When I look back, I feel, the childhood days were much simpler. I guess every individual says that about the years gone by. They often appear to me as either black&white or sepia tinted images surfacing from the past. School days followed a set rhythm which continued for twelve years from the same institute at a stretch without any surprises. Long stretch of summer holidays were usually spent studying too. Since both sets of grandparents had already left for the next world, our holidays were sans any expected visit to meet grandparents. Being a mathematics trained teacher who chose to devote her time to her children’s bringing up, our mother found it worthwhile to keep us engaged in working on the new math concepts at a leisurely pace during the vacation. The pattern set thus continued for the whole of school going years. Travel was limited to annual visit to the shrine of the local deity Goddess Mansa Devi before the beginning of every academic session and whatever eating out happened, used to happen during that day, which was practically one lunch out. There are some countable number of occasions that I remember, when we went out as a family to some relatives’ place for a few days. Fifty days long summer vacation crawled slowly and time never seemed to be a constraint. Barring a couple of days, most of the days were practically television free, so there wasn’t anything that was getting dictated by telecast times of the shows - whether it was the meal time or the time for short naps. Not that the pleasures of every day routine were any less but those were entirely innocent delights which are even hard to put in words.
Evening routine typically involved pouring water on the parched floor of the backyard to cool it down, drinking chilled rooh-uf-zaah milk shakes in the open as dusk slowly cloaked things with its darker hues, followed by laying the cots and spreading starched-pristine-white-bed-sheets, as our father arranged for the rotating table fan for the good-night’s sleep ensuring that the air from the fan reached the farthest laid cot. How can I forget the time before sleep embraced me in its arms? Being the youngest in the family, I shared the cot with my next elder sister. While lying down, we shared unending stories with each other, appreciating the vastness of the star-studded umbrella far up in the sky, noticing more and more inconspicuous stars getting clearer with time as eyes adjusted to the darkness, looking for patterns in the clouds, sharing jokes, asking puzzles and ‘guess who’ games. Yes, those pleasures were much simpler, what other word can be used to describe? Often the chirping of the birds woke us up at the crack of the dawn. Who can keep sleeping when the winged creatures animatedly and oh so dedicatedly get on with their daily routine?
There are very small things that come to my mind when I think about the activities that engaged me. I remember I used to enjoy watching the shrinking wet spots on the hot backyard floor whenever we splashed water on it to cool it down in the evening. Depending on which corner or edge of water disappeared first, the spots settled into different patterns for some time before one more corner dried up. I know I could spend hours just watching them disappear completely. Being an early riser, I have been fortunate to witness play of colours on the sky which actually varies every single moment. I could be termed as a person sitting idle for hours but for me these ordinary natural charms were simply pleasure imparting. The outdoors have always held special charm for me especially the dawn and dusk when change of guard in nature happens beautifully.
Post school, the college years flew by like a blur. But summer vacation, winter holidays and long weekends continued to be the time that brought in the slow and relaxed pace almost erring on the side of being lazy. I think it was during one of these years that I first crossed the border of the home-state to go beyond and even that was to appear for some competitive exams.
Life progressed, marriage happened and a new life began or the gear of the life changed. We set up our first home across the seven oceans in the foreign land. Travel can be for pleasure came as a realization when I undertook my first trip along with my better half for the first time there. I got to know how people look forward to long weekends to explore the world which could just be a few miles or thousands of miles away from one’s home. Though we were no travelers yet it felt like the picturesque place that we happened to be living in the vicinity of, nudged us to change our ways. I guess nature has its own unique way of influencing every individual. It was amazing how just a few miles towards the mountains could take us to the thick forest and to no-man’s (almost) land. Though our drives in the mountains were few and far between but they were enough to make us captivated to the serenity and calmness of the green expanse. Parking the vehicle somewhere and walking a short stretch along some brook, sitting by the side of a stream or trekking uphill to check a scenic vista - were just a few things which immensely gladdened my little heart, though unknowingly.
Much later when I learnt to sit and sift through my own feelings and emotions, I could see a pattern emerging. The time in the open wide landscapes, preferably with the refreshing sound of gurgling water is all that I need to feel rejuvenated and eternally happy. It is as if, the wide panoramic views of far away horizons, outstretched firmament and thick green foliage of trees exactly know what my heart yearns for. The bright green leaves shyly dancing under the rhythm of falling raindrops make my heart join in the merry celebration. The cool breeze bringing the message of an impending - thunder, lightening and storm; stir some chords within me and I pause for a while to soak in the changing moods of nature.
In the fast paced life, there are times more often than not when time schedules, deadlines, routines, commitments and expectations overpower us. There remain a few images in my mind that bring in the much needed pause even though for a few moments and just the mental images of the same brighten my spirit. For me, nothing beats a drive through a long winding road dotted by thick trees on both the sides, sunrays playing peek-a-boo with the leaves - there they appear and there they don’t, beyond the trees a brook graciously flows towards its waiting mate, the day matures and heads for the night’s rest as dusk begins to cast longer shadows everywhere and much more.
After having analysed even more and deeper, I understand that what make these images or these experiences so special is perhaps the feeling of belongingness that I get with each and every component of nature. And at the same time, a realisation dawns on me of being just a tiny speck in the whole scheme of things yet there is someone my very own who takes such good care of me, it’s just that I forget to acknowledge His presence many times because He is me and I am Him. In short, it is the divine connect that I feel when I am amidst my pals extraordinaire. The humbling feeling just makes me bow in reverence in front of the divine artist, the painter and the sculptor - all rolled in one as my heart hums the tune - ये कौन चित्रकार है, ये कौन चित्रकार…(yeh kaun chitrakaar hai, yeh kaun chitrakaar…)