Satbir Chadha (Children's World)

Satbir Chadha

Childhood Pondering

I am at the age now which is called the second childhood, pondering all the stages I’ve lived, as a child, as a teenager, as a grown up and as a parent. As a child I remember myself and all the children with me enjoying the green environs of my hometown, the games we played and the dreams we dreamt, the ‘kutcha-pucca’ castles we built, the mischief and the punishments, but always the yearning was to be outdoors. We all shunned the walls and doors, and looked for escape, unmindful of the weather. We knew of ways to enjoy all weathers with the specific features they offered, like floating paper boats in rainwater pools, and flying kites in the sultry pre-monsoon. Some changes in nature that happened in different seasons made us curious, like the rows of ants rushing in single file, specially after one friend’s grandmother told us that they were going home because it was going to rain, and that was for us a great wonder that the tiny ants knew what big men didn’t.

The focus throughout childhood though, was on food, nothing was acceptable to me if my tummy rumbled, neither the best toys, nor the best friends. Mangoes hanging from tall trees were the most fascinating sight, and still is, climbing up to the terrace of the neighbours’ house to pluck and suck at juicy tangy tamarinds, jumping up for home grown peaches at the bare hint of pink on them, these were our favorite pastimes.

It is the earliest learning of a baby, to look for a teat and start sucking, it is born with the knowledge that it needs food. Then as we grow, we try to collect and hoard more food than we need, particularly what we like, for a natural instinct teaches the child that it is going to need food again. Even before he or she learns to speak, the child learns to discern between palatable and unpalatable foods, picks up the aroma and feel of the different foods, involuntarily turning towards them. As they grow, they just know from sniffing that milk has been boiled and ‘çhapattis’ have been baked, if you look closely, you will recognize the satisfaction their little faces show, their natural inborn reactions. No colourful rattles and no theatrical antics by you will amuse the child who is hungry, show him a cookie and he will grab it, though nobody taught him about it.

I would love to tag along to the milkman’s shelter with my Granny when she went to buy milk, for I loved the frothy spray of rich milk streaming into the pail, I would sit enthralled till the bucket was full, and pranced all the way home, though by then I had outgrown the taste of milk. Though I enjoyed the festival of Holi immensely, even the coloured water sprays we played with did not excite me as much as the milching. Milk meant food, all the mouthwatering desserts, custard, ‘kheer’, ice cream and ‘mishti dohi’.

Even today my grandchildren cling to me more than anyone else, they love what I cook for them. They are not as tantalized by fancy clothes or mechanical puppies as they are in my modest kitchen. My youngest granddaughter often comes down saying, “Dadimaa please let’s bake a cake,” or “ Dadima I want to eat mashed potatoes” or it could be a cheese pizza or pasta with white sauce, or plain Roti with butter, which are her favorites these days, previously she would love ‘parathas’ and French toasts. Food is the biggest connect between my grandchildren and me, each having their special choices, so while one would love ‘Methi ki sabji’ with unbuttered Roti, another one loves the sugar stuffed sweet ‘parathas’.

When I went to the Chittaranjan Park fish market, my two little granddaughters would come along, what fascinated them in the beginning was the large baskets of crawling crabs, and then the different types of fish. They learnt to identify the different fish and developed a taste for each. One visit they both badgered me to buy pomfrets, they wanted me to fry them whole and they both wanted two each, while another time they chose a large ‘Sole’ fish for they wanted to slurp on the soupy gravy with toast. They are both professionals now, but they insist that their best memories of childhood are of the lovely foods fed to them by Dadimaa.

Delectable and enticing food has more power over children than anything else. Everyone knows how kids are overjoyed at the sight of chocolates and chips, ice creams and lollies, but an episode with my cousin is the most eloquent, his little daughter had got a deep cut which needed stitches, and the doctor asked him to make sure the child sat still, an impossible task. But my cousin went and got a box full of Cadbury chocolates, which the child ate one by one and was adequately distracted from the Doctor’s needle, such power they had.

Children also have an inbuilt thermometer for discerning different emotions, and most of all they intuitively know honesty from dishonesty, who actually loves them and who pretends to love them. They may not react, for, very early in infancy they have learn to fear adults, yes fear is the first emotion they pick up from voices, expressions, even imperceptible vibrations which only they can perceive. Sadly man has become the most feared species, in the domain of earth, water and air, causing the most damage.

All said and done, childhood is the best period of one’s life, and I’m sure somewhere sometimes or at all times, we all feel a craving to be kids once more, when the world seemed to revolve around us, when everybody loved us, and when we could love everyone, the serpents of hatred, jealousy and avarice was unknown to us.

 

Bio Note: Satbir Chadha

Satbir Chadha is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “For God Loves Foolish People”, for which she was awarded the Reuel International prize. Her second novel is “Betrayed, tale of a rogue surgeon”, a medical thriller. She has been published in over twenty national and international anthologies, containing poetry and short stories. She has three solo poetry collections to her credit, “Breeze”, “Glass Doors”, and the recent “The Last Lamp”. She was awarded the Litpreneur Award by Authorspress for her contribution to literature. 

She is also the founder of the NISSIM International Prize for Literature, awarded every year to upcoming writers of English prose and poetry.


3 comments :

  1. Lovely narrative. Enjoyed reading about the second childhood.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely reminiscences stirring nostalgia

    ReplyDelete

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