Apr 18, 2007

April..May...Summer...Kids...Camps

Its April-May now...Blistering sun draining out your energy as you waddle your way through the maddening Bangalore traffic in the "peak" hours....Overhead fans gushing out a whirl of hot air in the nights not allowing you to sleep...The irritating and frequent power cuts in an attempt to save power (more irritating to those who cannot afford the inverters)....SPF Sun Lotions and amla hair cremes in a desperate attempt to protect the skin and hair from getting damaged any further...Shopping malls offering summer sales offers to entice the fat-pocketed Bangaloreans to spend their last penny..and Last but not the least....quenching elani (tender coconut) with their nonpareil vazhukkai seen in almost every road (another of nature's balanced equations)..This is the typical Bangalore summer (I know you wouldn't have guessed that I'm at Bangalore until now) to a quarter-aged working (eligible ;) woman like me...

I was trying to time-travel back to my childhood as is my wont (I only wish time-traveling becomes a reality during my lifetime..)..April-May of the 90s..when I was in say class 6 or class 7 or class 8. Oh...How much I yearned for the April-May holidays then....how I wrapped up the last exam with not a single worry about how I did it....threw up the paper pad and empty bag in air once I reached home.....ate..slept and began my April-May journey with a bang....

I didn't live in a flat...I still had so many friends around me...girls with whom I played hide and seek, shuttle, cricket (We played typical Indian cricket - no running...just batting, bowling from the same spot), fought, called names, cried and smiled with, there were a few boys too who joined us when most of their companions had ditched them to go to a friend's or a relative's place..Needless to say, we dominated them...We also watched the special kids movies that were featured in TV(Doordarshan)for us, read kids' magazines ...had scrap books where we cut-copied-pasted pictures from magazines and compiled our own stories...we enjoyed at least this part of holiday homework (HHW) and loathed the rest of it..(This habit of cut-copy-paste proved to be very useful after we became software engineers..My wise suggestion is to cultivate this habit early in childhood..)The same scorching sun was out there then too...but it never bothered us any more than it bothered the buffaloes on the roads.

For some vacations, we did have some summer camps conducted by schools..Summer camps were a rarity then and our parents jointly packed us off to them. We didn't know what to do in those camps, the sad part is that the teachers didn't know either. For us, it was another opportunity to spend time chatting with friends without the constant thought of books. Well, all this was for April...

Come May, I ran to my grandparents' place - Pondicherry. A new set of friends , a newer set of entertainment greeted me every year there. Paati's glorious and nutritious food, Thatha's stories, cousins ' pranks, sungarakkai (the girlie game of pebbles), cards, carom, and of course yummy mangoes....these made my days at Pondicherry. Books for the next year were distributed by the end of May and my dad dutifully collected them and reminded me of the impending troubles ahead.....Those were best days of my life.....Can you hear me singing??

Back to 2007...Well, I don't have a first-hand account of how April-May treats kids today. I don't have a kid as yet...(for I'm still not married you see ;)) . But I do get to know some second-hand information from colleagues and middle aged women who talk about the kids in the lunch sessions. In March, they live in a constant peril of how they were going to manage their kids once school closes for April-May. Most of them have maids and a few of them send their kids to day-care centres. Some of the kids go to the best summer camps, learn swimming, painting et cetera...but very rarely do they go out for vacation..My female colleagues do admit that there is no vacation for kids unless there is a vacation for the parents.

I'm not exactly cribbing or blaming...we'll have to change with times, and if you are a regular reader of my blog, by now you know what I would call this kind of phenomenon - its metamorphosis of the times...My parents used to crib that children of my age didn't have the kind of vacation they had....we will continue doing that as well....

Well, treat this as yet another memoir...We do have April-May every year, but the April-May of the 90's.....

Apr 5, 2007

Tinkle Tinkle Little Star...* * * *

Another unforgettable character (among the ever so many) of my sweet childhood and school days is Enid Blyton - the juvenile storyteller, who created some of the eternally popular children's series - The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Adventures at Malory Towers, Noddy etc. I'm most certain even the worst book haters (dim-witted people who hate reading this posts like this ;)...) would have read atleast one book among the several series created by her.

I am indebted to Enid Blyton in a special way. I wouldn't have developed a penchant for reading at a young age if not for her "mystery" (mysterious indeed ... for kids..)novels. I was fond of the Famous Five series in particular. This consisted of the boyish and bold Georgina aka George, the girlish Anne, Julian Dick, and George's lovely dog Timothy (aka Timmy). The five together solve mysteries which range from treasure islands to bank thefts..I sort of liked George in particular ...and its not difficult to guess why...I wonder if any of her books have been motionized..Wouldn't be a bad idea...they've got enough masala for even the Indian movies...


Malory Towers was a boarding school for girls, and it was a hostel life brought to you in writing..the girls and the pranks they are capable of, their girlish skirmishes, their tearful reunions and of course their atrocious study hours. The Fatty series, starring a fat guy called Fatty (Frederick something..) was also my favourite. I was so obsessed with Enid Blyton's works that my library report card of the seventh and eighth standards carried this "...Likes to read Enid Blyton's works in particular..". And I was so proud of that card.. I am preserving it for my grandchildren to read ..You never know what they may get to read at that age!!!Let them read my report card atleast :)

And how can one forget 'Tinkle'? the fornightly comics from the house of 'Amar Chithra Katha'? It carried stories with illustrations and went straight into your grey cells. Remember, a picture speaks more than a thousand words....and in Tinkle, the pictures speak as well..literally..Tinkle had some regular characters like Suppandi..the good-hearted innocent but foolish servant, Shikari Shambu - the extremely lucky but totally incompetant shikari, Kalia - the clever crow who manages to always outwit the enemies, the tactfult and deceitful minister - Tantri, the Mantri who keeps plotting (and failing) to kill the king - Hooja, the Raja, Anwar - the Indian adaption of Dennis the menace, etc.

Tinkle had some exceptionally good folklore from different lands - Japanese, African, Chinese and of course very very Indian...Tinkle Digest was a richer collection of stories and was released once in a while. I read and re-read the stories until I memorized every page and discussed it with my neighbour. It was a shame if we couldn't recollect a story unless it was too boring. Like a true religious kid, I was fond of the Indian mythological stories beautifully illustrated from the same house of Amar Chitra Katha - Tenali Raman, Ramayana, etc
Champak and Chandamama were two of my other favourite comics of those days. Sometimes I pestered my cousins and grandparents to animatedly storytell those stories (since they didnt have the rich illustrations, and yet I wanted to get the better of those stories).

I then slowly (very slowly) graduated to Agatha Christie from Enid Blyton, post-graduated to Sidney Sheldon , Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham from Christie. Hercule Poirot -the little Belgian detective with his little ideas was my hero...Nowadays I read fiction only if I have to travel( and when I don't have a good-looking co-traveller) and I pick only the bestsellers, unwilling to experiement. If I want to read, I prefer non-fiction and the more serious ones these days...Well, as you know, this is typically what I would call growth.

Am not sure if today's children read Tinkle or Enid Blyton with the same fervour as I or my neighbours used to. Harry Potter is the ubiquitous favourite these days. No, am not fretting, am just wondering as we advance into the information age, children have time for a real physical book at all, and if they do find some time, what would their tastes be???

Do share your favourite comics and books in your comments section...