A Grand Childhood

Blessed are the children who get the opportunity to grow in a household of grandparents. Grandparents, by and large are children’s favourite. Their genetic makeup is such, that they tend to be overly indulgent towards the little ones and can be easily cajoled by them. Whereas, parents as a breed are tougher nuts to crack. The rules they had for their own children while growing up are thrown out of the window, as grandchildren are treated to ridiculous amounts of sugar and sweets by their loving dadas and nanas, while parents watch bewildered, fretting and fuming!

As a child I had the privilege of spending my formative years with my grandparents. Besides jalebis and Gulab jamuns, they introduced me to their world of friends and country cousins. There being less children in the family at that time, Grandfather’s friends became my playmates and their walking sticks became my toys! I clearly remember his childhood friend from the village, Sardar Bhagwant Singh. He was a simpleton who had studied up till ‘matric’, gotten married like all good village boys and earned livelihood through farming.

He would often visit Grandfather in the city. When I first saw him, I was struck by his outfit. His white ‘chaadra’ looked like differently draped sari to me! And thereon, Sari Wala Baba became my friend. He taught me games like ‘staapu’ and ‘lukan michi’, which I much later discovered in their refined forms as ‘hopscotch’ and ‘hide and seek’. He was fond of opium, and I would hear Grandfather calling out to him, “Bache nu aawde aala chocolate na khwa dayin Bhagwan Siyaan (Don’t give the child your ‘chocolate’, Bhagwan Singh!). On hearing this, Sari Wala Baba would let out a long, hearty laugh. We played for long hours in the sultry afternoons, while Mother would try hard to wean me off his company and find playmates of my age, but in vain! He was full of energy, and no body wore ‘Sari’ like him. Sari Wala Baba was the first friend I had.
As I grew up, Sari wala Baba grew older and his visits became less frequent. However, the games he taught, stayed with me forever. I would’ve lost all memory of him, had Grandfather not penned a book on Sardar Bhagwant Singh. He immortalised Sari Wala Baba for me for all times to come. A decade after he has passed away, I still miss his presence each time I see an old, ‘Chaadra’-clad gentleman with flowing white beard.

Today, I look back upon those hazy, sepia tinted days of my childhood, and wonder what was common between a four year old child and and seventy year old man? And then, I see my granddaughter, draping her grandmother’s dupatta like a saree, while she happily takes pictures of her progeny. It makes me smile. The thread of time bonds the two generations – One who is stepping out of the cocoon, curious about the world, and the other, who has seen it all, and returned home. Soon these pictures too, will acquire a sepia tone, but the memories will remain fresh, for the two generations have lived through them. We, the parents, still in the long transitional phase of life, stand witness to this beautiful eternal bond.