The schools and colleges have re-opened after the summer break. With that, the number of announcements of dance classes, summer courses, clay-modelling sessions, swimming training and the like has dwindled. Come March-April, children get engaged with various such classes. Consequently, more often than not they become busier during the summer holidays than when they have their school sessions.
Most summer camps for children promise holistic development and so most parents are happy to pay the price. We also have soft skills training classes for personality development and communication skills and so on. Besides, we plan trips to exotic locations and the children then come back to their schools to share their experiences. Some of the tales will be taller than the reality. We might have some who start pestering their parents for similar holidays, if not a better one. Keeping up with the Joneses is an onerous task indeed.
In an earlier day and time, if you happened to ask a child after the summer holidays whether he or she had tried a new sport, or picked up a foreign language, or gone on exotic holidays, or learnt some music, dance, drawing or painting, the answers would all be in the negative. Then, what did they do?.
The answer would be: “I went to my grandparents’ houses and spent time with my innumerable cousins.” Today it would be considered such a waste of time, so boring… You learnt nothing!
We learnt the art of sleeping early and getting up early. We learnt the art of opening the windows to allow daylight and fresh air in and save power. We enjoyed games without spending a penny. We learnt to run, skip, hop and climb trees. We played cricket and also played with dolls… gender discrimination was never in our vocabulary.
Another word that was unknown was boredom. We read books. We played make-believe games. We became stronger because of ‘ghost’ stories! We learnt to keep ourselves occupied. If I or anyone else sulked, we were left alone till we came back to normalcy — without the world running circles all around us.
I learnt to sit patiently with my sisters and other cousins around our grandmother at dinner time, all of us extending our hand so that she could serve us in our palm. Nothing can re-create that camaraderie. We neither ate less for we had competition, neither did we over-eat, for we knew how much we could eat without allowing others to unnecessarily sacrifice on our behalf.
We learnt to hero-worship the tallest cousin or the bravest one… we learnt to take teasing in our stride. We learnt the hard way that the only way to enjoy the ribbing was to laugh at ourselves.
We learnt the most important lesson: that we were not the centre of the universe and hence did not know what is now known as instant gratification. Yes, we learnt a lot indeed.