I couldn’t recall right away any anecdote or childhood incident that fit the bill. It is easier to think of episodes in life that made you ‘feel good’, but are they necessarily the ones that give you the feel that they are real,100 percent ? The real-feel episode I share in this post wasn’t a feel-good one while I went through the phase. But as I look back on it, I feel it was as real as they come.
If it wasn’t for IndiBlogger e-mail, I wouldn’t have strayed so far down the memory lane, some 65 years back, to dredge up a childhood that I spent with thatha (grandpa). This was in mid-1940s when I was less than 10 years old, living away from parents, with my grand-parents. When my parents moved to New Delhi – father being in a govt. job – they left me behind under the charge of grand parents in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu.
The primary school I went to, in Telugu Brahmin St., was across the road from my grandparents’ place. Periappa – father’s elder brother – was the school head-master. Which wasn’t such a good arrangement. My uncle, a stern disciplinarian, was a terror in the school. What was worse, besides being the school head, he took Class IV. And, as his nephew, I wasn’t shown any favour, though they counted me among his favorites, off school. He made me stand up on the bench (a standard punishment) even for minor lapses such as talking to someone across bench, trading match-box labels or cigarette-pack fronts with classmates during school-hours.
At home grandpa, a retired cop, ran our household of three – that is, grandma and me – a bit like a police training establishment. I had a time-table for meals, play, study, and sleep. The only grace-time (when I could do whatever I felt like) was when grandpa had his afternoon snooze. But then I was away in school, on week days, returning home at 4.30 p m. By which time grandpa would be up and about.
Grandmother, subject to her time-table, occasionally flouted it. She would simply disappear next door – like they do for water-cooler breaks in offices – for a mid-day gossip with neighbour; or she would linger longer than warranted, at our door front chatting thayirkari (lady selling buttermilk door to door).
Grandma got away with it, but I wouldn’t dare flout the routine, set for study and play. Regulation play-time started at 5 p m, when I escorted thatha to the neighbourhood Gandhi park. He took a designated park bench for listening the evening radio programme relayed all over the park through a public address system. I wasn’t obliged to listen to radio, though. Grandpa would let me try the swings, slides and things in the play area. An hour and quarter later, 6.30 pm, we headed home.
Study time, under thatha’s watchful guidance, started at 7 p m. An hour later, he retired for 15 mins. to the kitchen for evening meals. On his return, 8.15 p m, ,thatha made his own bed on a cement slab embedded in a corner of his room. What followed was 15 minutes of question time, when thatha would ask me something, anything, from class lessons, lying in bed. At 8.30 p m, as if on cue, patti (grandma) showed up at thatha’s door to summon me for meals. That was the signal to which I looked forward the whole evening; the signal that my day was done.
Such small delights made my day. Grandma, as most of the clan are, was considerate. She would even let me sit in at after-dinner gossip session grandma held with neighbours at the door-front thinnai ( a cement platform to seat a gossip group).
I hate to admit this, my feelings were mixed – sad, if somewhat relieved – when thatha passed away . At the age of 11 I rejoined my parents in New Delhi