Friday, July 12, 2013

Once upon a time, we were kids ...

I remember those years of playing badminton, back when we lived in Neyveli.

The backyard had ample open space in the middle of all the tamarind and mango trees.  My brother and I would excitedly tie up the net, and start playing.  Often with those plastic shuttles because the feathery ones were expensive.  Most of the games we played we had disagreements.  But, no disagreement stopped us from going out there the next day too.

We didn't know that it was harsh, hot, summer.  After all, that was all we knew.  We were drenched in sweat in no time at all.  As the light began fading, and the mosquitoes started hovering about us, we would wrap the game, and the net.

Now, he and I live in temperate climes, and neither one can tolerate heat anymore.  Neither one plays badminton either. Our hair on top is mostly gone, and what remains is not all black.  We grow up.  Things are never, ever the same.

In 2002, I went to that old home in Neyveli after a number of years.  It was now home for a German consultant, who was away.  The trees that were small when we lived there had grown big. The big trees of the past were now huge.  The entire compound looked like a tropical jungle.  So much greenery that the backyard had no open space for badminton.  I suppose it worked out well--there were no children there anyway.

An older man was there to take care of the yard and watch over the house.  He couldn't quite fathom why we were so excited about visiting a house that we hadn't even owned in the first place.  I knew there was no way I could convey to him the memories of badminton in that yard, among other stories from the past.

We all carry within us memories of places and people.  Those are all our own stories.  Most can never understand them even if they patiently listened to us.  Occasionally, some do. When they do, we feel connected.  We become friends. We share more stories.  We become better friends.  We wonder why we were not friends back when we were kids.

We realize we are now older watching our kids make their own memories. We trade stories of our kids. We become even better friends.

Meanwhile, our parents are watching us get older. They fondly recall the children that we once were. And wonder how all those years sped past. We look at our parents and wonder how they became so old so fast.  We share stories about the past. All we have are those stories.

Why are you reading this? Go create more stories of your own. And share them. With me, too.  I need those stories especially now when the days are long and it feels like it is a crime to be asleep as long as there is a trace of light in the sky. Your stories will keep the kid in me happy.  I might be middle-aged, but there is that badminton-playing kid in me who doesn't want to sleep.  It is not age-related insomnia, but that inner kid's emotions that  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in Bed in Summer:
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?


Ramesh said...

Brilliant wistful post. One of your classics. Replace badminton with whatever the seasonal game of the moment was at that time - cricket or hockey or football, or even gilli danda and that was the story of every kid in Neyveli.

Memories are what sustains us, my friend. They are fresh in the mind, and need no photos. Yes, we marvel at how fast our children grow, but take pleasure in remembering those treasured moments. That's why our parents reminisce so much - we should humour them even if they are repeating it for the nth time. And when we wonder why they became so old, we have our memories of the time when we were kids, they were young and could do no wrong.

I went too to Neyveli to gaze at the playground. The front of the house, where I lived, where we played countless hours, is gone. The school playground, where I learnt the tricks of all the sports I became good at, is now full of classrooms. Where we celebrated after winning a match is now Classroom V A.

Yes we have moved on. But the memories are pleasant and will sustain us as we gracefully fade away.

Wonderful post Sriram. One that I will particularly come to once in a while.

Sriram Khé said...

Thanks, Ramesh. Yes ...

I don't even have to humor my parents, given that I have always been a sucker for old stories ... plus, unless we repeat those stories, well, they will be forgotten too...

I am convinced that memories are what we will have to carry us unto the last and that is yet another reason why dementia is such a nightmare for me ... what a tragic life to live without one's memories :(

btw, what happened to the front of your old Neyveli home? Wait, the home I have in mind is the one on Main Bazaar Road (wasn't that the name?) Are you referring to something else? In any case, what became of that frontage?

The loss of playground space at our old school was discouraging to me. Not that I was into sports back then or even now. But, I have done my share of playing and running there ... and it bothers me a lot when I visit India and I find that studying and exams are given way too much importance, while idling, sports, the arts, and everything else are frowned upon ...

At least we have those wonderful memories, right?

Ramesh said...

Yeah - same old Main Bazaar Road. They've extended the house, as almost everybody seems to have done in Neyveli and what was the area we ran around is now rooms :(

It all started with your batch - the obsession with studying and exams. As long as Thamburaj was principal, there was a balance. And then .....

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