Early this morning I was woken up by what I call ‘summer sounds’ the call of the Koel who drives you mad with her ever rising cadences as she calls out to her mate. I also hear the crows cawing raucously and the sweet chirping of the sparrows. With the air distinctly cool in the morning, somehow these sounds which tend to get lost in the noise of the modern world are crystal clear and remind me of those summer holidays in the distant past.
Summer holidays meant two whole months off from school – days of endless leisure and pleasure that lay ahead of us. The long holiday meant that my parents had to think of ways to keep us out of trouble because they sincerely believed that an idle mind was the devil’s workshop. Almost most of our holidays had a trip planned – a trip for which we as children also had to plan.
In those days when there was no Internet, we had to find out information about the places we were going to visit either by asking those who had been there all about it, or get information from the library. We were also encouraged to record those holidays in diaries and scrap books, a practice that encouraged us to write and a skill that came particularly handy when we went back to school and had to write an essay on “My Summer Holidays”. My brother and I had to note down the geographical, historical and even anecdotal information about the places we had to visit. I was gifted a camera for my eighth birthday and since then I was entrusted with the task of taking photographs of the places we holidayed in. But film was expensive and I had to be judicious with the photos – I couldn’t take random shots of random things unless it had some artistic or aesthetic sensibilities.
Another way of keeping the devil away was to encourage a new skill. Every holiday my parents would assign us a task : one holiday we were presented with a book “Teach Yourself Typing” and were made to sit for an hour in front of my father’s Remington Typewriter. Oh! How grown up we felt to finally touch that hallowed piece of equipment! Within a month my brother and I were typing like professionals, with all ten fingers, looking away from the key board and expertly sending the carriage back with an accomplished flourish.
But I am going ahead in the timeline. Initially our projects were learning how to cycle, learning how to polish brass, learning how to do cross stitch and actually making table mats or hand towels. One summer holiday I spent in learning how to press flowers and making a scrap book describing each flower with its botanical name etc. Another holiday was spent doing water colours while yet another was spent learning photography. Of course there were many projects that remained incomplete and my mother still has half finished towels or pieces of fretwork that were meant to be a book end…..
Essentially, our holidays were well utilised – not with classes as children do now, but with activities that we had to engage in ourselves and with guidance from our parents. Over the years we learnt swimming, cycling, badminton and a game which I regretfully never ever played – tennis. We spent hours reading books which we kept meticulously numbered so that we could keep track of whom we had lent the books to.
Our holidays were not always work though and we spent many hours just hanging out with our friends at the club, sipping on the one Coke a day that we were generously allowed as a holiday treat, eating heaps of mangoes, cycling around the colony, swimming at the pool or at each other’s homes. While we had a broad framework to adhere to, our days were pretty much unstructured and we were free to roam around on our own.
How simple that life seems now in comparison when children are sent off to summer camps or holiday classes, ferried from one activity to the next either by flustered mummies, ayahs or drivers. I hardly ever see young children playing in the park or garden just whiling away time. But then life has evolved in a different way requiring different skill sets and I am sure children today are learning skills that will hold them in good stead!
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood.