Over lunch, my colleague in office announced that her kids will be home for the vacation. She told me of the list of activities that she has planned. Though interesting what I found missing was the naturalness in the activities. I see children of today being elated about visiting a mall, an artificially managed environment or maybe playing games on an XBOX and I cannot help but think how much they miss out on life! Everything is so artificial.
Back when I was in school in Assam the winter holidays were my favourite. However, our parents never had to plan any activity for us.
Mornings came with the soft winter sun filtering through the room. I grew up in a Tea Estate and so throughout my childhood the strong fresh smell of tea leaves that wafted through the estate mornings remains an unforgotten memory. The incessant chirping of the birds perfected the beautiful morning.
Mostly, my cousins came over to stay with us for part of the vacation. We woke with the sun, unable to contain the excitement of the beginning of a winter holiday! We often went out in the fresh morning on our cycles, while the dew drops still shimmered on the lawn. The morning workers coming to work with their baskets balanced in their heads was quite a beautiful sight. It brought alive the essence of being in a tea estate. A cycle ride through the woods and the green alleyways chasing dragon flies and butterflies kept our mornings busy. We often carried fishing rods with us on these rides and fished in the estate ponds. Kids as we were, our victory of a good catch was an assisted one by a kind house help, who always gave us the credit of accomplishing the feat.
We reached home just before lunch time. The three of us flushed, sweaty and each carrying a catch! A common ritual at this time was to gather in the veranda of the bungalow; the whole family together and relish ripe oranges in the winter sun. The discussion while we ate the juicy citruses ranged from what fish we caught to what we plan to play the rest of the afternoon. My parents and siblings were so involved with us always that I believed that they too spent their whole day playing something! The orange eating time was wrapped up with the three of us trying to sting the other’s eye with the juice of an orange peel.
Shower time followed the midday orange eating ritual. But, before we showered we helped bathe our pet dogs in the lawn. They thoroughly enjoyed the soft sun and the splashing water. When I look back at that memory all I see is three little kids giggling and soiled. The dogs ran in playful ecstasy splashing droplets of water that sparkled in the sunshine.
An elaborate meal later we would step outdoors again. We usually met over at a friend’s place, a short cycle ride away, who had a table tennis board at home. We spent the afternoon playing the game. If it was not tennis then maybe another outdoor game. Staying indoors was never an option! Even on rainy days we went out wearing raincoats and played with paper boats in the puddle!
The evenings were exciting because this was the time when we walked our dogs. Running with them, checking what they sniff and eat while they are out was quite an adventure for our little minds. We loved our dogs immensely and often reached home racing them!
The time before dinner was often spent near the fireplace. Winters and fireplace is one thing that is most dear to me. If it’s a bonfire we would make sure that we cook something in it. Sweet potatoes, banana roast, or even stuffed fish. Making raw food edible was one magical feat for us. We would often compare whose roasted potato or banana tasted best; unaware of the fact that one of the elder had been making sure all the sides are roasted well.
This is just one day in my childhood winter vacation. Every day was different. Someday we discovered new flowers, someday we flew a kite or played badminton, and someday we learnt a new craft! Watching TV was only a Sunday special! When I look back at the childhood I spent I feel privileged that I got to spend it in the lap of nature. As I headed out of the office that day thinking of the activities planned out for the kids I could not help but want to infuse a dash of naturalness in their activities.