The wonder years

Zeba Raziunnisa

As my exhaustingly frantic search came to an unfortunate end, I longed more than ever for my childhood companion, my favourite buddy, my lost treasure – my tattered fairytale volume! I hungered to be able to touch my childhood again, to feel it, to live it, if only for a fleeting moment. And more than anything I wanted so desperately to show my little nephew what my childhood felt like, to let him have a peek into my splendid and glorious past.

last-word I loathe to see the way children today spend their childhood – the most precious part of their lives. I loathe to see the way they goggle at the idiot box, the way their idea of an outing is going to a gaming station or a packed food joint, the way they fail to relish the simple yet magical wonders of nature. Will these kids ever know what childhood really is? Will they ever experience anything as splendid as I did in my childhood?

I don’t really remember ever getting home and doing the kind of ‘homework’ kids do today. The idiot box would come to life and make any sense only on the weekends. An old Hindi movie on Saturday evenings; followed by early sessions of Rangoli and then the Mahabharata on Sunday mornings. Computers were always at a safe distance, either on paper or in school labs. Outings would be family picnics, trips to the zoo, fishing expeditions and camping nights. Vacations meant forming packs with cousins and getting into every possible trouble together. We didn’t need toys to have fun, we created our own games. We enjoyed the greatest gift of childhood – an unfettered imagination, which allowed us to run wild, to create and savour a fantasy world.

If you were to set up a poll to ask me if I thought I had a wonderful childhood, I would send all my SMSes to say Yes, Yes, and Yes again! My childhood as I perceive it is one of the best times ever. I pity the kids today, I click my tongue and shake my head in appropriate sympathy, telling myself – “These kids can never have the kind of fun we had. Alas! They will never know the joys available to a child.” But haven’t I heard that before? Haven’t we all heard our parents, uncles and aunts say just that.

Why! Didn’t I hear my father say I could never even imagine the kind of fun he had as a child. I could never gather a basketful of frogs and leave that basket in my neighbour’s front yard. I would never come home from my school to let loose my pet monkey on my father’s guests. I would never know the days when getting an education was only part of life and not life itself. I would never know the wonder of being lost in gardens extending into wilderness, never know the feeling of sheer and unadulterated leisure; when people did a lot more in their lazing than what they do today in their busiest hours.

Well, I guess it’s a way of life or rather a Law of Nature that no generation will ever experience its ‘childhood’ the way its predecessor did. Each set of parents, uncles and aunts of a certain era will always click their tongues in melancholic remorse to utter a rueful statement – “It’s a pity you kids will never experience…”

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