early morning air would be filled with a fragrance which is very typical of Indian villages. It is a melange of dew soaked earth, scent of flowers, spicy aromas from the kitchens and the burning charcoal in clay ovens. The rest of the day would be spent wandering freely without a care in the world with my buddies there, and their activities usually happened to be of a more innocent nature than of those in the big city. Running along the river bank taking the occasional dip in the freezing waters of the early morning, racing to see who climbs trees fastest and fetches that tasty fruit, playing with stray dogs, riding on the horses at every opportunity we could get, chasing monkeys...the list goes on. It was a place where almost fifty odd families lived as a one big family in an incredibly cohesive atmosphere. The children were everyone's children. Whatever little they all had, would be shared with an open heart. I don't remember any of the houses ever having their doors closed, literally as well as metaphorically. It is here that I learnt the most important lesson of my life, that everyone in this world should be treated as our family...humans, animals and plants alike. These people from my childhood gave me just as much love as my parents if not more, although I only saw them only once or twice every year for a couple of months! Their gift of compassion is something I treasure more than my life.

Back in the city of dreams, well, the scene was completely different. Life there could be explained by a simple phrase, rat race. I have always been excessively curious and had an insatiable thirst for knowing things. (That's me with the tongue out in the middle with two of my oldest "city" friends). I used to keep saying to my Mother that I wish I grew up faster, and every time I would get the same reply, "one day you will say you wished you never grew up". I, however, have not felt a reason to say this as of yet. Perhaps I still haven't grown up, as is the opinion of my friends and parents, but if I am, this moment is yet to come. If I know myself well enough though, I am pretty certain it wouldn't.

If my childhood dragged any longer than it did, it wouldn't have been so memorable and joyful. Just as each season has its beauty, each stage of life has its own. There would have been no joy in spring if it weren't for winter; winter wouldn't have been a relief unless it came after the scorching summer. After all, it is us who have given names to these stages in life. The march of change and time is unstoppable. I live with a condition known as Synaesthesia. Essentially what it means is that my brain processes events and experiences in a slightly different way. For instance, it automatically associates quantities with colours, places with taste, and makes me experience time in spacial term and so on. This makes me view any period of time as a vivid multi-dimensional event wherever these events have developed strong associations that have then been embedded deep in my mind. I think it just enriches my experience of reliving my childhood in my memories now. Would I like to relive it in reality though? No. I wish, however, that I am able to pass on this experience to other children, whoever's they are.

The truth is whole, but at the same time multi-faceted. Each side we see is complete in its own right. It is only now when I look back, am I able to appreciate the entire picture in a much more holistic manner. Time is far from linear, and it only takes a slight change in perspective to see this continuity through the different themes of our life as the common thread connecting each experience with the other. The child in us never really dies. We are all curious creatures at heart, ever desiring more experiences, avenues to more fully express our creativity, opportunities to spread love and happiness. That is what children do all the time. They make everyone smile. Time and social conditionings simply add layers upon layers of thick dust on our personalities which make us more and more hesitant to let that child come out and play freely in this wonderful world. All it takes to let this child out is re-emergence of that innocence which we have lost somewhere along down the alleyways of time. Young or old, we are really just children of different age, each group having their own fancy games. Younger ones call it toys and crayons, older ones call it money, work and responsibilities. Most are born without a clue, and most die without a clue. Everything in between usually fades away.


Delirious said...

I have never heard of Synaesthesia before, and I find it a fascinating condition! I have had the experience of having smells take me back to a memory, but I can't imagine this to the degree that you experience.

I loved reading about your childhood, and imagining your carefree life! Sounds very idyllic to me!

Grannymar said...

You are so fortunate to have had such a carefree childhood. I associate smells with places - a pan of onions frying always takes me back to my mother's kitchen. As we get older the shortest route back to childhood, is to watch a tiny child at play or take them for a walk and live the wonder through their eyes.

Rummuser said...

Having been born in Mumbai and having spent many years there as well as in Pune, I can get the essence of a childhood in Mumbai neighbourhoods which is unlike any, in any other part of the country. Where else will you get Ganapathy, Govinda and fort building during Diwali? Or gully cricket. Smells? We lived for some time in Colaba. Can you think of a place that could smell as fishy as that?

Noor said...

It was really great reading about your childhood. The picture of the place you were born in is really beautiful.
You're blessed to have that experience, between the village and the city. I've addresses the issue of 'growing up' in my post too. I'm glad you don't regret growing up, I don't either in a sense. Every season must take its due. You really express yourself very well regarding that point.

I know I promised a 'critique' of your writing. Yet, I'm looking for something to comment on. I really liked how you told us just a few things about your childhood and then connected them to how they changed you now.
Everyone reading this definitely feel the level of maturity it reveals, yet if they know you a bit more they'll know that you're still very much connected to your inner child in a way, and I really think that's how we all should be. :D

padmum said...

Your nostalgia rings a bell. Today, in Tamil Nadu, many people are coming back to their villages and abandoned homes, revitalising them and spending some part of the retirement in living in the community....back to basics as it were. Their children too are encouraging and contributing funs to get back to the idyllic life. I have seen this is in quite a few families.

There are so many triggers that take us back to a time--pleasant or unpleasant--emotion recollected in tranquility as it were.

Plain / Ordinary Joe said...

this brought me back to India. I miss the sights and sounds!

Very colourful indeed. Beautiful post.