Once upon a time, I used to long for weekends as it was an occasion to catch up with my friends, visit the houses of relatives, pluck mangoes and taste tamarinds. But years after growing up, getting married and mothering a kid, I have started fearing the weekends!
The fear is all about finding new ways to engage my six-year-old son for the upcoming 48 hours. Finding a hundred ways may not help as he suffers from a dreadful disease called boredom, a malady of the Gen Nxt kids in common.
His boredom frequently makes reminisce my childhood - those good old days, where my vocabulary was not rich enough to coin such a word and my thoughts, which had no time to be idle to ‘feel’ the boredom.
Journeying back, I saw in front of me those evenings and weekends my sisters and I were eagerly waiting for. We sat with our friends on the countryside, munching on the “natural evening snacks” like a mango or guava. It was really fun when the only things to gossip about were the tantrums of the teachers and silly fights among the friends. But, we had long hours of talks until our mothers called us back to take bath and finish our home works. Children were found engaged in games everywhere, on the courtyards, roads and the open fields.
The boys were so fond of street cricket, football, ‘kabadi’ ‘kuttiyum kolum’whereas we girls will form oursleves into groups, playing ‘thongichattam’ ‘kothamkallu’etc. Nothing but playing mattered the most. One may miss his or her breakfast, lunch, dinner or all the three but not the evening get togethers with friends.
Summer holidays means a trip to the peak of happiness. We could not wait for the final exams to get over to indulge in the fun and masti ahead. Our houses were our summer camps. Our cousins and the children from the neighborhood were our camp mates. We laid hands on anything and everything. We turned artistic, adventurous and funny. The natural clay fascinated us the most and took pride in displaying our architectural skills using it. Barbies and sophisticated electronic toys were unheard in our times. We never had facebook or virtual games but stories of Dinkan, Maayavi, Kapish and Nambolan. Our group discussions, which went on for hours, were all about the plight of the mayavi caught in Dakini’s bottle. Local versions of ‘anthakshari’ kept us busy through nights, until we slipped into deep slumber.
Paradoxically, summer vacation was a night mare for our parents. While we had a hell of a time by hopping from one house to the other, they waited for us to leave the place to heave a sigh of relief.
Summers meant mangoes and jack fruits. Tamarinds, gooseberries and guavas were an added pleasure. Pelting stones and plucking mangoes stealthily from the neighborhood was the greatest of the adventures. The unripened mangoes mixed with a pinch of salt and chilly powder mostly occupied our stomachs. We afforded to eat anything and everything that came handy on trees. Mothers never chased us with food nor they wasted their time calculating the calories and proteins, which we take each day. My parents were lucky enough as they never had to break their heads over my projects in school. Nor did they have the botheration of googling, xeroxing and downloading information for us.
Some of our friends became heroes/heroines during holidays, when they ventured out of our small village. With an air of admiration and at times enviously, we listened to their stories. Their travel experience, the new places and the people they talked about filled our imagination and it opened the doors to an outer world. I remember me longing to see many places away from my countryside.
Sitting here in a big happening city after travelling through bustling metros, a sense of loneliness and solitude grips me. I look back at my village with smile where everyone knows each other in contrast to my present set up where we hardly know the names of people staying at a stone’s throw away.
I see my son never bothered about the people next door. He is always busy with the lifeless electronic gadgets. He admires ‘Chota bheem’, ‘Spiderman’, ‘Ben 10’, ‘Power Rangers’ ‘Dragon Booster’ and many others, whose names I have difficulty to remember. When he meets his friends, he goes gaga over the newest application available for download and their choice of tablets or iPhones. He is selective on anything and everything he uses and has a say on the gadgets and electronic equipment bought home. During my days, tablet just meant the medicine for fever!
He loves travelling, but our beaches and hill stations have ceased to fascinate him. He is fantasizing China, London and America. His weekends end up at play stations and adventurous electronic games, including car and bike racing, go karting and golf apart from skating and horse riding. Mangoes with chilli powder may burn his stomach but not the spicy pizzas and burgers at Pizza Huts, Mc Donalds and KFCs.
My worries for him just don’t end here. He is growing up without an identity of his own! He has a mother tongue to tell but do not know how to speak it with a pure slang. He replaces Malayalam words with Tamil and English as he finds them easier.
For him, visiting his grandparents is not much fun. The playgrounds, mountains, rivers and the meadows, which were once our havens, are not even catching his eyeballs even for a moment. A peacock feather found inside one of my old books once invoked curiosity in him. I nostalgically narrated how I treasured it and kept it away from the sunlight so that it could bear babies. Not going for further questions, he looked sympathetically at me and said, “I never knew that my mom was such an idiot.”
I smiled at him, may be at his ignorance and detachment to the world, and said to myself, “Yes, I am an idiot; an idiot who is still curious about the peacock feather kept inside the book and loves to sit with friends on a countryside munching on a mango. And my dear son, I wish I could remain the same for the rest of my life.”