Nostalgia comes in various forms. Sometimes it's a gradual and lovely stroll down the memory lane. This usually happens when you are pouring over old photo albums, or meeting a childhood friend after awhile or reminiscing growing up with your siblings or cousins.
At other times nostalgia has a fucking weird way of smacking you right out of nowhere. I was sitting by my condo poolside today and saw some little girls play with a skipping rope. I did not realize kids these days still skipped rope. And suddenly I had this gush of memories engulf me. I immediately picked my phone and messaged my closest childhood friend who I have not seen or spoken to in last five years.
And when she said that she misses me and I replied that I think of her very often too, I started tearing up. Now as crying alone by the pool side with an empty glass of wine on the table was simply not an option, I decided to pen my nostalgic thoughts. And of course by 'pen' I mean fly my fingers on the iPad touch screen keyboard.
For God knows what reason we played on the staircase on the third floor of our building. I lived on the 4th floor of the B wing of Dakshina Park and two of my best friends lived on the 3rd. We each got our toys to the staircase which comprised of tea sets, miniature kitchen utensils, adhoc dolls (we never grew up with gorgeous Barbies and their fancy accessories) and other random stuff like beads, mums old costume jewelry, etc. It was a weird ensemble of toys and knick-knacks, but we knew better than to ask for more. Our parents did not given into our demands as easily as we do nowadays. Yet we were content. Almost blissful.
We rode bikes, they were rusty and most of the time borrowed. We played games like sankli, kho-kho and lagori (which iPad auto corrects to algorithm). I was never the sporty one, but my friend Monika always made sure I was picked in her team so I would not feel left out. We played till the sun went down and the moon came up and our mums yelled from the windows for us to come up for dinner.
As we grew up we went for walks to the beach or around the building. We sat on the 'tanky' (water tank) and gossiped about everyone who walked by. And when we wanted some privacy we went up to our secret spot on the terrace- by far still one of my most favorite places in the whole wide world.
We ate street food everyday during the holidays- roadside sandwich, bhel puri, dosa with suspicious looking white chutney. But we could never tell our mums that we would skip dinner.
During summer holidays we went swimming at Juhu gym and ate chicken club sandwich after. We would the leisurely walk back but never go home. We would get end up in another friends house and simply continue playing, chatting, giggling.
Our parents didn't keep tabs on us. As long as we were home by 8 pm, there were no questions. A minute later and it would be completely a different conversation.
Friends covered each other's back. No matter what. "Yes Aunty, she was with me all the time" was recited in utmost sincerity, even though the friend in question was actually holding hands with the boy from the next building for the past one hour.
We grew up with one channel on TV and one TV in the house. We learnt to share.
There was one phone line for the longest time. We learnt to exchange hellos with our parents and siblings friends.
Family dinner meant eating with the family. On the same table. And usually a friend who decided to stay as her mum was not home or just because she fancied mums dahi vadas. We learnt to open our homes to others.
Picnics meant an entourage of 8 or 10 Marutis and Fiats and food enough to feed an army. My favorite picnic food till date is aloo-puri. We learnt to accommodate each other's preferences.
Movies were watched in big groups in front of a small TV. We got chips and Thums up when mums were in a good mood. We learnt to bond over the frivolous.
Holi meant the whole building would get together and have fun. We learnt to party!
Diwali meant visiting pretty much every relative alive and each house in the building. We learnt to give our time to others.
Friends siblings were treated like your siblings, unless they were of the opposite gender, appropriate number of years older and you had a crush on them. We learnt to protect and be protected.
They were times when rainy season meant paper boats and summer days meant kala ghatta golas. When joys were sought in the little and shared with many. When life was lived in carefree abandon. Where the biggest worry was...well there were no big worries. When laughter filled the air and loved filled the senses. When you cared enough that when decades later you missed your childhood friends, you knew they have been missing you right back!
It's ironic that we better understand the value of the childhood we've had only when we are older. Because when we were growing up, we never gave a seconds thought to growing old.