Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I want to experience again...

Nostalgia
I wish…………..
I wish that I could satisfy my cravings for what I had  long ago; I can no longer access  these things but the urge to have them is so strong that  I  ache! I am writing this list of things I want as a sort of venting therapy. Also, maybe someone will read this list and give me what I desire and save me from this intense hunger!

Swing: I want a swing, tied to a tree in the garden. I want 365 days of summer( I am in Canada now so that is impossible. 90 days of summer it is). I want to swing…… swing…… not just back and forth , high in the air . It would be fantastic  if I could swing 360 degrees …without any mishap!

I would once again like to be in quiet fields of paddy and ragi where I can read a book in peace and daydream without interruptions. Take long walks in others’ fields, looking for weaver bird nests, hanging in thorny trees and  wells. This time, I will not pluck the nests but simply photograph them. Currently I do   experience something close to this. During the 5-6 months of warm weather, every morning and evening, I take my tea and a book to the backyard and walk my cat (on a leash). Here I get to  listen to the cardinals, finches and starlings along with the steady sound of traffic on the DVP. It is a pleasant experience and I get to spend some time with myself and some nice bonus I get at times are butterflies fluttering & squirrels running and chasing each other up and down trees. If I am in the backyard, late at night, I see a family of racoons, slowly getting down the trees and walking around. 
 I would like to climb down the steps of the only well I have ever seen with steps leading  right up to the water. I had never met anyone at this well and loved it’s isolation. It would be great if I could once again sit in this well and day-dream, think, relax, read, whatever.. And you know, what would be nicer? If I could again see a cobra, swimming gracefully in the well, like I did once. I can still picture that peaceful calm….I was sitting on the steps, which lead into this deep well. There were no farmers or women of the village nearby but I could hear voices in the distance. The birds were silent in the hot noon. I could hear the muted sounds of the motor pumpsets in the distance. It was  humid  but shady inside  the well. A tree which grew nearby cast it’s shade on the well. The water was black and shiny; brown leaves from the tree floated on the water. The cobra was swimming by the edges of the well, unaware of me. The water rippled gently and sent shiny sparkles into my eyes. The shiny sparkles were from the sun, reflected in the water. The spot, where the sun was reflected, was so shiny, I could not look at it.(people did not have sun glasses in those days) It was so peaceful, sitting there, watching the snake swimming, a light breeze rustling the leaves in the nearby tree. I was thrilled to watch the snake as I watched it for so long! Snakes are shy and usually speed away when they see us;  one can hardly see a snake for more than a few seconds in the wild. It was a pleasure to see this one, swimming so gracefully and slowly, round and round, the well. The curved and slow movements of the snake in the black shiny waters of the well was a relaxing sight and I could have sat there for ages.
Other great experiences I would like a repeat of would be, finding the first ripe guava of the season in the guava tree growing at home. That thrill is great! This particular guava was hidden under leaves and though we had spotted other guavas, this one had escaped out eagle eyes, until it was a mild lemon yellow. It was half raw and half ripe, exactly right for eating with salt and chilli powder , when I found it.
The smells I had enjoyed in India are rare in Canada, where I live now. I would love to once again breathe in the smell of rain on dry mud, when the rain drops first hit the earth. For some reason, the mud never smells in Toronto, when it rains. I cant tell you how much I miss that smell! I also love the smell of ripe mangoes  I get his in grocery stores selling mangoes imported from India. But I want to smell, it
in a mango grove or
a shop selling only mangoes or
 at home…the raw mangoes were brought from the village and spread under our cot on paddy straw for ripening in our bedroom  in Bangalore. When we woke up, we would hop off the bed and peer under the cot, to find, the mango which had ripened and could be eaten, that day. That was another great thrill, every morning, until the mangoes were over.
I miss the fragrance of flowers too but flowers and their fragrance was something I did not get excited about when in India;  I took the fragrances for granted until I no longer had them in Canada. There are lovely flowers in Canada, but no Malliges, Kenda Sampiges and Kanakambras! Here we see tulips, orchids, lilies, roses but not many Indian flowers.
Talking of fragrances, there are several fragrances of India that I miss in Toronto. The aroma of samrani is one I really really miss! The various incense sticks in temples, especially the expensive ones, the smell of incense sticks in temples &  shops in Avenue road and city market, the smell of camphor in temples are really a pleasant experience. I love the 'over-all mix' of smell one gets in temples...it is a mix of the flowers, the tenderwater of coconut, the burning incense sticks, the vibhuti,, the variety of  flowers and other things such as vermilion and turmeric. I cant describe the smell, but one can recognize it when stepping into any south Indian temple.
Hmm. What are the other great smells of India that I miss? The smell of foods from sweet shops. However, I don't like the smells coming from hotels though I do love the foods. I love the smell of petrol in petrol bunks but apparently that is an addiction and not good!
Discovering treasures unexpectedly is another experience, I would like to have . A treasure, dear reader is not gold or gems. Treasure can be anything, you like and love. I had so many joys of discovering, in childhood. I can still recall the thrill and excitement I had when I found things unexpectedly. I would give anything to have the same joyful experiences again. I remember, finding a small chocolate box in my dad’s Godrej almirah. I opened it to find foreign stamps! I was about 8 years old then, I had hardly ever seen foreign stamps and I was so excited to see this treasure, I pissed in my pants!
I know of several villagers who have found treasure such as silver coins or gold jewels in walls, under the floor or  while ploughing their fields; unfortunately, I have never ever had that  particular joy. But I have had pleasure of getting  old coins and foreign coins as change in shops. To receive these  coins gave me such a fantastic thrill, especially when I was got a silver coin! I got quite a number of such coins and I loved collecting them. ( the gold colour 20 paise coins, the heavy ten and five paise coins, the copper one paise coins, the rare one pice with a hole in it like a donut and so on).
There is one pleasure, which is no longer as thrilling for me now, as it was in childhood. Seeing movies was one of the biggest excitements of my childhood. One had to study well, get ‘good marks’ and then plead with a parent to be taken to a movie. The parent, would, after a lot of begging, take one to a movie in a nearby theatre(Navrang). The excitement about the movie would start from the moment the parent agreed to take me to the movie. I would finish my homework quickly, try to concentrate on what I was studying but simply could not due to the excitement of the movie! We would walk to the theater, wait in line, praying that the tickets do not get sold out, get in line again, after buying the tickets, wait for the ads to end, especially the boring black and white government documentary to end. One can only experience this excitement! It is not possible to make you understand the thrill by describing it, however exhaustively.
Today’s children, do not have this same sense of excitement about a movie, I had as a child. They have a surfeit of movies…on television, on the computer, in dvds, in the theatre. While access to movies and excess of movies have their own advantages, they rob the child of the wonderful sense of anticipation and excitement. Greater the deprivation, greater the joy and excitement. Deprivation has it’s merits too!
Comparing deprivation and access, I realize that I had a lot more excitement in India while it is a bit boring in Canada. In India, each time I found something I wanted,  I would be full of joy, excitement and gratitude. For example, I would be so full of joy when I finally found a dress material I really liked…. after hunting in shops  in Jayanagar, Residency road and Commercial street for 3 days. Thrill at finding a set of curtains for the living room, which match the walls after looking for months.
 In Canada, it is so easy to find exactly what you want, that one does not go through the search, hunt, bargaining, etc like in India. It is more convenient, but also less thrilling. Sometimes I wonder if the people in the west appear to be bored because, their life is so easy. In India, nearly everything is a struggle, that one has no time to experience boredom or existential angst! When you are always running (for the bus for example), waiting in lines(in India, some people have to line up to go to the toilet every morning!), trying to buy a cinema ticket before it is sold out, trying to get at least one foot on the last step of the crowded bus, trying to make money last till the end of the month, trying to make your lazy son take his studies seriously, where is the time or energy left in you to feel  angst? Life is difficult in India ; hence, when one gets even  a simple thing, the thrill is great!
In Canada, at least for me, I get what I want so easily, that there is not much excitement when I get it. If what I want is not in shops, I can always find it online. If I want to do something, sewing for example,  there are several classes to learn it, several groups who do it and ‘the hunt’, which one has to do in India to get anything, is not needed here.
I remember how thrilled I was when a flower fell from the Shani mahatma idol, as I was watching and praying in the temple. I cannot imagine, affluent people, experiencing such happiness, at the random occurrence of a flower falling! Maybe, it took, but little to thrill me in those days.
I have spoken at length in another article, about the thrill of discovering, a book I badly wanted, in some second hand book shop.
Back from the digression, another teen experience I would love to have now is re-reading a few favorite books, mags and comics. I can and do get the books I want by searching for them in stores and online. But I am simply not able to get the magazines I read as a child and teen.  I would love to get my hands on  all and old copies of The reader’s digest, The illustrated weekly of India, Debonair, Femina and Women’s weekly. I crave for the illustrated weekly as I want to read the short stories, comic sections and some of the articles. I would love to see the old ads, even if only to laugh at them! I do know that Khushwant Singh has selected a few short stories from The illustrated weekly of India and published them in a book, but I would like to read all of those lovely lovely stories. I also know of a new publisher (Blaft publications) who is publishing exactly the type of books I want! Blaft is translating stories written in Indian languages into English and putting them together in books. (example, Blaft anthology of Tamil fiction). I hope they or someone else does the same for the Kannada short stories which appeared in Prajamata, Tushara, Kasturi, Sudha, etc. All these magazines should be saved and stored in some electronic format, for the future generations to know how we lived in the 60s and 70s and so on. These magazines reflect our lives, in that period of time. And it would be great for nostalgia buffs like me to browse on rainy days!
The entire series of the children’s magazine Chandamama is online, starting from the very first issue. I know that the National Geographic has converted their entire set of magazines into electronic format. I wish that my favorite magazines i.e.  The illustrated weekly and the reader’s digest did the same. I loved the illustrations on the covers of the old reader’s digest in India, especially the 60s and 70s. I loved the style of writing of those days in the digest and also their cartoons. I did not enjoy the digest, so much from the 80s. Their book section stories were so moving, that I would sit and cry, when I read them.
Playing kho kho, tag, hide & seek was another set of wonderful experiences I had as a child and would love to have again. I feel sorry for the kids these days, who do not play, due to lack of space or parents restraining them, especially girls in cities.
Experiences which I loved in childhood but I do not want to have now would of course include, reading books for children (Enid Blyton, Nancy drew, hardy Boys, etc), watching the movies I saw as a child and teen( I saw Kannada movies those days and I definitely do not want to see Kannada movies now!) and going to the fairs (it is too crowded now to be of any pleasure).

I do have my fair share of exciting experiences today such as travel, books, television, people, my job, hobbies and so on.  But I would love to have the exact same experiences I had as a child/teen, and feel the same thrill, I did then.

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