Conversation is quite the key to a lot of interesting knowledge, and that’s something that I often savour during conversations with my grandmother. She’s part of a generation that has lived in the pre-Independence days of India right up to today’s world of Virtual Reality.
The trigger to this blog post was a conversation we had some time ago while driving down a national highway. Plush air-conditioned buses, seats located high above the ground practically cradling passengers got my septuagenarian grandma reminisce her days of travelling from the town she lived in to her uncle’s village in a steam bus. Forget plush seats, passengers had to either sit on wooden floorboards or hang from those pipes called railings… not hang for dear life though for these buses barely travelled at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour, often forcing passengers to disembark and push until the engine decided to rev up.
Then came the story. She must have been about five years old, when she accompanied her elder sister, brother, parents and an uncle in one such bus. The bus broke down midway and the children grew hungry as they travelled 60 per cent of the 25 kilometer journey. Even the fading light of dusk and disappeared and the hunger pangs got the better of the kids, so their uncle stepped into a stranger’s house and requested them for food.
Once the kids’ tummies were full, they hired a bullock cart to travel the remaining distance. The metallic trunk heaved up, the coterie jumped up and decided to rest a while when all of a sudden they were thrown off the cart, with the cart toppling over them! Luckily they all escaped unhurt and realized the bulls had accidently climbed onto the stairs of someone’s house that they could not spot given the darkness and absence of electricity… she said with a twinkle in her eye, fondly remembering that bright memory in a faraway past.
And while stories such as these kept pouring out it set me thinking of life in such a time. Aunts, uncles, cousins… everyone stayed in close quarters. There was no scuttle for a nanny to take care of kids, no need for a Youtube to divert a child’s attention during mealtimes, no space for fatigue to set in as everyone shared work so wonderfully among themselves. Despite living in large families, food never seemed to be a scarcity for they grew their own crop and fed themselves wholesomely. Entertainment never seemed a scarcity too as they engaged in happy banter, singing and dancing. They slept beneath the skies and learnt astronomy from an elder. They plucked fruits off trees to munch on, chewed on neem twigs to brush their teeth, learnt arts handed down for generations, went to school and enjoyed their lessons because there was no pressure of passing examinations with a distinction… and most importantly, they never had to plan their career path until they actually started working.
Hailing from such a generation and transiting through the era of telephones, black and white to colour televisions, adopting refrigerators and now getting adept at using the microwave and mobile phone as if they’ve always used them, this generation never ceases to amaze me. They grew up on home-grown vegetables and today they can cook pasta with such ease, this generation has taken every aspect of change in its stride, adopted and adapted with such elan that it inspires me every day.
Featured image sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steam-Bus.png