Sunset boulevard: Remembering first experiences of life

When sorrows of sunset years sadden me, I seek cheer in donkey rides with Gulaam and the small talk and short walk with the girl who became my life partner.

punjab Updated: Jun 04, 2017 23:16 IST
Amarjit Singh Hayer
Amarjit Singh Hayer
Hindustan Times
Amarjit Singh Hayer

The first time one does something is often etched in one’s mind for life. In my eighty-third year, I occasionally recall those thrilling events of years gone by. I vividly remember the day I took the first step in my long academic journey under the guidance of Maulvi Abdulla, the only Primary-pass person in our village.

By profession, he was an oil-presser, but he laid firm foundation in Urdu and arithmetic, which remained my favourite subjects till matriculation. Later my fondness for Urdu got transferred to English in which in MA I got fourth position in Panjab University. This was the first time I was placed in the merit list in any examination.

My first joyride was on the back of the docile family buffalo. The camel ride in my childhood was a daily joy when we brought fodder from the fields. The most blissful memory is of the time when ten-year-olds, my friend Gulaam and I rode race donkeys. We had no fear of nasty falls, but we had great fear of his father because we took the donkey without his permission. They say stolen kisses are sweet but I feel stolen rides whether on father’s donkey or car are sweeter.

I was gifted a bicycle by my brother when I joined Class 9 in April 1947. I learnt to ride it on the slope of the canal bridge and enjoyed every minute of it. It is a pity the present generation is more fond of mechanised machines than flexing muscles on the saddle of a humble bicycle.

I was about three years old when I insisted on going to the festival held every September at Raikot. My father made me sit astride his shoulders and trudged 15 kilometres along the unmarked path to the town. I thoroughly enjoyed the day. On our way back perched on my father’s shoulders, I continuously played on the pipe I had bought.

My first rail journey in 1943 was also in the company of my father. In an overcrowded train from Jagraon to Ludhiana, luckily I got a window seat from Ludhiana to Doraha and in the running train, I watched the objects flying backwards. My later long journeys by car or by air lacked the charm of my childhood joyrides.

At school I loved to read poems and short stories in Urdu, but it was at college for the first time I read an English novel. It was Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Castebridge’. It whetted my appetite for English fiction.

I wrote my first short story ‘The Enigmatic Girl’ for my college magazine in 1954 and later came across such a girl in real life. She was my class fellow. One day, she left the class after roll call. On impulse, I followed suit. As I was going to pass her by, she asked me, “Why have you left the class?” I replied, “Because you did so.” That broke the ice between us.

After some time we started exchanging letters. In February 1955, in a fit of frenzy, I tore all her letters and wrote that that was the end of our affair. She sent a one liner, “This girl’s love will not change like yours. She’ll always love you.” The relationship revived and resulted in marriage, which has survived for over 60 years. John Keats painted in words the portrait of lovers he had seen carved on a Grecian Urn. His line, “For ever will thou love and she be fair” flashed before my mind.

When sorrows of sunset years sadden me, I seek cheer in donkey rides with Gulaam and the small talk and short walk with the girl who became my life partner.

(The writer is a retired professor based in Ludhiana)

First Published: Jun 04, 2017 12:57 IST