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Then and Now

Past is past
It never comes back
Is that good?
Or is it bad.
Some memories are such that one always wishes them to return. Those who are now pushing fifties and sixties and see more of life behind them than ahead, wonder why things have changed so dramatically in the recent past in every sphere of life today.
It’s natural for the senior generations to compare how people of their times were different and better. They were simpler and more straightforward. It’s not that there were no black sheep but there were definitely not many and were boycotted by society at large. This generation is so different from what we were and we tend to put all the blame on them. But before doing that we must introspect a bit and try to see why it is so. Our lives were so sheltered and secure, because times were such that help was not difficult to get and we took for granted the understanding and security provided by an uncomplicated society, whereas now for those very things the young have to toil and even fight. Today life is so commercialised that every service, even help has a price tag attached to it.
When I remember my childhood, youth and the later life I feel blessed to have lived in such easy and plain an’ simple times. Children lived and behaved like children, and school was a natural process only after five, six or even seven years of age. They were not robbed of their innocence by parents and sent off to pre-school coaching, even three year olds, so that they might do well in the admission test and interview for entering a school whether in Primary, Kindergarten, Nursery, Prenursery, or Playschool.
I remember vividly my admission in school when I was six years old and my elder brother (then only 16 and doing under graduation) and I went to the school opposite my home and he just ‘deposited’ me in the office with the Principal, Miss Williams, an English woman, middle aged ,tall and hefty. My brother was asked to pay the fees and then leave as I was admitted without even filling any admission form. I got up to leave as well. She looked so formidable that I did not wish to be with her alone for even a moment. She gave me a wonderful, benign smile expecting me to stay, but being the youngest and a spoilt child in the family that I was I tried to follow my brother. At that moment she got up, held my hand firmly and led me to a classroom. And there I stayed without a whimper, till my mother came to fetch me in the afternoon. Can any parent think of this facile transition from home to school today? Never! No wonder the parents and children have to attend all kinds of coaching classes now.
I also remember how every year, promptly after school on the 30th of April, my mother with her brood would leave for Calcutta as soon as our summer vacations started ... and her annual vacation too. We would return only on the 30th of June because the school reopened on the 1st of July. None of us carried any study material with us because there was no holiday homework at all. We would buy magazines from the railway station or carry story books from the library of the school. The school encouraged such reading. Can a school-going child and her mother have a tension free vacation today?
Why, only during vacations, I see there are no free days for children throughout the year. Whenever I find my young neighbours rather quiet and uncommunicative, I deduce that her child’s exams must be near. They start looking so pale, haggard and strained as if there was some impending doom on its way. I don’t remember my mother even knew when we appeared and passed our exams. It was only if we stood out in class results would she be invited to share the glory on the prize distribution day. But, today, inspite of having parent-teachers’ meet every other day the children are not under control of either There are child counsellors too. Whoever thought in the past that anyone needs to see a psychiatrist without being a nut?
What a pity that today no one is allowed to waste time chasing butterflies or just “stand and stare” and feel the romance of looking at the rain drops and getting wet. The mothers are worried that the child would get sick and miss school. Imagine! Not having French leave in our time! I remember the “rainy days” in school during the monsoons. The rule was that if it rained till six in the morning the schools would remain closed for the day. And with the climate change not taking its toll like it has today, we had really good monsoons with quite a many “rainy days”. We enjoyed getting wet with friends, and ate pakoris and samosas. No school going child today has experienced that thrill as the mothers have only instilled in them the fear of rain as it can make them fall sick.


To be concluded...

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Vandana Bagchi

Home Maker/Housewife

Madhya Pradesh ,  INDIA

Born and brought up in Allahabad. Educated in Allahabad and Delhi. Taught in various reputed schools in Delhi, Mumbai and Shillong. Now enjoying retired life in Bhopal

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