Sunday 1 March 2015

Prose 500 2015 Featured Writer, Haimanti Dutta Ray

My Childhood

For everyone, childhood memories are something to which we return to time and again just like a train traversing the same route, but coming back to the same station at the end of the day. These memories are there to make our moorings stronger, so that we stand on a firmer ground later in life. I would take the time to confess here that I had a unique childhood. I was the only offspring of my parents, who were schoolteachers at the time of my birth. My mother was a teacher, but her school was located quite far from the city of Calcutta, where we lived. She used to commute by local train. From the Sealdah station, she used to travel to Agarpara, in the South 24-Parganas district of West Bengal. To reach Sealdah, she had to take a public transport (bus). And, her school hours were in the morning session. So she was out of the house by 5 am, in order to catch her bus to take her to Sealdah station, from whence a local train would make her arrive on time in her school. She had taught in her school for thirty-six years at a stretch. Today she is a retired government employee, enjoying her pension. 

When I was a toddler, the task of feeding me in the mornings fell, quite naturally, on the shoulders of my father. My father who was an art teacher at a city school, had taken voluntary retirement (the VRS scheme), probably because I was becoming too much to handle, single –handed. My mother used to return from her school by half past noon. Wonder how I remember the exact time! It seems just like yesterday once more! My father had taken to painting in a big way and of course, my mother had been his muse. We used to reside at our earlier rented premises at 160B, Sarat Bose Road, Calcutta 29. When I was very young, my parents had faced real trouble feeding me. There used to be a wooden rocking horse, on top of which I used to be seated, before my meals. The gentle swaying of the toy-horse acted like a lullaby and I was fed. 

We have left behind those premises and have moved to our posh-new flat at Lansdowne Terrace. The wooden horse had been there even when we were leaving the house, never to return again. But of course, it was in a sorry state. I still remember that the book that I loved most in my childhood had been in the vernacular- ‘Toontunir Boi’ by Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury, the grandfather of the virtuoso film director, Satyajit Ray. Sukumar Ray’s ‘Ha-Ja-Ba-Ra-La’ also resided among my other bric-a-brac. Childhood is the time for some unalloyed fun. It never returns to one’s life again. Make the most of it and watch yourself grow into a glorious individual.

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