Saturday, 31 August 2013

Struggles



Life they say is not a bed of roses. True, but then if it were so, what would it be like? So easy, so cool that one would not have to struggle. Struggle to open one’s eyes each morning when the alarm rings at 4.00. That, reminds me of those wonderful days when I was just a kid. I remember, ever since I started attending kindergarten classes that wonderful round thing on the shelf with two luminescent hands and numerals from 1 to 12 would herald the new day with its ear piercing screech. Try to ignore it, but then there would be no escape. For along with it would boom the voice of my wonderful pal, my Dad. When it came to waking up early no one could beat Dad. Be it summer or freezing winter, Dad would be up even before the clock struck 4.00. He expected us his kids’, to follow in his footsteps and so made it a point to see that we did not ignore the ear piercing alarm. He was a great advocate of the saying “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” But then there was one person who was given grace time till 5. It was none other than my super mom, my dad’s better half and companion of all times. I often heard him tell us his kids to go about our morning chores silently least we disturb her. His contention was that she labored all day from morning to evening, taking care of all our comforts, single-handedly managing the entire household chores without any complaint. The least we could do for her was to let her take an hour off in the soothing confines of her bed. Her morning unlike ours would start with a steaming cup of tea made with the sugar of love, care and concern added to it by none other than my Dad. Even after we grew up, got married, had children of our own, this habit of his, this concern towards mom remained the same. In later years there were days when he was sick, fighting for breath, in pain yet he insisted on preparing her first cup of tea.  That was his way of conveying his gratitude for all she’d done for him, standing by him in thick and thin, taking care of him when in pain, being a true life partner.
 
Coming back to “struggle”, the next in line would be taking a bath at that “unearthly hour” for “unearthly hour” it was as far as we were concerned. How could it not be with the entire neighbourhood covered in a blanket of darkness, so silent that you could clearly hear your heart beat?  Well, summers would be different. What with the sweltering heat, any number of buckets of water was most welcome. But then there was that problem of scarcity. The well would be a gaping hole in the earth with a lit bit of that life saving liquid at the bottom requiring all to follow the model of rationing. When it came to winters the situation was far worse. At near zero temperatures when one just wished to snuggle under the cozy confines of the “razai”, the last thing one wanted was water all over the body. But then discipline was discipline. The morning bath was a must. And so the struggle began, struggle to prepare the mind and body for that sheet of water that would be splashed over it, preparing the teeth to get ready to chatter.

The third round of “struggle” would begin when we left for school especially during winters. The days being shorter school started early by 7.00 and at sharp 5.30 the rickshaw bell would ring calling us to try our skills at keeping our eyes from watering. Covered in warm clothes from head to heels, the long ordeal , the journey to school would start. With chattering teeth and chapped lips one just prayed that the journey end as soon as it began. The worst affected were the fingers and toes. Poor little things what could they do? The woollen gloves and woollen socks were no match for the biting winter.

Once inside the classroom among friends, the day would begin like a song. But as the day progressed, one by one everyone would start getting restless. Restless, waiting for the teacher to turn to the board to start chattering with one’s neighbour, waiting for the bell to herald the short 5 minute interval in between classes, waiting to share one’s secret with one’s best friend, waiting to play a prank on someone. In short once again there was a “struggle”, struggle to sit in rapt attention while classes were on.

The long bell heralding the lunch recess was a welcome relief. But then here started a new chapter of “struggles”. The mad rush to wash the hands, to catch the best seat in the dining hall or the best place in the clean and cool verandas, the mad rush to lay one’s hand on the favourite ‘dhokla’ or ‘idli’ or.... which another had brought. But then this chapter of “struggles” was the best for it was rewarding as well. The one hour just passed by with digging into one another’s tiffin, pulling one’s legs, making merry spinning on the ‘Merry-go-round’, playing on the ‘see-saw’, hanging like monkeys on the ‘monkey ladder’, playing with the ball, racket and what not, speeding on the athletics track or just sitting silently watching or listening to the rest till the long bell beckoned all to run back to their seats.

Now for the drooping eyes struggling hard to keep awake, contorted faces trying hard to stifle that naughty yawn, unsteady fingers trying hard to keep the pen from playing prank and restless eyes looking yearningly at the classroom clock. Class after class would end with a sigh of relief. Ring the long bell and all hell would break loose. The mad rush, the struggle to catch the best seat in the bus or rickshaw would propel one and all to try edge the other out and lead the pack.
Back home, that steaming cup of tea with the hot ‘pakkodas’ , ‘samosas’, mouth watering ‘ladoos’.... would be a welcome relief, a short break from that endless stream of ‘struggles’. That was the time when one relaxed, relived the day with that wonderful person called “Amma”. The next half to one hour was that of endless chatter, churning out even the smallest details and waiting for that word of encouragement that accompanied a task well done.”Amma” was patience personified.

“Come let’s play”. Friends’ next door, calling out for a game at ‘ko-kho’ or ‘pitthu.’ Brakes applied to the chatter, “Amma” forgotten, one would scramble to the door yelling, “Yes, I’m coming. Don’t start.” Once again would begin a course of “struggles”, struggle to keep the enemy at bay, struggle to win till “amma’s” call came reminding us it was study time and Dad would be back any moment.

Study time was not without its bit of troubles and struggles. Maths came with its dose of problems, English with those weird essay topics, Hindi with its mind boggling grammar, Science with its endless drawings, History with its endless dates and Geography with its puzzling topography. By the time one had done with these, the steam was out and the stomach crying.

Dinner saw the entire family together. That was the time when Dad took stock of our achievements and shortcomings. That was the time we shared our joys and fears with him. That was also the time he reprimanded us for our failures and mistakes. That was also the time for some tips to cope up with our problems. But the biggest struggle here was to ensure we completed our food without wasting even a single morsel. The rule was “Serve only what you want “. Wasting food was taboo.

Dinner over, meant it was time for the last in the series of the day’s struggles to begin. Dad believed that one should always be abreast with current affairs. So ‘on’ went the radio at sharp 9.00 and with it the “News at Nine”. The clever man that he was, Dad wanted to make sure that we did not let our mind wander during this all important part of the day’s routine. So he found out a novel way of ensuring this. Orders were that we his children sit in the bedroom and listen to the news while he spent the time in the living room. We had to take in every word; every detail that the news reader spoke and remember it .Once the closing headlines were read, Dad would call us by his side wanting to know the day’s news. Try to bluff him or miss out on some detail? No way. Those sharp ears would have caught every bit of news that flowed from the news reader’s mouth. Today, when I look back at those days, I sigh not out of relief but out of grief, grief of having lost those wonderful days, grief at having lost that wonderful man, my Dad who taught us to see the brighter side of life, who taught us that struggles are an integral part of life and must be welcomed for, “they add to the spice of life.”

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Razai - Quilt , Amma - mother,