What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.
Since my parents were teachers in a government school which was located in a village, my earliest childhood memories are of the village apartment and also those of my grandparent’s house as we kept moving up-and-down from town to village. The apartment in the village looked so big at that time. When I visited it after 15 years, I couldn’t believe that it was actually so small. My imagination and memory had an entirely different version of that apartment. The floor on which my younger brother used to crawl and the blackboard on which my mother used to draw peacocks, birds, lotuses, apples and mangoes, looked so small. I also used to draw on that board and learnt writing alphabets and numbers.
There was a house adjacent to that apartment and the window had some loose iron rods so I used to sneak into their house to play with my young friend without anybody’s permission. There was a big banyan tree in-front of our house and a Shiva temple along with a well besides it. The banyan tree was such a huge tree that I have not seen many bigger than that. Maybe it was because for a four-five year old kid it was the biggest tree in the world! We used to make swings using the hanging branches of the tree and it was a lot of fun. I used to read books sitting on the boundary wall of the temple.
Smell was mostly that of chalk and books as it was actually a school. We had a lot of green fields in the vicinity. I used to bring some vegetables which used to grow randomly in those fields and my mom used to cook them. I used to see centipedes, snakes, squirrels, butterflies, dogs and cats with a great wonder. The scene with hundreds of cows, calves, bulls and goats marching together, plethora of dust and sound of bells and various shepherds talking to each other used to adorn our dawn and dusk. It was a very beautiful scene in the twilight. Some cows were very aggressive so I had to be very careful about them. Once I was with my younger brother at a neighbor’s house. He must have been about 3 years old and I was about 5. He left their house and started to walk towards ours. Their cow was infamous for hitting kids, so she started chasing him. As soon as I observed that I came running to protect my brother but it was already too late. She grabbed him using her horns and gave him a great jump up in the air! I used a stone to push that shrew as she was soon going to give him another blow. Then I consoled my brother who was crying and took him to mom.
Snakes and various lizards frequently used to cross our ways and they were creatures of wonder. I used to look at them with amazement and used to run after various colorful butterflies whole day. Once my father was taking a tuition class for some students in evening and a lizard fell on one of them. He was suggested to immediately take a bath and worship lord Shiva. I always wondered why it was so! Actually reptiles and such are conventionally considered inauspicious and when they fall on your body you are supposed to purify yourself soon!
There were many fields where we used to play and eat various fruits. Guava was one of my favorite fruits and in the field of one of the farmers there were plenty of guava trees. We kids used to make him mad with all our nuisance. We used to take bath near the well with the water which was filled in big tanks for cows and bulls.
It was a slightly different picture at my grandpa’s house. It was not a house of firm bricks but rather a mix of brick and clay like most old village houses were. Though it was located in a town it was like an old village house. Since it was a joint family I had a wonderful time in that house. Early morning I used to see my grandfather do Yoga postures with amazement and then I started imitating him. There was a smell of earth and raw food of animals as my grandparents used to tend cows and buffaloes. I used to watch television with my grandfather all the time. Since we were one of the very few families who had a TV in those days, a lot of kids from neighborhood used to come to watch various programs and films, especially on weekends when epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata were relayed by Delhi Doordarshan relay center.