Having lived in Bangalore for more than ten years now, I call this my home. I like the people, the food, my friends and the small size of the city that ensures I don’t get lost that often (that NEVER happens to me in metros). But I also dislike the 11:30 pm curfew time, the auto drivers and the traffic. What I ended up disliking the most, however, was how this beautiful Garden City, that it used to be known as ten years back, has perished and wiping out every ounce of nature’s beauty this city used to possess. I dislike how the city has absolutely nothing naturally beautiful left to it that I could actually connect to the way I did with other cities when I was a child.
Being an army brat, I’ve travelled a lot across the country and most of the places I had been to were smaller towns, some villages and some places that I couldn’t even pinpoint to the map then (Bangalore was the first official ‘city’ my Dad had been posted to). I have been to Ferozepur, Tenga Valley, Jammu, Meerut, Sonari and all sorts of places that truly made me realize nature’s gifts.
Growing up, my folks ensured that we were out of the house playing for at least a couple of hours a day. When I was in Tenga Valley in Arunachal Pradesh (yes, it is called a valley), my friends and I would hike up the mountains and pluck wild strawberries. Strawberries. Imagine. The valley had all sorts of other exotic flowers and fruits growing all over the place which we made a mission to discover everyday. We would walk endlessly, run around for finding colourful fruits and even take turns in cycling to keep vigil just to shoutout when our folks would start looking for us – they were never big fans of us climbing the mountains, you see.
|The picturesque view of Tenga Valley|
The walk from my house to my school wasn’t much, but it was quite a sight. Surrounded by lush greenery and the sights and smells of beautiful fruits and flowers totally made it worthwhile. There weren’t many cars in Tenga back then, and hence it was relatively pollution and traffic-noise free (though we did have the occasional Jeeps and Jongas zooming around). And there was only one colour all around. That beautiful green.
When we moved to Ferozepur, I felt disconnected as the place was an actual town and not just a valley with my favourite fruits. Much to my pleasant surprise, we moved into a house with a nice HUGE garden. My mum got to work right away and started planting all sorts of beautiful flowers – some which she brought from Tenga Valley. We had dahlias, pansies, paper flowers, dog flowers and (I don’t remember the name) the pretty flowers that only bloomed at night. The fragrances of those sweet smelling flowers made the cold morning walks to school a whole lot better for me.
|Mango trees played such a significant role in my childhood|
Being the mischievous kid I was, I used to love climbing up trees – ALL the time. Mango trees, tamarind trees, Jamun trees – oh, those were my favourite! Well, with all the tree falling and all the mango stealing from the neighbour’s garden that I did, I was obviously banned by my parents (and the furious neighbour) to climb any trees again. Just to rebel against them, I climbed up my neighbour’s mango tree to steal some mangoes. As I was happily perched on a branch plucking some juicy mangoes, I look below to see Sharma aunty marching with her helpers setting up chairs in the garden. She was having a party in her garden! What did the genius me do? Afraid to incur the wrath of scary Sharma Aunty, I stayed where I was – nestled up on the mango tree for 3 good hours. THREE HOURS (it felt like an eternity, mind you). After the last of the guests left, I finally got off the tree and ran to my house. Strangely, my parents didn’t even miss me as they thought I was up and about running somewhere as usual. But the cramps didn’t go down too well with me (I don’t even like mangoes – go figure).
Whatever it was, my entire childhood experience was fantastic. I was connected to nature more than ever and loved being a part of it (with strong support and nursing from Mother Nature, of course J ). Having lived in a city for ten years now, I don’t think many kids would really know or understand the joys of being chased by neighbours when you climb their trees to steal their fruits, or the fragrances of the sweet smelling flowers or just mindlessly running around and actually playing rough-and-tumble games than their video games. What a pity. They’d never have stories to tell the way I do.