In old age, one’s recent memory declines but early memory remains intact. Memories of childhood surface to the conscious mind and make one’s sunset years cheerful. Nostalgia cures loneliness which is a curse of advanced age.
A healthy mind forgets unpleasant experiences but stores happy moments for subsequent pleasure. I shut my senses to the harsh reality surrounding me but recall the sounds, smells and scenes of childhood which gave me joy then and make me happy now.
Born and brought up in a village 82 years ago, I had an exciting and blissful childhood. My parents would wake up at cockcrow. My mother would churn curd to make butter and father milked the buffaloes.
He would wake me up and tell me to take the bowl of curd to him in which he would pour the milk directly from the teats. The splashing sound was music to my ears and the aroma of milk and curd an appetiser.
I would release the chicks from the coop. The rooster would celebrate its release by chasing a hen and mounting it.
Then it would flap its wings majestically and crow loudly to express its joy; the hen would cackle to convey its satisfaction.
At sunrise, for answering the call of nature, I went to the canal flowing by our village. Birds flew from their perches on the grove by the canal bank, singing merrily in search of worms and grains.
Their mellifluous songs were sweeter than symphonies composed by masterful musicians.
Watching them fly, one’s spirits soared high. There could be no better way to start the day.
Those summer days
In summer afternoons, the chirping of house sparrows and the cooing of pigeons in the dalan was soporfic for siesta. One had sound sleep despite the heat.
At the sight of their young calves, the mooing of cows when they returned home late in the afternoon was musical too. It was a fine example of maternal affection for their progeny.
At night, watching the stars from the roof and listening to grandmother’s fairy tales, one was transported to magic land. When I felt drowsy and stopped giving ‘hungara’ my grandmother would kiss me on the forehead and put me to sleep.
Sharing the bed with my grandmother was reassuring and sleep was full of rosy dreams instead of nightmares.
Rhythm of rural life
One lived harmoniously with one’s physical and human environment. There was no hurry or worry. The rhythm of rural life was in tune with the pace of the bullock cart. Watches did not regulate people’s activities.
Day was divided into ‘gharis’ and ‘pehars’ instead of hours and minutes. Morning was ‘chhavela’, afternoon ‘vagganvela’ and sunset ‘khao-piyo’. Sweet memories of my sunrise years are an antidote to the maladies of my sunset years.
(The writer is a retired English professor based in Ludhiana)