A Nostalgic Number

“Yeh daulat bhi le lo yeh shoharat bhi le lo” crooned Jagjit Singh, his voice filtering out of the music system. As he continued singing, the lyrics automatically started to send me wandering down memory lane.

Memories of Childhood, Nostalgic Number

Now come to think of it, I wonder if he ever realized the number of pathways he created every single time he sang that number – pathways that I’m sure have made people turn around and take a walk through memories erstwhile, through the fog of life, foraying into people’s imagination and memories, bringing back reminiscences which, in one way or the other, embodied the spirit of childhood as it was, for our generation.

ye daulat bhii le lo, ye shoharat bhii le lo
bhale chhiin lo mujhse merii javaanii
magar mujhako lautaa do bachapan kaa saavan
vo kaagaz kii kashtii, vo baarish kaa paanii

It took me back in time to the heavy monsoon seasons in Bombay when the roads seemingly dissolved into huge puddles, large tubs of slush and streaming rivulets – in short, a dream playground for us kids. I still remember the desperate urgency with which we used to turn little pieces of paper into paper boats. I still remember the anticipation, the sheer thrill of watching my little paper boats float and bob up and down as they navigated their way through those little streams and rivulets that the monsoon had brought along with it. Imaginary stories about imaginary lands used to be built around those little paper boats. Is the boat carrying a princess and her family? Is the boat going to carry a whole load of school kids on a picnic? Is the boat one that belongs to a fire breathing dragon? Those little paper boats used to draw us into its magical world where we could spin our own colours and write our own stories.

Floating a paper boat on those little monsoon streams was asking to life itself. It was one of life’s lessons, if you may. Sometimes, your boat would reach its destination. Yet other times, there would be a flash of lightning, a huge rumble of clouds and the threatening roar of thunder and the downpour would intensify in an instant – soaking through the paper boat and trying to sink it. There would be desperate attempts to save our little boats and sometimes we rejoiced in the fact that we could and yet other times we sulked over the fact that we could not. So much like life itself, is it not? We all set out like paper boats – initially just drawn in and taken over and around by the currents and the under currents and then there comes a phase in life when we discover our footing and decide to give our life a course. Some aspirations come true, some don’t. Yet, we live through them all. We still continue to make our little paper boats to float during the monsoon of our choice.

muhalle kii sabase nishaanii puraanii
vo budhiyaa jise bachche kahate the naanii
vo naanii kii baaton mein pariyon kaa deraa
vo chahare kii jhuriryon mein sadiyon kaa pheraa
bhulaae nahiin bhuul sakataa hai koi
vo chhotii sii raaten vo lambii kahaanii

kadii dhuup mein apane ghar se nikalanaa
vo chidiyaa vo bulabul vo titalii pakadanaa
vo gudiyaa kii shaadii mein ladanaa jhagadanaa
vo jhuulon se giranaa vo gir ke sambhalanaa
vo piital ke chhallon ke pyaare se tohafe
vo tuutii hui chuudiyon kii nishaanii

kabhii ret ke unche tiilon pe jaanaa
gharaunde banaanaa banaake mitaanaa
vo maasuum chahat kii tasviir apnii
vo kvaabon khilaunon kii jaagiir apnii
na duniyaa kaa gam thaa na rishton ke bandhan
badii khuubasuurat thii vo zindagaanii


Which one of us does not, every once in a while, take a walk down the path that leads to a longing sense of nostalgia, one where long summer vacations had stretched idly along for a long month and a half? Friends gathering after a heavy afternoon lunch those days, was quite the norm. Those little card games which used to get rather boisterous as they progressed, those games of hide and seek under the warm gaze of the afternoon sun which left us looking tanned and browned.

There used to be times when one of the other houses in the building was undergoing repairs and if that was the case, our day was made. It was a bonus beyond description. All that sand, all that cement, all those stacks of bricks lying around – what better toys could one ask for. We would gather around and “make” our own house. Make believe, it was but yet again the pure pleasure of imagination and the sheer thrill of getting carried away and caught up as one of the characters in a fictional story – one which was our own creation – was exhilarating.

I remember those days when, after a long afternoon of playing with the sand and bricks, we would all trudge back home for milk and snacks, looking all dusty, grubby and sooty. We used to be grimy from head to toe, yet we used to walk back home with a feeling of supreme satisfaction.

I remember the times when we used to vacation in Kerala during the long summer breaks from school. Households in Kerala where two, three families live together leads to this huge beehive like situation – there are the elderly bees who take care of the younger bees. At that point of time in my life, I was part of the younger bee brood. In the afternoon, whenever we used to proclaim that we were hungry, one of the other grandmothers in the household (there seemed to be plenty of them around then) would have us sit in a circle. They would then mash up rice along with yoghurt and salt in a huge vessel. By then, we would have washed our grubby hands and would be sitting in a semi-circle of sorts, with our arms outstretched, palms open and waiting –  waiting for those little balls of yoghurt rice to be placed on our hands, that small ball of yoghurt rice with a little piece of pickle on top, those little balls of yoghurt rice which tasted absolutely divine right then. In the course of this “afternoon snack” we would be entertained with stories – some mythological, some imaginary and we would be transported to another world altogether.

Michael Chabon once said :
I found one remaining box of comics which I had saved. When I opened it up and that smell came pouring out, that old paper smell, I was struck by a rush of memories, a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there.

That is precisely what this song did, to me.  The song sums it up beautifully when the lyrics go “na duniyaa ka gham than na rishton ke bandhan, badi khubsoorat thi voh zindagaani, badi khubsoorat thi voh zindagaani”.

Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full-time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten-year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. http://tiny-tidbits.blogspot.hk/ is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity

  • Gauri

    Yes, we must do our best to create memories for our children but in the world of today, with the electronic media and devices having taken over a major portion of their lives, they are fast losing out on the simple pleasures of life.