The other day, I happened to hear Jagjit Singh’s ‘Who Kaagaz Ki Kashti’, a beautiful ghazal whose essence is a reminiscence of one’s childhood. The first few lines of the song go thus
Ye Daulat Bhi Le Lo,
Ye Shohrat Bhi Le Lo
Bhale Cheen Lo Mujhse Meri Jawaani
Magar Mujhko Lauta Do Bachchpan Ka Saawan
Wo Kaagaz Ki Kashti Wo Baarish Ka Paani
And I was transported back in time to the good old days where the only worry in life was to figure out how to get the first turn on the swing in the evening at the park! Memories of childhood are made for those rainy days where you sit by the window and watch the water cascade down the panes. And far off in the distance you hear the squeals of laughter as kids of various shapes, sizes and colors, run outside in the pouring rain, and get wet, unmindful of their mothers who literally scream themselves hoarse trying to get their kids back to shelter. That sweet aroma of wet mud, the fun in jumping in those puddles and splashing water on the kids nearby… those good old days…. The monsoon then had a totally different meaning. Every morning we’d wake up and look at the sky. If it looked grey and cloudy, we’d all be happy and cheerful. If mom would tell us that it had been raining all night, all the better. We’d go to school, clean and neat, and get back home in an hour all soiled and murky. School’s closed, let the party begin!!!!
The song goes on to describe an old lady in the area, a grand motherly person for all the kids.
Mohalle Ki Sabse Nishaani Purani
Wo Budhiya Jise Bachche Kehte The Naani
Wo Naani Kee Baaton Mein Pariyon Ka Dera
Wo Chehre Ke Jhuriyon Mein Sadiyon Ka Phera
Bhulaaye Nahin Bhool Saqta Hai Koi
Wo Choti See Raaten Wo Lambi Kahaani
Well, we had our own ‘Ba’ too. She was a grumpy old lady who lived on the ground floor of our apartment building. She never liked kids, since they made too much noise and always broke her windows. And somehow, as kids, we followed Gandhian laws, Gandhigiri, much before Munnabhai could teach us how it’s done. We believed in ‘Love thy enemy’. And somehow, Ba and we had an unending love affair! She’d hate us peeking into her house, and we would ensure that we do just that. Once when she got so angry and walked up to the window in a huff, we very meekly pointed to the clock and said, “Time dekh rahe they auntie. Homework karne jaana hai na” and scampered off laughing. But mind you, this was not a one sided hate game. She had totally destroyed our effort of making our building premises environmentally rich! She had heartlessly pulled out the seed of the plant that we had tried to grow. It is a different thing that we had planted a mango seed in her pot, without her knowledge, and poured too much water in it. So when she saw two heads bobbing up and down outside her house and came to investigate, we were busy throwing away the excess water. Now who had expected her to stand in the path of the water’s projectile motion???!!!????
And just as these memories were streaming through my head; I remembered the morbid pictures of the Virginia shootout, the news piece about a certain twelve year old ‘terrorist’ beheading a captive! At 12 years of age, I didn’t even know who a terrorist was! That won’t hold true in today’s world anyway, since today every toddler, never mind whether he knows how to say ‘mamma’ certainly knows how to say Osama and Al Qaeda! Kids are killing other kids, other people. Such violence, hatred, qualities so uncharacteristic of children!
All of us would have seen the commercial on television that showed a poor child peeping through the fence as two kids fought for a ‘scholarship-bearing’ soiled cloth. What most of us didn’t see is the fact that those longing eyes find a place on practically every child at the traffic signal. Every child that is made to carry its smaller sibling and beg for money using the infant as an object of pity. What most of us fail to notice are the dreams of the children who work as hired help in houses, tea stalls, and small restaurants.
Most of us at least get a smile on our faces as we think of the time years ago when we were kids. By the time these children can begin to think of playing in the rainwater, they have been robbed of their worriless innocent existence. Many of them reconcile to the fact that their life will always remain on this side of the fence, while some others pick up a weapon, as a means to vent out their anguish. There is a very thin line that separates the oppressed from the violent. The sapping point is seldom, if ever noticed by anyone. And more often than not, it takes a Bastille for people to stand up and take notice…..