As a young adult, a decade ago, flipping through family albums was my favourite Sunday activity. I would sit by myself reminiscing the carefree days. Photos of my siblings gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling of the time we spent together as the Dias Sisters. Yes, that’s what we were known as for a good thirty years, or so. Today, having lost one of my siblings, those memories are dearer to me than before.
My childhood was far from fancy. It was a secure, stress-free, simple one sans expensive toys, Disney branded accessories or itinerated vacations. Summer holidays weren’t pre-planned. As kids, we didn’t have a say in selecting the holiday destination. Mum and dad had the last word. Most people I knew went to their “native place” which was basically where their families had ancestral homes. Everyone gorged on mangoes and returned to school five pounds stouter. Some privileged ones were enrolled in extracurricular activities like dancing or swimming.
My fondest summer holiday memories include sitting up on the building terrace below the overhead water tank on a mat, playing a game of Ludo or reading books, whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on the cut pieces of kairi (raw mango) left out to get sun-dried. Mango pickle anyone?
Our summers were wild and free, devoid of cerebral stimulating activities. No robotics or Lego workshops. The only summer camp I ever went for was a week long, church-run, family camp to Lonavala. We would jump into Walvan dam’s canal outlets for a quick splash with our fathers as lifeguards and mothers waiting outside with towels to dry us off. A swim in the canal was an actual activity on the camp’s activity list.
Sausage Hill trek was the highlight of the week. Nike hiking gear was unheard of. We slipped on our Bata sneakers and made it uphill. Life was good even with the bare essentials. The only vacation with frills that I remember is the one to Shimla by Rajdhani train. First class, mind you! Oh, the joy of having individual tea and coffee thermos flasks gave me a high. And yes, they served chicken biryani too.
Playdates? We had them for sure, but it didn’t involve much planning. My mother would merely open the front door and let us out to play with the next-door neighbour’s children, or their little ones could come over, too.
Like most families, we had one television set, and it was placed in the living room. The joy of the remote control came several years later, till then, I was the designated channel changer. By default, the entire family watched the same program. The majority always won, and at times, parental dictatorship raised its ugly head. Dr. Prannoy Roy would grace our television sets on Friday nights and we would be mesmerized by his journalistic excellence.
Everything was simple.
I am not complaining about what we have today (I hope I didn’t sound like that). Our children are blessed to have what they do…but is there some way to keep their lives simple? Can we do our best to ensure that the memories they create are less materialistic?
I believe, one way to do that would be by not allowing the things that were meant for our convenience to take over our lives completely.
An edited version of this article was published on mycity4kids.com and also won top parenting article of the month.