Hosur Road,Bangalore circa 1940- “A roa

Hosur Road,Bangalore circa 1940- “A road less traveled ….”
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Harry Potter: Memories of a movie that grew along with the cast

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Why commission a personal history project?

Writing about past events, people and places is a very good habit. It may be in the form of regular journal entries or an occasional outlet of feelings on paper. Here’s why. Firstly it is an important record of the past. It helps one to have a dialogue with oneself and reconcile with unhappy memories. Such writing has also been proven to have healing powers.

Indians, in my opinion, are not keen documenters or recorders of the past. However a number of Indians (the common man) I know have had the discipline to maintain diaries for several years. These diaries can turn out to be rich sources of information for family members across generations and historians alike. Photographs also capture the past very well. Almost every Indian middle class family has albums full of black and white photographs going back 50 or more years. Most of them are not well maintained and will probably get damaged beyond repair in a decade or two. With the advent of scanning technology and availability of low-cost scanning facilities, it is imperative that these photos are saved from destruction i.e. scanned and archived. It is better, if the scans are sorted and selected ones published online – something done easily and for free. Apart from the nostalgia of looking at old photos, such content and information available online helps the next generation connect with their roots.

The sad fact is that we never have time for personal projects. Everyone acknowledges the need and the value in preserving memories by keeping a record of ongoing events, digitizing legacy content, and maybe bring them all together in a finely crafted book. However, with a busy life such tasks are always at the bottom of one’s priority list. Even after retirement from service, very few people get to complete this satisfying and rewarding work.

The other factor is the skill needed in completing a project. Writing skills, designing skills, publishing and printing knowledge are keys to completing a personal history project. And not everybody can write down their memories, especially the elderly and the indisposed. But will they be therefore deprived of the benefits of writing? Enter the personal historians. These are people trained in eliciting information in a gentle manner. Their time spent with clients usually have a deep healing effect. And they convert these conversations and legacy documents into a book that will remain with the family for generations to come. Children of elderly parents, staying away from them, can do themselves and their parents a huge favor by commissioning such personal history projects. A wonderful gift that captures the essence of a life, its learnings and experiences!

In short, personal history is a wonderful gift that digitizes all legacy content, including handwritten letters, journals, photos and audio/video tapes. And hence making them shareable with the larger extended family and friends. These amazing memories have the power to cheer up our elders living alone and often depressed.

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In the eyes of a kid…

In the faint light of the attic, an old man, tall and stooped, bent his great frame and made his way to a stack of boxes that sat near one of the little half-windows. Brushing aside a wisp of cobwebs, he tilted the top box toward the light and began to carefully lift out one old photograph album after another. Eyes once bright but now dim searched longingly for the source that had drawn him here.

It began with the fond recollection of the love of his life, long gone, and somewhere in these albums was a photo of her he hoped to rediscover. Silent as a mouse, he patiently opened the long buried treasures and soon was lost in a sea of memories. Although his world had not stopped spinning when his wife left it, the past was more alive in his heart than his present aloneness.

Setting aside one of the dusty albums, he pulled from the box what appeared to be a journal from his grown son’s childhood. He could not recall ever having seen it before, or that his son had ever kept a journal. “Why did Elizabeth always save the children’s old junk?” he wondered, shaking his white head.

Opening the yellowed pages, he glanced over a short reading, and his lips curved in an unconscious smile. Even his eyes brightened as he read the words that spoke clear and sweet to his soul. It was the voice of the little boy who had grown up far too fast in this very house, and whose voice had grown fainter and fainter over the years. In the utter silence of the attic, the words of a guileless six-year-old worked their magic and carried the old man back to a time almost totally forgotten.

Entry after entry stirred a sentimental hunger in his heart like the longing a gardener feels in the winter for the fragrance of spring flowers. But it was accompanied by the painful memory that his son’s simple recollections of those days were far different from his own. But how different?

Reminded that he had kept a daily journal of his business activities over the years, he closed his son’s journal and turned to leave, having forgotten the cherished photo that originally triggered his search. Hunched over to keep from bumping his head on the rafters, the old man stepped to the wooden stairway and made his descent, then headed down a carpeted stairway that led to the den.

Opening a glass cabinet door, he reached in and pulled out an old business journal. Turning, he sat down at his desk and placed the two journals beside each other. His was leather-bound and engraved neatly with his name in gold, while his son’s was tattered and the name Jimmy had been nearly scuffed from its surface. He ran a long skinny finger over the letters, as though he could restore what had been worn away with time and use.

As he opened his journal, the old man’s eyes fell upon an inscription that stood out because it was so brief in comparison to other days.

In his own neat handwriting were these words: Wasted the whole day fishing with Jimmy…. Didn’t catch a thing…!

With a deep sigh and a shaking hand, he took Jimmy’s journal and found the boy’s entry for the same day, June 4.

Large scrawling letters, pressed deeply into the paper, read: Went fishing with my Dad…. Best day of my life…!!!

To a Child, LOVE is spelled… T-I-M-E..!

          

[An endearing story we stumbled upon! Source: Anonymous.]

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Revisiting our Summer holidays

Summer has well and truly set in. As kids, it meant only one thing: vacation! Summer holidays meant cramming in as much activity as possible in the two months when there was no school and no studies.

How were your summer holidays spent? Did you spend your days..

…playing cricket with your friends, taking a break only for lunch?

…lazing under the sun, curled up with an Enid Blyton?

…visiting relatives in faraway cities by train?

…at Summer camps? Art classes? Learning taekwondo?

Regardless of the way we whiled away time, all of us were sure to get nervous around the time results would be declared! And of course, when school would re-open, we would be found frantically finishing our ‘holiday homework.’

End of May would mean gearing up for the new year at school. Dreading the holiday homework aside, the beginning of a new year would mean new shiny books, new uniforms, possibly a new bag and shoes! Also, we would wait in anticipation for the first day, wondering who our teachers would be, wondering if we would have any new additions to class.

All in all, those days are something we cannot forget easily. The excitement of the last day at school would only be matched by the excitement on the first day of a new year as well!

What about you? What are your favourite memories of your summer holidays?

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Of train journeys and the adventures they were…

But in a hurry to get to our destination, maybe we and our future generations are missing out on the wonderful experience of the journey itself? Continue reading

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Our Kul tree

The kul (Indian plum) tree in our courtyard was the envy of our neighbors. This time of the year the tree used to be loaded with the sweetest kul I have ever tasted. As students in Bengal, it was forbidden to eat the fruit before Saraswati Puja (the Goddess of Education). The puja is usually held in the first week of Feb. Kul is a trademark offering to Goddess Saraswati. Our elders used to warn us that eating kul before the puja is sacrilege. Goddess Saraswati punishes such students by failing them in exams. This was probably a technique to save the fruits for the pujas and save the children from overeating.

I must admit I never followed this dictum. Every afternoon I used to creep out of bed and tiptoe out of the room. I used to climb up a shaky and rusted waterpipe caring little for life, and get on to the terrace. This was paradise on the roof..the branches of the kul tree had spread themselves on the roof and were laden low with ripe, yellow, juicy kuls. This was my time and space. None, except the langurs can bother me here. Ah the langurs, about whom I’ll tell you another day. I used to have my fill and carry more for later, carefully hiding them in my pockets. There was a bigger kul tree in our neighbour’s courtyard. While our kul was round and sweet with a small kernel, their kul was long with a big and sharp kernel. Their variety was called ‘narkel’ (coconut) kul as the fruit tasted of coconut. Another striking difference was the neighbour’s variety had a lot of worm infestation. Our’s had very less or none. The word about the kul tree had spread and had made our house popular in the neighbourhood. Errant students on their way back from school or college used to raid our house, throwing stones at the tree. It was my job to rush out with a pole shouting ‘Ke re?'(who is there?). On most occasions it worked, except once when the invaders were twice my age and size.

I do not know whether the tree is still there. We left the house in 1990. The tree has a special place in my heart. I am planning a visit to my favourite kul tree the next time I visit my hometown Durgapur!

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