My memories of childhood are just like the old and dusty stacks of documents in the last rack of the occasionally visited document room of a revenue office. Yes, I know. I am exaggerating. But whenever I wack my brain for a glimpse of those days, I imagine my brain as Verma Ji, the revenue collector with his reading glasses, staring at me like I’ve grown two heads. And then he gets up from his creaking chair, sadly glancing at the Chai Gopal just brought a while back, and walks towards the spider den, sighing.
I am talking particularly about my preschool age. My memories of those days consist of faceless lanky characters (Mostly my cousins) and blurred out backgrounds. I am not sure if they are actually my memories or a figment of my imagination, catalyzed by stories my elders said when I grew up. But the moment felt real.
Before my family moved out into the town, we all lived with my grandma. It was a joint family consisting of my grandmother, her 3 sons, their spouses, and kids. It was a beautiful Mangalorean tiled house, amongst the luscious greens of Kopatti, a village in Kodagu.
My life back then did not consist of smartphones, plasma screens, junk food, K-dramas, or BTS. I was just a naïve girl praying every day that my hideously short hair would grow longer someday, miraculously. I would wake up early every day and go fetch passion fruits before my eldest aunt would after she’s done milking the cows. I would run to my youngest aunt whenever she brought jackfruit home from the estate and promise to not tell my mother that I had loads of it, even though I was forbidden to. My mother would eventually get to know from the yellow stains on my t-shirt or I would babble it out. On rare occasions, I would have diarrhea or vomiting fits because of indigestion.
During the monsoons, I would drag my sister, with my persistence not swaying even an inch irrespective of the heavy rains, to collect mushrooms. We would clutch the huge umbrellas, 10 times our size, on one hand, battling the gusty winds while our other hand carefully held the fragile mushrooms. We would run to our grandma, churning buttermilk in her bamboo churner besides the mitti ka Chula or ಒಲೆ.
She would wash the mushrooms and add some salt and carefully place them in the Chula so that they wouldn’t burn. The mushrooms when cooked were equal to the lays chips’ content after the packet is ripped open. But the satisfaction was overwhelming. We weren’t allowed to go fishing during the monsoons to the rivers. The elders went at night and returned in the morning with buckets of small fishes. That was the time when pesticides weren’t used and the fishes climbed the paddy fields during heavy rains.
We kids never gave up. The paddy fields were irrigated with the help of small networks of tunnels connecting to the main river. We carried a bamboo Gori to catch fishes in it. If we were lucky, we would catch 5-6 of them and run to grandma who would cook it for us.
The after harvest season was our favorite part. The paddy fields were harvested and thrashed. After the grains were separated, the paddy straws were let to dry for a couple of days before stacking them as fodder for the cattle. This time was heaven. A swimming pool of soft golden hay for us to dive in. The fun part was that we even had a diving board. All day long we would dive in and swim through the golden goodness.
And then came the harsh reality. The hay blades always left unnoticed scratches all throughout the body which were not unnoticeable anymore when showering with hot water. The burn is real people. But that never stopped us from diving the following day.
This was a glimpse of the life I’ve lived in a village away from the harsh pixel world. I am going to write many more in the Paper boat series. Do tell me what you think peeps!