“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Good memories have a beautiful way of warming us up from the inside. They bring with them emotions such as nostalgia, happiness and allow us to live one moment one thousand times over. Memories are one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given us.
As I have shared before, I am seventy-seven years old now. Even at this age, when I peep into my childhood, so many memories make me smile and also sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks. Memories are like antiques, the older they are the more valuable they became.
Believe me, nothing is as nostalgic as remembering your childhood. Childhood also provides every child a chance to discover, who they are, before world tells them what they should be. Our childhood has a profound impact on how we shape up and the values we carry with ourselves. It is one special chapter of life that stands out in every soul.
Childhood memories are timeless treasures and sweetest moments of the heart. There is no doubt that it is small moments of childhood that make the biggest stories.
As a matter of fact, happy childhoods represent feelings of connection and positive experiences. Childhood gives the children roots to grow and wings to fly.
If you notice carefully, you will find that every child loves and believes in a world of fantasy where he can be anything that their heart desires - a prince, a swashbuckling hero out on a white stallion to save a damsel in distress, a pilot, magician or anything else. Theirs is a world of mighty kings, angels, devils and what not. The armory is full of bows and arrows, swords, and spears. Larger than life scenario fascinates them. If you ask me, childhood is filled with magic and that is what keeps the spark alive in every child.
Let me now tell you about my childhood.
As a child, I was in love with stories from scriptures and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is no surprise considering ours was a highly religious house. Even today, if I close my eyes and focus, I can visualize my mother sitting cross-legged before our house temple and recite scriptures like Ramayana, Bhagwat Gita and Shiv Purana.
This one incident always brings smile on my face. I was around ten years old at that time. The Ram Lila season was over. I, along with my friends, decided to stage a play. We all agreed that we will stage Vishnu Avatar. The task of directing the play, script writing and production were responsibility of Vinod bhai. He was in class tenth and good at dramatics.
The auditions were held and after a few days, results were announced as follows: 1. Lead Role Male: Harish (me)
2. Lead Role Female: Soni.
Everyone clapped. Vinod bhai told us that all actors will have to procure their own costumes. Door to door collections were about 40 rupees, enough to manage stage and other expenses.
Filled with pride at being selected the male lead, I swaggered home and placed my demand for a costume worthy of Vishnu Bhagwan before my mother. She smiled and said it will be done. I knew once my Mati said something, she meant it.
The D day came and my mother gave me her best saree which had a lot of gold work on it. I knew she used to wear it only on special occasions like Karva Chauth. She understood as a child, I could spoil it but then, that is love of mother. She can go to any length for her child. I was super excited!
It was now time for the play. We all assembled behind the stage, decked up and in character, for the occasion. Make up was applied. We all put on our costumes. I was really looking good as Lord Vishnu in my dazzling costume, lot of jewellery and my crown.
Local people assembled in good number to watch the local children perform. The play started with me lying down in the famous Vishnu pose with Laxmi pressing my feet. The Devtas entered, bowed before the lord and prayed that it was high time for Vishnu to take avatar. People on earth were being tormented by evil forces.
In the next scene, I enter the stage thundering that whenever adharma rules the earth, reaching uncontrollable heights, I take avatar. I come down on earth to restore dharma and crush the ill. Before I could complete my sentence, my mother was seen climbing stairs of stage carrying a big glass in her hand. I gestured her to stop since I was fighting adharma, even the crowd hooted but she was not bothered at all.
My mother reached the stage and said: It is so hot! Drink this cool nimbu pani and then continue with your play. Then she looked at me sternly and said, I have lot of pending work at home, be quick! The audience started laughing as my mother got down the stage and left. Bhagwan Vishnu was scolded in front of his own devotees!!
The play was resumed once my mati left. The audience appreciated the play and gave standing ovation to our team at the end of play. My friends kept teasing me for a long time over the nimbu paani episode.
As a child, I also loved Ramayana. The annual Ram Leela was like a pilgrimage for me. Different drama companies performed Ram Lila every year in Central Park of our Lodhi Colony. The moment announcement was made about dates of Ram Lila, I would start pestering my mother to buy seasonal premier pass for the reserved area next to stage.
Such a pass valid for entire family would cost five rupees in the year 1949, almost a luxury. My mother never said, No, and somehow always arranged money for the pass.
Ram Lila started every night at eight p.m. so that people could come after dinner. I always went for Ram Lila with my small circular stool. It provided me better view even if some grown up adult was sitting in front of me. As the Ram Lila progressed, Ram and Laxman started killing demons. I would stand up and shout, maro raksheson ko, kill the demons.
I cried like anything when Ram was exiled from the kingdom of Ayodhya. I could never forgive Kaikeyi and Manthra for plotting it. I cursed Ravana like hell when he forcibly carried Sita in his Pushpak Viman to Lanka. I loved it when Hanuman crossed the mighty sea and burnt Lanka, when his tail was set on fire. I also loved the scene where Hanuman meets Seeta In Ashok Vartika where she was kept captive by Ravana. I clapped and laughed when Hanuman destroys the Ashok Vartika. It was the most important and beautiful time for me. Even today, revisiting those feelings and reliving those precious moments bring a smile on my face.
Another very precious memory of my childhood is seeing the movie, Jhansi Ki Rani, in a cinema hall for the first time. This movie touched my heart and I felt a strong feeling of patriotism. I was about ten years old at that time. So far, I had only watched Ram Lila on stage.
The famous poem of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan on Laxmi Bai was part of our Hindi textbook in class five. Bundelon harbolon ke mukh ham ne Suni kahani thi, Khub ladi Maridani wo to Jhansi wali Rani thi. My heart was always filled with pride whenever I recited this poem.
One day, my elder brother, Sant Bhai gave me surprise of my life one morning. He came to me and asked, would you like to see the movie 'Jhansi Ki Rani' with me?
I could not believe my luck. Yes, I will, I shouted in excitement. He made me sit on the back seat of his bicycle and peddled all the way to Connaught Place, one of landmark of Delhi. CP looked like another world to me. Everything was larger than life. Sant bhai took me to Plaza cinema and purchased two movie tickets for two rupees and fifty paisa.
I stood wonderstruck before the posters and photographs from the movie. I felt like I was in my dream world. Sant bhai had a great sense of humour. He came to me and said, now you have seen all the pictures on the wall. Movie s over, let us go home now. In Hindi, it meant, picture dekh li, ab ghar chalen.
I looked at Sant bhai surprised and said is it all? He patted me on my back saying, just joking. We would now go inside the cinema hall to see movie. Jhansi Ki Rani was produced and directed by Sohrab Modi who was an institution by himself, in Bollywood. It was one of first Techni colour movies in India.
As we sat on our seats inside the cinema hall, lights were switched off and it was pitch dark. I was a bit scared. How could we see movie without light, I asked in all my innocence? The Man sitting next to me laughed and explained that images on the screen are visible in dark ness only. I was wonder stuck. Lo and behold, I could see images moving on screen and talking with music in background.
My curiosity started mounting. It felt as if I was meeting Laxmi Bai in a dream land. Fighting scenes where Jhansi Ki Rani challenges British generals took my excitement to another level. I stood up on my chair and shouted, maro phirangeon ko, maro desh ke dushmano ko. I repeated it several times. Audience around me was also enjoying the excitement of a child but advised me to calm down. Interval was announced and my brother took me to cinema canteen for refreshments. He got me my favourite ice cream and Pepsi cola. It was a royal treat for a child from a low income group background.
During the second half, the movie became serious. I cried my heart out as Laxmi Bai was killed by British generals. What a heroic fight!! I still remember thinking. A woman fighting in a battle on horseback with her child tied on her back. I bowed and saluted Jhansi Ki Rani, Laxmi Bai. People around me consoled me saying, do not take it to heart. It is a movie, after all.
Watching Jhansi Ki Rani in a cinema hall was one of most precious moments of my childhood. Sometimes, I wish, I could go back to my childhood. Not to change anything but to feel some things twice. And Jhansi Ki Rani is one of them. Alas, Sant bhai is no more. I have many happy memories of time spent in his company. He not only introduced me to cinema but was also my cricket coach. I shall ever be indebted to Sant bhai, my elder brother.
Try delving into the world of your memories. Be grateful for the happiness they bring. Keep them close and keep them safe!!