Wednesday, May 08, 2013

My childhood summer holidays

The days of the annual exams were never of anxiety and fear during my school years. Instead they were prelude to an exciting summer vacation at our native place with cousins and grand parents.

Train journeys were far and few during our childhood days. Save for weddings in the family, we never travelled taking off from school. So the summer holidays were looked at as fun times to travel and just enjoy.

The view of the pond from our home
The pattern of holidays and travels were almost the same every year. My uncle's family along with a lovely cousin used to take the first train from Madras to Cuddalore. A few days of evening beach visits, roaming around a super market and some drawing and painting at home were the routine for a week.

Then the travel used to take all of us to Karaikkudi, our native place. My cousin, my brother and I along with my uncle and aunt formed the group. Sometimes my mother joined us. We travelled by the 'Boat Mail' that departed a few minutes after midnight at Cuddalore and reached Karaikkudi around 8.45 a.m.  Not-to-forget fun was the date in the ticket. It was always the next day's date since the departure time of the train was 00: 25 a.m.!And we always had the doubt if the train we had to catch was 'today's or tomorrow's'!

The holiday fun started there every time.
It was jhatka earlier and then the motorised cycle rickshaws that took us home from the railway station at Karaikkudi. We and our cousin never had the opportunity to travel by these means in our places.

Our grandparents' lovely home

Our home in Karaikkudi was on the northern bank of a Ooruni, a tank. Called the Muthoorani, the four sides of the bank had row houses and most of the occupants of these houses were either relatives or friends of our other cousins, my brothers and sister who were schooling at our grand parents' home there. The news of our arrival would spread to the small community around the Ooruni bank in no time.

The second cousins who were our neighbours also drew plans for the holidays. But the times spent at home with grand parents were real fun.

Our grandfather woke us up early morning and we took turns to draw the kolam in our front yard. Sometimes all of us joining to draw the kolam was creativity coming together.
We fetched our drinking water from outside since our home used only the water from the well at our backyard. The ice apples (nungu) used to come to our home in dozens. Wrapped in palm leaves they were treat for the heat. Our grandma took the palm leaves out carefully and taught us to make little baskets locally called the kottaan.

The afternoons were spent watching our grandma and aunts make appalams and vadams at home. Kilos of sweets and snacks were made at home and gobbled up by the whole group of children. We were nine in all. We still, are!

We took the evening tiffins and baskets of mangoes to the garden and spent hours eating them. We cousins learnt to ride the bicycle on the banks of the tank. Hiring a pair of cycles, we took turns to rode on them supported by the cousins, who ran along the bicycles.

Our grandma used to do up our hair nicely stitching jasmin flowers together.  With so much flowers in the hair and long paavadais, we used to go the cinema at the street corner. The 'old fims' (now most of them are almost almost extinct!) of our times, my uncle introduced us to, were a lot of fun and learning. The New Cinema probably saw us, the balcony ticket customers only during the summer vacation!

Some evenings were for classical music. At home it was with a nice cute harmonium. The sessions used to go on till dinner many times. It was also series of concerts at Pudukkottai, another town close by that hosted Narasimha Jayanthi concerts in summer. Our uncle took us to the festival in twos and threes during the ten days.

Half way through the vacation, we all used to pack up to Madras. A 'city' all the cousins enjoyed. Shopping, beach, zoo, parks, car rides, temples and just like that outings ...

At the end of the summer, when we all returned to our respective towns, we were all richer by a couple of new dresses, new books, new toys and great experiences!

We never had a holiday abroad or summer camps like the kids have these days. But the fun we had and the hobbies we learnt, knowledge we acquired just by being with cousins and grandparents cannot be just be compared with today's vacations.

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