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Humble diversions of yore!

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Desh Bir
Today’s children would never believe that some sixty years ago, we, as children, had such poor playthings as glass balls, Gilli Danda, home-spun hockey sticks made out of branches with natural sharp round bends at the bottom, circular peelings from a truck tyre to serve as rubber rings to be pushed on the road with a grooved bamboo splinter, a wheel barrow with a single wooden wheel in front and ladder-like riding area behind, to be lifted and pushed by a driver, who, by turns would swap role with the rider every now and then.
This was because there were no better diversions as are available to the technologically pampered child of today who wants to fiddle with the U-tube App as early as at nine months of age. Fairs and wrestling matches were a big event in the area and on such occasions neighbouring schools would announce a holiday for children to break their boredom. In contrast to that world of humble joys, today’s child has half of his world wasted on him as he flies from one attraction to another because there are so many things to distract him.
The promotion to next class at school was a landmark event as it signaled the purchase of new books. The paper of these books used to emit an exotic scent. Then would come up the synergic family event when those books would be given a hard binding. That took the family a couple of hours. Thick paste from white flour would be prepared as glue. Special printed covers would be mounted on the covers to make the books look more attractive.
Buying cloth for a new shirt or a new pair of pyjamas was also a much awaited event that came at the most twice or thrice a year. In the rural hills it was another thing that there used to be only one or two shops selling cloth and the variety available never crossed half a dozen offerings. Yet there always was thrill in this exercise as we accompanied father to the clothier-cum-grocer-cum-chemist’s shop. We took pride in rejecting design after design and finally with a princely nod passed a verdict in favour of one of them.
Stealing out of the house in the summer afternoons when parents slipped into a slumber, I and my younger brother would go to the nearest grove of mango trees and target the raw fruit with a rubber catapult. A knife and some salt was taken from the kitchen in a piece of paper and the extremely acidic feast of raw mangos seamed to tickle the palates no end. Similarly, during the monsoon months, salt and green chilli paste would be carried to the maize fields where cucumber creepers grew in plenty and yielded the most tender young cucumbers to be savoured with that palate-blasting salt. Rare moments that set the taste buds aflame!
As for the circular peels of tyres, which we used to call ‘gadda’, the boys would compete with them in races. The driving bamboo splint would sometimes be broken and one had to wait till the next one could be got ready from the nearest carpenter.
Playing with glass marble balls and winning them from team members would make some of us rich and leave others bankrupts. There would be quarrels and then reconciliations on daily basis.
Tiny earthen pitchers of toy dimensions sold by the potters usually became our cauldrons and quite often we played as local community chefs in our make believe world. These vessels would be perched on a shallow trench in which small sticks were used as fuel wood. Then we would cook rice and lentils of all varieties and offer the menu among ourselves. That made life itself an extended feast of tastes as well as of several coveted roles. No less enthralling than the hues of a rainbow itself!
(The author is a Retired Principal, Govt.College, Hoshiarpur (Punjab)


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