Childhood haunts

Childhood haunts

Age dims one’s memory. Yet few ever forget their old childhood haunts — those much-loved hangouts redolent of the past that we frequented as children and teenagers and which continue to hold a special place in our hearts. We yearn to revisit them and relive old times.

And that’s precisely what I did recently. I took a nostalgic trip down memory lane to some of my old haunts of the 1950s in the tea estates fringing Munnar. It was here that my brothers and I grew up and spent some of the happiest years of our lives.

Surprisingly, little had changed. The gurgling stream meandering lazily through the tea field below our home, was still very much there. We used to while away endless hours here, scooping out tadpoles and transferring them to jars, picking pebbles for our catapults or just idly wading through the icy water which left our legs benumbed. Once, quite unforgettably, while crossing the stream I slipped on some moss and fell headlong, chipping an incisor on a rock. It was a premature start to my dental problems.

A few miles downstream stood the old concrete bridge, weather-beaten but as sturdy as ever, partially hidden by dense vegetation. Then, to my utter astonishment, another familiar landmark appeared nearby: the old, gnarled jungle tree that had been a mute witness to our angling successes and failures. It was incredible it had survived for over 60 years.

Here, we used to fish for rainbow trout, tirelessly flogging the water in the hope of outwitting the ‘monsters’ lurking in the depths. Then I recalled, with vivid clarity, the exhilaration that erupted when I once landed a four-pounder after a long and spirited tussle — what
a lip-smacking delicacy for ever ravenous boys!

The forests through which we had tramped in search of jungle fowl and wood pigeons were still there, though not as lush as before. They reminded me of our old air-rifle — no gun could have been more mishandled or had a shorter lifespan than the Diana that was unfortunate enough to be ours! Its spring weakened by gross overuse, it was about as lethal as a peashooter. Yet what a feeling of ‘manliness’ it gave us as we lugged it along on our outings.

Elephant Rock, the enormous boulder resembling a brooding pachyderm, was still conspicuous in the midst of an expanse of tea fields. Risking broken limbs, we often clambered up to the top to get a panoramic view of the surrounding area. It was from there that we once spotted a wild tusker nearby and fled helter-skelter, badly bruising our knees — only to realise that the jumbo wasn’t even aware of our presence!

One’s favourite childhood haunts have a sanctity of their own that stands the test of time and irresistibly draws one back to them. It’s hardly surprising since these hallowed hangouts are treasure-troves of memories dear to us.