Mulberry tree and childhood

It was a typical hot and dry evening of Delhi as I reached my home that day, as I removed my shoes and made myself a little comfortable I got a call from a dear friend. He was waiting in a parking place which was earlier used by kids as a play ground when I was a kid, a ground where I spent many afternoons and evenings as a kid playing with my friends, the ground right next to my home.
He had to go somewhere and he wanted me to accompany him. I told him to either wait patiently in his car for fifteen minutes or come inside, he took the second option.

As we returned barely after few minutes we noticed his sparkling new car was covered with mulberries. The seasonal fruit mulberry is not considered sellable not at least in Delhi these days.
He started his car and said “Khushwant” time has really changed, I nodded in yes. On our way to the other corner of Delhi I was pushed back into my childhood. There was a time when I used to climb that same mulberry tree; dark red colored mulberries were as sweet as sugar. It was great, the nagging old granny who planted the sapling of that tree used to scold us, but she was a very good human almost a saint. She used to be very concerned about the safety of kids but at that time we thought of her as a wicked evil character.

Then I started thinking about the other games that we used to play, hide and seek to ludo and marbles and many more. There were loads of other games that we used to play but over a period of time those games evaporated, just like dew drops.

Today kids are more concerned about play stations and cartoons they rarely play outdoors. Growing up in a typical middle class family in India in late eighties and early nineties was totally different experience. At that time there was certain bonding with everyone. Cable TV and internet connected us to the whole world except our loved ones. At that time whenever there was a birthday all the kids from neighbourhood were invited. The simple Samosa party accompanied by cake was the greatest treat.

People were simpler and literally there was no formality between neighbours. A movie at our home on Sunday afternoon at Doordarshan was always a hit, packed with all neighbours, Samosas and Rasna accompanied that, sometimes Roohafzah was the preferred drink. People didn’t had that kind of money with them and TV was a luxury, every kid was an obedient child because he knew bothering a person who owns a TV means no cartoons on Sundays. He-man was the ultimate hero.
People loved to share and the neighbourhood was family. In last two decades there was a rapid change in everything, from multinationals giving tough competition to local businesses and burgers giving some tough time to samosas, this change not only gave more choice to consumers but wiped out few traditions as well.

Traditional sweet sellers on every corner in the city rented out their premises to multinational companies or their bigger Indian brothers. As these companies are ruthlessly competing with each other the taste of that small corner shop is left somewhere behind in those dusty pages of memories.
Even these multinationals sell samosas but something is missing, maybe that ever helping local shop keeper who personally looked after everyone along with some chit chatting that covered your every family member along with your nani and every possible relative.

Mulberries never made someone sick and it was never considered dirty but today the scenario is totally different. Maybe the abundance of that fruit made it unattractive, and fruit drinks making companies never thought of that as a respected fruit that should be crushed into juice, nor any multinational or national companies considered mulberry as a flavour for ice cream. Mulberries are replaced by kiwi fruit and ludos are replaced by play stations.

Maybe the fast pace of modern life looks exciting but we are losing our tradition to that, the tradition of humility and togetherness, when people were together even for sharing a samosa.  

Khushwant Singh



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