I don’t remember much about childhood. Its strange that everyone else remembers what you did when you were growing up other than you. But there are a few incidents that are still vivid in my mind. For some reason they refuse to go away.
I must be 4 or 5. I used to go to DAV shimla at Dalziel hotel which was very close to my father’s office. There was a girl in my class. I don’t remember her name. One day she came to us and told that her mother calls her darling. So me and few other kids started calling her “darling” thereon. I don’t know what happened but the next day or so we were reprimanded by the school principal for calling her darling. And we had no idea why.
We used to live in a one room house very close to Shimla bus stand ( it used to be called Gaddi Khana those days). Right next to our house was someone’s roof made of corrugated iron sheets. It used to leak and creak. Every time it used to snow I would quietly go down on the roof only to be shooed away with in a thick punjabi accent voice ” kaun hai chhat pe”. I would notice that when monkeys or crows walk on the roof nothing happens. But when ever I would walk on the roof the neighbours would know immediately.
Another unsolved mystery was around blades. Those days sharpeners were rare so we used shaving blades to sharpen our pencils. Every time I used my fathers new topaz blades he will immediately find out. This is after me and my sister would carefully wrap the blade back and even used glue to make it look like it has never been opened.
The first hoax that I encountered in childhood was around pencil shavings and how they would magically become erasers ( or Rabad) if you keep them soaked in milk overnight. I would sleep all excited that in the morning we will have eraser. Older kids would swear that it actually happens so you would give multiple tries just to make sure that you are doing the right thing.
At that age movies were pure magic. I was particularly fascinated by background music during songs. I was curious to find out where it was coming from. I would be looking for the musicians hiding behind trees and bushes and playing their beat while the hero and heroine were busy singing.
My mother fondly narrates this incident when I was 5. She was one day knitting a half sleeves sweater. My father’s aunt came to her and told her to knit a full sleeve one because winters are coming. Before she could say anything I blurted out ” No she cannot afford to because we have only one earning member where as you have three sons who earn money”.
There was this one little incident that had a huge impression on me. I was in class three. By then we were living in Jyotipuram in Jammu and Kashmir. It was a NHPC project site where my father had gone for deputation. One day we had all come for lunch at Bisht Uncle’s house. His son Raju Bisht was 2 years senior to me. I remember we were all sitting in the drawing room when Raju Bisht shouted pointing at me that ” Rahul to ladkiyon ke gale mein haath daal kar ghumta hai” ( Rahul roams around with girls with his hands around their neck ). Everyone started laughing at me. I had lots of friends in class. This idea that girls and boys are different and should not play together had not occurred to me until that moment. I was suddenly filled with shame as if I had done something wrong. Its strange that even after so many years this one memory strikes out because it meant the end of innocence for me.