Tag: Childhood

Ushering festive cheer with Greeting Cards!

Christmas cardIt’s Christmas time again and then new year, parties to plan and dos to attend!  As Tiya busies herself planning the festivities she suddenly remembers the Greeting Cards that used to be central to festive seasons and special occasions. Christmas, New Years, Birthdays or Diwali celebrations were never complete without greeting cards. Tiya remembers spending hours in Archies & Hallmarks stores browsing through the cards, carefully choosing the ones with the right image and text (needless to say very ornate most of the times) for each friend and relative. Then came the part where she would take out her best pen, address each one and write a few lines in each card before stamping the envelopes and posting the cards.

There was a greeting card for every occasion – festivals, birthdays, anniversaries, father’s day, mother’s day, teachers day and what not.  There were cards for friends, special friends, husbands and wives, for every feeling and mood, separate sections devoted to each. Tiya remembers spending hours in the card stores browsing through the cards. She would sometimes glance through the sections even when she didn’t need to buy one.  She fondly recalls giving and receiving carefully chosen cards to her friends and loved ones.  Tiya treasured the greeting cards people sent her, she would often take out the old cards and go through them again and again. The words (that seem a little silly now) meant so much then!Picture3

Then one fine day, before Tiya could even realise, the card stores were gone. People switched to e cards, GIFs and what not. Birthday wishes are sometimes just HBD, and Diwali and New Year wishes are mostly WhatsApp forwards. It seems folks today have no time for personalized greetings.

Tiya chanced upon an Archies store at the metro station recently and walked in to see if it bore any resemblance to the card stores of her childhood. Though the card section is far smaller now with only a handful of cards, she was happy to see them holding their own. May be this New Year she will send personalized cards to all her friends to remind them of the ‘good old greeting card’ days!

The Post Man

Postman

In a small town surrounded by hills there lived a postman named Shyam. Without fail, rain or shine Shyam would go out on his bicycle every day to deliver letters and mails. For there were many eagerly waiting for a letter from their loved ones. Dropping letters in the letter boxes outside each house and clearing the post boxes of the neighbourhood on the way back was his daily routine. In those days people would write to their friends and relatives living in faraway places and drop those letters in the post box, it was Shyam’s job to collect those letters and take them back to the post office to ensure that they reach the right person.

Whenever Shyam’s bicycle passed the neighbourhood people would peep out of their windows hoping that he had a letter for them in his bag. A little girl Tiya would come out running at the sound of his bicycle and ask him sweetly he has a letter for her. Sometimes Tiya would run to the post box with a letter in her hand while Shyam would be collecting that day’s mail with a smile and a request to send her letter to her grandparents at the earliest. Yes, for Tiya Shyam was the symbol of her connect with the world outside the little town. He was the one who carried her letters to her grandparents, cousins and relatives in far away places and brought back their letters to her.

inland letter

Tiya loved writing letters. At first, she wrote because her parents asked her to, then she started enjoying it. Letters were the only means for her to stay connected with her cousins and relatives and learn about what’s happening in their lives. Though they had a telephone at home making STD (outstation) calls were expensive then. She could only call occasionally and had to keep the conversation very short. Those were the days before emails and mobiles. People had no idea that something called ‘digital revolution’ would take their world by storm. Of course, digital revolution has many positives, but we are talking about Tiya and her letters here.

On lazy Sunday afternoons Tiya would pour her heart out over letters. Writing about how hard she’s been studying to her grandparents, telling her cousin about the boy she likes in school. She would post the letters and look out for the post man Shyam everyday eagerly awaiting a reply. And when she would finally get a letter, she would read it several times over before putting it in a box where she carefully kept all her letters. Post cards or inland letters from her grandparents, stamped envelopes from her cousin and sometimes a picture postcard. Shyam would fondly hand over the letters to little Tiya, smile indulgently at her request to ensure that her letters reached her loved ones soon.

One day when Shyam went for his daily rounds he could see Tiya no more. She wouldn’t peep out of the window or rush to the post box with her letters, for Tiya has finished school and left the town to pursue higher studies. She was staying in a hostel now and would write back regularly to her parents, letters that Shyam would deliver to them of course not knowing they were from Tiya.

Tiya finished her studies and picked up a job in a big city. She had a telephone now and an email account. In few years she got a mobile. She would now call her parents and relatives and email her cousins. Soon there was skype and WhatsApp and she forgot all about those long letters. Messages have now become short and sweet and nobody had time to indulge in the eloquence of letters.

Then one day when Tiya went home she chanced upon the almost forgotten box of letters. Going through those old letters with faded ink she felt the same rush and excitement that she used to feel as a little girl. She asked about Shyam, oh he must have retired she was told. And anyway, the new post man was hardly to be seen for people didn’t write letters’ anymore. Everybody has a mobile, it is so much easier to call. And the younger generation has moved to WhatsApp and Snapchat and what not.

Letters that were so important to her growing up are now gone, thought Tiya with a sigh. May be the generation next will never know the joy of receiving a letter. Letters that had once been an important part of our lives have also been central to many a great works of art and literature – Tagore’s masterpiece Strir Patra (Letter from a Wife) or the acclaimed play Tumhari Amrita where the protagonists’ read out the letters that they have received from each other – Tiya wondered whether these will make any sense to the gen next!

The Princess & Her Tinder Tales!

Little princess

Once there was a pretty little princess who grew up in her little kingdom where everything seemed perfect. Though loved and pampered by her family and friends, little princess was not a lazy girl. She worked hard and planned a perfect future in which she would conquer the world and live happily ever after with her prince charming!

The little princess grew up to be a fine young lady and one day met her prince charming, or she thought. Enamoured by the handsome and intelligent prince, the princess gave him her loving heart. But alas, he carelessly tossed her heart away! The princess was shattered for he was the one, her true love, she had believed. She cried for months and hoped he would come back, but her prince charming was gone for good. Finally, the princess wiped her tears and went on a journey to conquer the world. The journey was lonely at first, scary at times, there were times when she felt alone. At times she missed him and wept for her prince, but he was just a memory now.

Princess 1

As the princess moved on the journey became exciting, challenging and beautiful. She conquered many obstacles, touched many milestones and made many friends. She ruled her world, was loved by many and was not lonely anymore. But at times she would miss that ‘someone special’. Go find him, her friend whispered. So, she looked for him in the garden, on the road, in every city and town, but alas he was not be found. But did you create your Tinder account? her friend quizzed.

Though the princess didn’t know much about tinder, she lost no time in creating an account. Just swipe right and swipe left it’s that easy, or she thought, and she was wrong again. In no time our princess was matched with many a young and handsome men. Then sang her praises and wooed her their intelligence and charm. The princess was flattered and happy, sure of finding her special one among her many matches.

But her happiness was short lived, for some of her matches were already ‘happily’ married and looking a ‘good friend’ or looking to network. Some were looking for casual intimacy, some confused not knowing what to look for. Though our princess was no prude she was shocked by the direct overtures of one-night stands and no strings attached intimacy. No not for me she thought, I am happier on my own!

Then one day out of her nowhere, one of her forgotten tinder matches reached out to her. Let’s have coffee tomorrow he said. Not expecting much she agreed out of sheer politeness. On a rainy winter evening she walked up to him waiting outside a coffee shop. He was charming and polite and as they started talking it was as if they have known each other for a while. So, they kept meeting and talking and meeting again and felt very happy to have found each other.

Nothing’s perfect and there are no ‘happily ever afters’, the princess now knows, she’s not a cynic though! She will take each day as it comes and make beautiful stories’ as she goes along!

Love Notes

Frog Prince or Prince Frog – Fairy tales inverted

frog prince

Didn’t we all love the story growing up – A princess magically transforms a frog into a prince with a kiss. As a girl I remember reading the fairy tale over and over, completely enamoured by the story and the images… the princess finally garnering enough courage to kiss the frog… kiss of true love, and the prince (frog) who promises to be true to her forever…

As I grew up and went looking for my prince imagine my disappointment when my fairy tale turned upside down. Each time I would meet my prince and greet him with a kiss he would turn into frog and hop away, leaving me alone and heartbroken…

Perhaps life is all about realizing that fairy tales are not meant to be, but that’s all right. We make our stories as we go along with real people!

First crush

Tough one! The dreamy grey-eyed lawyer who used to pass our house every day on his way to the court, or the tall 10th standard boy from my school. I was just 13 then…shy…reserved…, never had the guts to talk to either of them and don’t even remember their names now. They were my ‘dream dates’, literally…

I grew up in a small town where everybody knows everybody, anywhere you go you meet somebody who knows your dad or uncle making it very difficult for me to pursue my romantic interests.

Had a heart-breaking encounter with my lawyer when I went home last year – My dreamy-eyed lawyer has metamorphosed into a pot-bellied 50 something…tried very hard but couldn’t find a trace of his former romantic self….or, may be the romance was all me… influenced by Jane Eyre and Gone With the Wind it was my quest for Mr. Rochester and Rhett Butler.

Around that time, I also had a crush on a certain Pakistani cricketer …so much so that my mother was worried. His posters were all over my room… I imagined myself to be his ‘true love’ and I was confident that we would get married some day and bring an end to the Indo-Pak tensions…

First crush…funny, silly, seems utterly meaningless now… did make growing up so much more exciting…

Growing up, falling In and Out of love

I loved my student days. I enjoyed all the attention I got – those stares and longing glances, scribbled love notes, fumbling love yous. But at that time boys my age didn’t impress me, I fancied Rhett Butler! (Do kids still read Gone with the Wind?)

Love note

Our times were much slower. Months would pass before side long glances would graduate into a ‘hello’ and then may be rendezvous in between classes, holding hands occasionally. There were love notes and roses and mushy greeting cards professing everlasting love. Those were the days when we believed in ‘true love’ and ‘forever’. We reveled in the idea of love and romance, we believed in Platonic love. Physical intimacy came much later, sometimes never but that didn’t take away anything.

Hostel life offered more opportunities for romance. Dates in the college canteens, long walks in star lit nights, bouquets of wild flowers and of course lovey dovey greeting cards. That was the time when I could go out for a movie or a dinner date with my college boyfriend. That romance continued for a while even after I moved to Delhi.

Early years at work was more like an extension of college life. There were lot of young people around and we would hang out after work. Life somehow was rosier then, everything seemed possible. We would go all over the city in a DTC bus, hang out in Dilli Haat, stand in long ques for the Rs. 10 movie tickets (front row was available for 10 bucks in those days), McDonadls or Nirulas for dinner – funds were limited but life was perfect!

It wasn’t difficult to find someone you would like to date or hang out with. Blind dates were set up by friends which sometimes turned into sweet romance (which I then thought would last forever!). I fell in love, broke my heart and fell out of love. Then suddenly I got busy with my job and there was no time for love or romance. Finally, when I decided that it’s time to meet someone, love and romance had gone digital and there is Tinder!

Revisiting Agartala

Agartala palace by the lake

 Agartala Palace by the Lake

Agartala will always have a special place in my heart. A small relatively quieter town that I grew up in, with friendly bunch of people. A town that I was eager to leave behind during my teens when my ambitions knew no bounds. A town that I crave to revisit now from time to time but feel mildly disappointed during each visit.

I guess hometown does that to us all. Somewhere in our imagination we crave for a place that has remained unchanged, that will take us back to those carefree childhood days whenever we go back. Change however is inevitable!

A lot about Agartala has changed as well. The quiet town that I once grew up in has become noisier and is bustling with activity. There are malls in Agartala now and fast food chains. As a kid samosa, kachoris and chops were the only fast food we knew. The quiet lane by our house is now a busy road. We can hear vehicles passing by and honking, voices of people on the pavement talking even from the bedrooms. When I go back now, it takes me a few nights to get used to the noise and get some good sleep.

Tatched roof tin house bordered by beetle nut treesI remember my childhood home with a huge courtyard, with jackfruit trees, mango trees and coconut trees. There were beetle nut trees along the boundary. Our house was defined by a big bakul (creamy white fragrant flowers) tree by the gate – the house with the bakul gaach (tree). There were many flower plants and crotons in the front yard, dad liked gardening. Agartala is a rainy place, tress grow easily there.

When I think of Agartala I miss those rainy days the most. Pittar patter rain falling through the day on tin roofs, our courtyard and roads getting water logged, wading through the water to the bus stop, floating paper boats in the rain, I yearn for those days.

The courtyard of my childhood home is not as big anymore. The bakul tree is long gone along with many other trees. Unlike earlier we now buy coconuts and jackfruits from the market. The thatched tin roofed house has given way to modern concrete buildings – economic prosperity and modernization taking away a bit of my childhood!

In fact, some time back not so long ago, most houses in Agartala had huge courtyards with all kinds of fruit and flower trees. Some houses even had a small pond, like my maternal grandfather’s place.  We would sometimes fish in that pond and occasionally manage a decent catch. The excitement of pulling that fish out of the pond is something I will never forgot.

Some things however haven’t changed, the excitement I feel each time the wheel of the plane touches Agartala, the lake before our house (though the banks have been concretised), the homemade food – the variety of fish preparations, posto, shukto and sweets.

Agartala remains dear to me for the things that have not changed and for the things that remain unchanged in my memories!