Then and Now, the comparison saga continues…
Thursday, March 2, 2017
With her words, my mom at times, drops me in the pool of thoughts and for today it is, “then and now, the saga continues”. I have been hearing this from her for quite a long time and could not resist in getting it cleared. She said,
“It is all about us. It is all about our mindset which echoes that it was good ‘then’ and ‘not so good’ now”.
Seeing me staring at her without understanding a word, she continued.
“It is natural and common for human mind to dwell in the past and compare it with the current situation, be it his/her present life condition, social-political-cultural scenario around, or be it, the facilities available. This comparison goes on even when the ‘present’ gradually changes to the so called ‘past’ converting the ‘not so good days’ to ‘golden days’. Nostalgic memories are fine, but by complaining about the present, people including you and me, tend to forget the mantra of living in the present”.
She compares her present with her own childhood when I compare mine with my yester years, and if I ask my brother he would definitely say that he just loved the old days when he was in nursery classes where he didn’t have any exams.
Now the question arises. Is this the same with everyone? Is it because we all really believe that the life we spent now is not good? What made the olden days treasurable and different from these days? A sudden urge filled in me to have a word with my grandfather on this subject who is my solid source of answer to any questions under the sun. Without leaving a minute, I took the mobile, turned on the ‘Wi-Fi’, and made a ‘WhatsApp’ call to reach him. An out loud laugh was his answer as if I cracked a very funny joke.
A bit dejected I asked him, “what is so funny in it grandpa, tell me, what’s the major difference you felt in your present day life compared to your yester years? Was that too good compared to your life today? Why all says that olden days were good?”
Then on a serious note he said, “The answer is in your phone call itself. During our days, to talk to anyone abroad, we had to book a trunk call and wait for long to get a connection. It was an expensive and time consuming business and today you are talking to me within seconds of your urge to do so”.
“Yes! That’s a difference. Technology has made our lives so easy. Still people say that olden days were good. Can you tell me how you compare your ‘now’ and ‘then’, maybe a 5 or 6 decades back?
He said that there is no point in comparing the situation around you, categorizing as ‘now and ‘then’ or even ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Then he started narrating his childhood memories in the village and how his life took the present shape and told me to find out for myself the element of comparison to grade them as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
Have we ever thought or have we ever wondered how our grandparents lived when they were kids like us? With advanced technology at our finger tips, I’m sure we all might have wondered, at least a couple of times, that how people survived back in those olden days. I also never had a deliberate thought to understand and learn from him what his life was, as a child like me. While he was narrating his story, I was learning how it was different from mine and what made it treasurable. I was gradually getting cleared of my doubts.
The difference started from the building which we call our home. My grandfather spent his childhood in our ancestral homestead, in a village named Haripad in Kerala. The land spread into acres with a variety of plant species and fully grown trees which was literally unbelievable for me. His house was a typical ‘nalukettu’, the roof of which was thatched with woven coconut leaves. He with his siblings used to sleep in one single huge room unlike now where we opt to have our own privacy.
At the call of dawn, they woke up together to a fresh day with a fresh mind. I was really happy to know that he also fought with his siblings. While getting ready for school, his younger brother who could not find his own school shirt would wear my grandfather’s. As a result, my grandfather would take the well ironed shirt of his elder brother and finally that ends up in a fight and argument between them. He added that this was just one amongst a thousand reasons why they would fight with each other. The lesson of sharing and caring was for sure embedded in those fights. Finally, I could find someone to support me for my fights with my brother and this was the only thing which I could find in common.
At school, along with the studies they all had lot of time to play. The only thing they could approach seriously was ‘playtime’. For them, whatever they learned in the class was good enough for a decent score at the exams. Interestingly, unlike our generation, they were not over-concerned about the marks they scored. The respect they had for their teachers kept them safe under the umbrella of blessings ever through their lives. The teachers punished them severely yet they were not attacked from behind unlike the news which reaches us in these most modern days.
In those days there were no televisions. Electricity was not that prevalent either. Hence evenings were spent with the families interacting with each other. Regular prayers were offered together. After that, a little bit of studies for the next day under the dim light of kerosene lamps. No one had complaints about the things which were lacking in their life. The mantra of acceptance and appreciation was there in blood. My grandfather loved drawing and the passion was so much that he used to draw whatever he can even on a small piece of paper found.
The huge temple pond at Haripad was the arena to exhibit their swimming skills and confidence. Swimming straight across, diagonally across, jump from height, hold breathe under water and what not, the list of categories for their water games was long enough. Along with his siblings and friends he used to enjoy the pond while some sat on the steps, scared. He remembers that many of the present day celebrities were also there in the peer gang. Unlike today, the parents were not scared to send their kids out to play. They were confident that any child would be safe with one or the other fellow village men around.
What he said about communication was all the more surprising because to communicate anything; urgent or normal, there was only one medium and that was letters. It took lot of time to send and receive a letter. Can you imagine that the letters took so many days to reach a gulf country? Later when telephones came into existence, there was this system called ‘trunk calling’ which he mentioned earlier. I was wonderstruck at the patience they all had.
During school vacations all family members, relatives and cousins would gather together. They used to play football, badminton and other village games. All kids would arrange themselves and organize different kinds of minor competitions like tree-climbing, etc. Surrounded by gadgets, imagine where we stand in enjoying our holidays.
With all the advancements in technology and our life styles, of course we have gained many things which were beyond imagination before. But at the same time I felt that, we as the new generation kids, are lacking something. Like my parents who really takes pain to let me and my brother taste those gone days, in whatever ways possible, all those who had enjoyed such a childhood will continue to say, it was good then, not so good now, the saga of comparison continues.
A seventy year old ‘youngster’, who doesn’t like to sit idle even for a single minute, an ardent lover of sweet crunchy madhuraseva, my grandfather, is now at Kochi, reaching out to the world through advanced technology, with the backing of a memorable life. Treasuring his memories he now awaits the arrival of his grandchildren (us) during their (our) school vacation.
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