<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 134 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 19, 2003

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Things my child, and yours, can only hear about in the stories now

Richa Jha

We would be made to pose next to a massive dahlia for the camera, or be herded together for an ill conceived quick family portrait. We plucked our own flowers, chased our own butterflies, dug our own secret burrows to hide our treasures.

- The beauty, power, romance and nostalgia of the smoke belching steam engines. Precocious as kids are these days, I wonder how they haven't yet revolted against being taught about 'chook chook' trains.

- Okay, you may add the Concorde and the Beetle to it, but personally, I wouldn't put them in here.

- The pride at owning a fountain pen, and the carefully nurtured cursive letters that flowed from it. Each pen was unique in that the tip of no two fountain pens could produce identical results. Pride was also in holding the pen the right way, in the rigours of cleaning it the right way, and in the precision of filling ink the right way. Our children can only hear about the acidic aroma permeating through the air around as the cap would be unscrewed. And about the fun of marking thumb prints on rough sheets or blotting papers. And then also the adventure of keeping one special pen which would get filled up with strange concoctions of different coloured inks.

- The ever faithful jumbo sized date-calendars with jumbo sized letterings that are an extinct breed now. You have desk top calendars, you have small sleek pocket sized calendars, you have calendars on your desktop and organiser and mobile and palmtop and music system and watches and every where else but on the walls.

- A taste of lime-chalks, or the sight of coloured chalks. They will never know what chalk fights felt like. Or what flicking chalks from school, and building up a personal collection at home, felt like. How will they, now that the very emblems of school blackboards are rapidly disappearing. My child will never experience the thrill of seeing a polished jet black black-board every morning, and then waiting with bated breath for his turn to write that day's day and date in the left hand corner of the board. No student, no matter how shy, ever shied away from this duty. Strange, my child won't even know how much a shrill dry squeaking chalk on a dry board could annoy a teacher early in the morning. The paradigm of class entertainment has changed. Now it is a non-working marker that irritates the teacher. Imagine, the only markers we knew were the sketch pens we so closely guarded from our little siblings!

- The clippety clop of the old rusty typewriter that the father would type on from early dawn until it was time for him to drop us to the bus stop.

- The luxury of playing in our own gardens where the grass is green and the rose is red (alright, I admit, those last few words are a straight lift from G'n'R, but the thought is not). We would be made to pose next to a massive dahlia for the camera, or be herded together for an ill conceived quick family portrait. We plucked our own flowers, chased our own butterflies, dug our own secret burrows to hide our treasures. We also watered our own plants.

- Actually, the entire expendable (!) exercise of playing outdoors.

- And, to think of it, soon this generation of children will forget what a regular snap-shot print camera looks like.

- The innocent fun of having a simple uncomplicated 'theme-less' birthday party at home.

- The joy of having the entire family sit around one (and only) television set watching the same programme together.

- The single deck tape recorders our parents used to record our first cry, our first prattle, and our first poetry recitation. After which it was brought out only for the second child's cry, prattle, and recitation, and then the third's…Also, no one ever thought that making copies was a job to be done at home!

- The car steering wheels that needed some effort on the part of the driver to negotiate blind sudden turns, or full rights and full lefts; the bigger cars with stiffer steering wheels, the bulkier cars with heavier wheels, and so on. Power steering may be a good thing, but what's the fun of sitting behind the wheels where the wheel has all the power.

- The agonising wait for the postman. Today's children will never know what it felt like to receive a mail from a loved one, and to read it over and over again. Come to think of it, they will never get to know what a hand written letter looks like. As for the postman “who's he, we haven't seen him on Cartoon Network yet. Is he a good one or a bad one?”

- The Dhaka specific quandary of landlines and the lifeless instruments. They can only hear stories about the classic telephones that once rang and talked and listened. Just as they will hear stories about the rest of them listed above. It was an archaic world their parents inhabited.



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