Abstract: Most of us are born in the country after independence. We are now used to the cozy life with its usual ups and downs. It was a roller coaster ride, exciting, as one goes down the memory lane to share the defining moments as witnessed. This post is conceived as a result of an exchange of thoughts with the seasoned writer Zephyr of a popular blog 'Cybernag' . The post has been serialized, based on the nostalgic memories of the bygone years.Read the Part-I........
When we opened our eyes,
was a free country! In fact
it was just a decade older than most of us who were born around this time! As
we tried to crawl and learn our first steps to walk, the country too likewise tried
to stand on its feet. There were 400 million mouths to feed and being basically
an agrarian economy, the priority was to setup the industry, infrastructure and
generate new vistas of employment! The states which were ruled mostly ruled by
maharajas were slowly getting integrated into the mainstream by the huge effort
of Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister! I do not intend to make this sound
like an essay on building modern India , but focus on how the lives
changed in the formative years. There was a constant fear of disintegration of
a plural nation by the western world! India
I was born in a family which cherished strong family values. The childhood days used to be great fun, to be raised in a small government flat with other two younger brothers and with many children staying in the vicinity, in the same age group. My father even with his modest means spent a fortune in sending us to the best public school as he understood that a good education was necessary for us to do well in life. The children with whom we played Cricket, Kho Kho, Football and Pittho( an Indian game) studied in the government schools in the neighborhood. We broke the glasses without remorse when the ball crashed into the window instead of crossing the fence.
There was a Jamun tree at home where the fruit would turn the earth violet during the monsoons. We would climb the tree to devour the fruit. We sometimes played ‘Gulli Danda’(local game) and marbles with our friends and were always admonished by our parents for taking up the uncouth games! All the brothers learnt to cook as our mother went to teach in a Montessori school and we would get time to experiment in the kitchen while she was away. There was no TV and only a radio at home, on which Vividh Bharti played during the day and at night we would hear the 9 PM news by stalwarts like , Melville De Mello,Devki Nandan Pandey and Lotika Ratnam.
The country went to war with
in 1962, with
in 1965 and 1971 and we witnessed the rationing of food, air raid warnings,
blackout and hiding in the makeshift trenches when air raid warnings were
sounded! We had to stand in long queues to get the monthly ration of wheat,
sugar and kerosene as the cooking gas was still not easily available. Pakistan
used to get wheat as aid from US under PL(Public Law) 480 scheme as food was
scarce due constant famines . The era of 1970s saw the ushering of ‘Green
Revolution’ where India
became self reliant on the food front! There were no cars in our colony and
people mostly went to office on cycles and in later years on scooters or mopeds.
The festivals, especially Janamashtmi, Diwali , Dusshera, Durga Puja and Holi were celebrated with great gusto and gay abandon in our locality with participation of one and all. The best part was constructing a temple with bamboos, banana stem and leaves on Janamashtmi and likewise effigies of Ravana on Dusshera. We would beeline for pandals where the Durga Puja was hosted from Shashti ( Sixth day) onwards to enjoy the thrills. Regardless of our religion or beliefs everyone joined for the celebrations.
We would get new clothes stitched on our birthdays and at festival times! Sometimes we would buy the Khadi shirts from Khadi Bhandar in the Regal building around Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday when there was a sale. I do not have any recollection of eating outside except Idli/ Dosas at India Coffee House at Janpath. Money was spent with a lot of discretion and there was no splurging! Gifts came in form of books or clothes for any academic achievements.
The neighbors were generally very large hearted and would exchange food and delicacies cooked, so we learnt to appreciate the cuisines from other part of the country! The best past time besides playing games was reading, ‘Parag’, ‘Nandan’, ‘Chandamama’ and ‘Champak’, ‘Phantom’ , ‘Noddy’ and ‘Archies’ (all kids magazines and comics). The stories would transport our imagination to a whole new world! The hot summer months were mostly spent at home playing indoor games like Carom, Ludo, Snakes and Ladder, Bagatelle, Cards etc.At night we would spread the cots out in open and sleep, caressed by gentle wind with a blanket of star studded sky with the moon playing hide and seek with clouds!
During this time, I fell in love with books by, Enid Blyton, Frank Richards (creator of Billy Bunter), Capt WE Johns (creator of Biggles), classics, folklore, and stories from epics plus so many more! As buying so many books was a luxury, we pedaled to the Delhi Public Library which had a decent collection of books for children and one could loan books for two weeks. The membership was free!
The only change in fashions we experienced were seeing evolution of the ordinary pant to a bell bottom, and denim jeans. Terylene shirts came as presents from our cousins from abroad. Even the girls wore mostly skirts or salwar kameez and later jeans and tee shirts unlike a galore of dresses from spaghetti and noodle straps, tank tops and many other, available now.
Around the time I grew, great institutions like the IITs and IIMs were setup. Everyone nurtured a dream of joining the IAS, professional medical or engineering colleges besides a few who joined NDA to pursue a career in Armed Forces, after school as there were very few avenues, then.
Mostly people performed their duties with basic honesty and the greed to hoard was almost nonexistent at least among the masses! I do not remember any major scandals coming to light till our childhood times and elections were won mostly on ideology!
The next phase of life of entering a college, the most colorful one was about to begin…( In the next post)
PS- Images Kind Courtesy Google