My daughter has just finished writing her 12th board examinations. Hectic studies and tutorial classes, besides school, were the norm for the last six-odd months. But there’s no vacation for her as her entrance exams start; for the next two months she will be busy scurrying to different test centres.
I think about my school and college days when vacation started from April and went on till May. Two months of bliss. The day after my exams were over, I would leave for my native place. My parents lived in a sprawling house in a large compound. The compound had several mango and guava trees. The guava trees were my favourite and I would spend hours in one of them sitting comfortably on a branch with my back to the main trunk with a book in my hand. The hours would pass by silently; after some time I would notice crows sitting on branches nibbling at the ripening fruits with a soft pecking sound.
Early morning I walked in the compound to pick up fallen mangoes. It was a pleasure searching for mangoes, lying half hidden in the sand. One of the greatest moments of delight was going to adjacent compounds with friends and throwing stones at the mango trees. When the owner started shouting we would beat a hasty retreat grabbing the mangoes that had fallen. Cutting them into thin slices and eating them with salt and chilly powder was bliss.
I once climbed the tree when it was in season. I wanted to pluck the green mangoes right from the tree and eat them before landing on earth. But I had not considered the red ants that had made the tree their home; they had made cute little nests with mango leaves folding them into tiny box-like containers. No sooner had I plucked the first fruit and was about to bite it than they ran over me like a small army biting me at every exposed part of my skin. I scrambled down with my body covered by the tenacious creatures.
Playing cricket with a crude bat, some sticks for wickets and a tennis ball was how I spent the hot afternoons. I would return home when it was twilight, tired and looking like a cocoa bean. We had a small pool, the water used to water plants and trees. It also harboured rat snakes and frogs. When night descended the cacophony of the croaking frogs was strangely enchanting.
Some evenings I walked with my friends to the beach. As the sea was shallow near the shore, a wooden bridge stood about half kilometre into the sea; ships used to come up to the edge of the bridge. All that was long gone. The bridge was in its last stages with water ceaselessly eroding its foundations. We were permitted to walk up to a point; gazing at the sea as its waves were starting to crash into the shore was an impressive sight reminding me of the might of Nature.
The vacation would pass by in a blur and suddenly it would be time to pack my bags to go to school. My daughter doesn’t have vacations; it’s exams, coaching classes, entrances and college. I’m glad I was a student half a century ago!