Of bullock carts and runaway wheels

As is evident now, I spend most of my free time browsing through blogs or surfing the web. On one such journey, I read a piece by a friend of mine that was wistful. Looking back on times in the countryside… ones she did not appreciate as much then as she does now. Reading her piece made me ache for the times gone past.

Coming from a lineage of people who historically were farmers or land owners, my only glimpses of the past were on annual vacations to my maternal and paternal grandparents’ homes. I remember cringing each time my mom would make plans for a trip to her home. It meant days on end without running water or proper electricity. It also meant no television and plenty of time with old people.

Somewhere between fifth grade and high school my attitude changed. I occasionally looked forward to these trips. The journeys themselves were very interesting. The villages that disappeared as the bus hurtled past them. Visions of riverbeds flanked by rows of trees, some marked with white and black bands. Paddy spread out on the roads so that the passing vehicles could thresh them. Villagers carrying produce and baskets on their hips or heads. Children chasing passing motorists. Cattle co-existing with people in a way that made them more human than animals. The sudden lurch of the bus to avoid a cart that was not fast enough to avoid its path. The appearance of a familiar sign board that announced my village. The eagerness to get off the bus and walk down the rickety bridge that lead to the house.

Even as we got down from the bus, someone who knew my mom would stop by to enquire about everyone at home. Others would help get our luggage down. Tired and dusty from the bus journey, the village home with its sprawling thinnai and low hanging doors would seem like a haven. The minute we reached, paati would make steaming hot coffee and we would sip them sitting on the oonjal palagai. Non stop vambu, plenty of elaneer, mangoes and endless rounds of coffee with milk right from the cows were the hallmark of these visits.

My mom’s uncle and aunt lived next door to my grand mom and uncle had a huge collection of Readers Digests that would last me all vacation. Afternoons we would curl up on the wooden cots and enjoy a nap under the heavy ceiling fans that swirled at their own pace. It would always seem like night came early. The skies were very clear and no one was out and about after 8:00 PM.

While my mom’s village did not boast of trips to the field, visits to my dad’s village would entail a trip or two to the paddy or sugarcane fields and a ride on my uncle’s tractor. On one such trip, four of us cousins were sitting on the tractor and making our way home with our uncle at the wheel. Suddenly the side I was sitting on seemed to let go and I fell with a thud to the ground. We realized with amusement that one of the tractor’s wheels decided to chart a path for itself. Because I was the heaviest in my family, I became the brunt of many such tractor jokes. 🙂

On another such visit the bullock cart that me, amma and some others were riding in went belly up. Thankfully no one was hurt but remembering it always brings a smile to my face. The architecture of the village homes themselves lent to superb cross ventilation and plenty of space to air dry grains or coconuts. Water was drawn from a well and we would bathe right by its side.

Looking back, those definitely are memories to be treasured. I wonder if my nieces and nephews will even get a chance to experience a slice of unadulterated village life in India. Another six weeks and I might get to visit my village yayy!!

14 thoughts on “Of bullock carts and runaway wheels

  1. Wow! quite a nostalgic post. I remember my summer vacations very fondly. And yes the vintage collection of ‘Reader’s Digest’. I want to go back in time!!!!Nice to see more frequent posts. Keep them coming!!

  2. Manchus: Thanks! There is so much that can’t be captured.. like the sekku where they extract oil from groundnuts or coconut, the milking of the cows, I have even seen a cow give birth and played with days old calf. The smell of hay, the arratai sessions with who ever passes by. De-seeding tamarind, using open air toilets and the list can just go on. The more I think, I kinda feel privileged that we are of the generation that got to see both rural and modern desh.

  3. i agree… my nephews and nieces are not going to get to experience those lazy summer vacations. we are privileged.

  4. Really a nice reminder of summer holidays with grandparents and great grandparents (in my case). Now in response to some pieces I disagree where ‘privilege’ was mentioned:I see it slightly differently, I am not sure I would even call it privilege. It’s a matter of perspective surely. I know Meera wont experience the kind of summer vacations I had mango picking or spending time being lazy under the “Mailanchi tree”, and that’s because she is miles away from where I was raised, but she would have similar kinds of fun where she is growing up now. Apple picking or feeding the goats in the farms around her suburban neighborhood where she resides now or even horse riding if she sets her mind to it. None of which I could’ve done growing up, because I wasn’t raised here. I enjoyed my childhood, yes, and I know my daughter would enjoy hers, but both differently. I am nostalgic, yes, I have a right to be. But regrets? Definitely not.

  5. UL,I think its a matter of semantics. Am not saying my nieces and nephews will not enjoy a different kind of experience. I am sure they will. What I do regret is that the kind of experiences I had growing up were unique just in the way apple picking or hay rides are and that the next generation cannot get to experience that. Yes I do feel sad that the bath in the flowing river or the experience of an ancestral home is not there for them. I feel sad for Narayan too cos he never got to experience any of it. So, its not really about the next generation.

  6. The way I see it ‘past is past, why have regrets?’ I have missed out on some of the things my grandma or mom experienced, my daughter misses out on some of mine, and her children will miss out on some others. All different experiences unique in their own ways. Memories are vehicles into the past, but still wouldn’t equate the actual experience. If I had a chance to do all those things I did then at this very moment, I may not enjoy them as much as I did them then, at that age. Even with an ancestral home, what makes it alive and attractive is not just the structure, but the people who were there, the facilities available at the time etc etc etc. It would impossible to recreate all of that today. So why regret the impossible? That’s all I ask.

  7. UL, we can go back and forth without either of us really coming to an agreeable point of view. Like you say, I would just say its a matter of perspective. We feel differently about whether what we had was something to be cherished and whether is was a once in a lifetime kinda experience.

  8. And oh some more …this is getting to be a debateI for one wish I had an elephant like my grandma did while she was growing up! Simply because of the stories she has told us about growing up….but she always says she wished she had the career girls recieved in this generation at that time…All related with times, both unique experiences.. but we both love our times and definitely WOULNOT want to exchange spots..it’s impossible to recreate the past. What I enjoyed WOULDNOT be what Meera would want to enjoy- because she is growing up in a different world. So why regret? 🙂

  9. Perspective, I agree. Sorry I caught your reply after posting the last comment. To me, every experience is ‘once in a liftime experience’ coz once you loose it, it’s gone. No point in regrets.

  10. Let me put it this way. I hear about some of the fun things that I heard my mom and mom’s sis and my aunt talk about and I do feel a twinge of regret for not having been able to experience it like for instance growing up in a village and walking to school with 10 other girls, laughing and gossiping all the way. There are other things they talk about that make me glad I was not part of that generation.As for the analogy between you and Meera, I would say its for Meera to say whether she will regret or not for not having had the experiences you did growing up.As for the post itself I am using the term regret cos I can see a future me I would look back and regret not having been able to experience this stuff.I guess it just boils down to individual views.

  11. Laksh,
    I really miss all those beautiful experiences I had as a child visiting my grandparents – maternal as well as paternal. Like taking a bath in the river or near the well. Milking the cows and making fresh paalkova. I only wish I could in some way have my children experience the same joy some day.

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