The Paper Boat ( A guest post by Appa )

I understand now that nostalgia runs in the family.... Here is Appa's beautiful write up; until he is convinced to publish his blog, I am taking the liberty to post his writing in this space. Do read.


It was an evening in the memory of the great ghazal singer Jagjit Singh who passed away recently. I used to love his songs for the quality of sound and his involvement in rendering . I only wished I could have learnt Urdu to understand the songs better . But , with the meagre Hindustani I knew , the songs like “Tere baare mein jab socha nahim tha ” and “Tere aaney ki jab khabar “used to give lot of solace to me during many Sunday afternoons in Goa where I used to stay all alone away from my wife and daughter .

By now the singer  started singing “woh kaagaz ki kashti”. and I could observe that the eyes of almost all the people sitting around were glowing with tears. It was a great song which takes you back at least four to five decades in life  and reflects the greatest wish in anyone’s mind about reliving the childhood days.

I also would have given back my chauffeur driven car , the huge official residence , the private secretary , the stenographer , the chapraasi etc.if someone could return those days of when we used to to live in a remote village in Kerala.

My father was working in government office . I was the youngest in the six member  family . Many a things have changed since we spent our childhood there . The toys we played with ,the dress we wore , the food we ate ,the vehicles we used to travel in ., all have undergone great change during the past half century . Many of the pleasures of our childhood days have disappeared from the  lives of today’s children not only in towns but also in villages too.

As someone has told , there is only one thing which constant , that is change .

There was no television ,no computer games ,no electronic toys ; but the toys we used to play with were available around us . With a little effort we could procure it or make it ourselves .

As Jagjit Singh sang , making a paper boat on a rainy day and enjoying its trail was one of the easiest things to do. Making fans, aeroplanes, rockets etc with paper was very common .With the combination of glue, midrib of coconut leaf , string etc paper could transform into ,kites and other toys .With a little effort paper and rubber band made into a missile . The empty bobbin which the tailor used to throw away were collected to make a running wheel model with a rubber band , a nail and a short piece of stick.. The taught rubber band was spun with stick and left on the floor and the bobbin moved forward as the rubber band unwound itself.

The catapult made out Y shaped twig of the tree and a few long pieces of rubber tubes used to be the weapon toy for many children.The easiest mode of pull cart was dried arecanut leaf which could found in the back yard . The “passenger ” could sit on the sheath of the leaf and someone could pull it to various places . We used to reinvent the “wheel” by joining two well shaped palmyra fruits with a short wooden stick. The cycle rim and the cut inner portion of the truck tyres were wheels to run along with an appropriate handle whenever I was sent for some small errands by mother for some local purchases from nearby shop.

The coconut tree was a storehouse of toys/toy ideas  . The list of toys which could be made included watches,balls,hats, trumpets, snakes etc..with the leaves, various carts  and toys of movement with the small unripe nuts. We never had plastic building blocks during our young days . The understanding of cubes, pyramids ,tripods etc was much easier with a few unripe coconuts and pieces coconut midribs . The models could even explain atomic structures..

The lucky ones who had access to bamboo, could make their own flutes ,crude air guns with soaked paper or small nuts/seeds as bullets.

 I have not seen any of today’s child playing with “telephone” made of empty match boxes and strings. When there are jazzy cell phones are available. why should they bother about those “stone age phone”?

The other day some one showed me the tablet. In sixties to nineties the tablet meant only medicine . Perhaps in the times of Moses it was made of stones and used for writing/reading . Today’s tablets are cute shiny stuff and act like the gadgets in those old witch craft  movies . You touch the screen , and it takes you places .But an idle tablet reminds me of slate on which I started wring my first alphabets. We used to small bottles of water to clean the slate . The ingenious among us collected injection vials from the Taluk hospital, fixed a short tube(made out of plastic insulation of electric wire   with the metal strands pulled out) through the rubber cap and used it as a small water fountain to clean the slate . A few others depended on succullent plants for this.

And it takes my memories to a wayside fern the reverse side of which,  when pressed against the skin of elbow leaves a white tattoo. There was a plant with small dark red fruits the juice of which was used to fake blood. The bio diesel plant Jetropha which was grown as a hedge plant in our village was a great source of enjoyment . How many of us know that one need not go for soap bubble making machines to play with bubbles. Just take a medium ripe leaf, slowly break the portion below the blade and blow into the latex to release lots of colourful bubbles.

The games of yester years   were close to nature . Playing with a dragon fly was one among the young age pleasures ; catch a dragon fly , hold it by its wings and make it carry small pebbles and and letting it go with a long string tied to the body …..was the sequence of the game..Enjoying the doodle bug catching  the prey was another game .. place an ant into the funnel shaped nest/trap of doodle bug. …the bug would shoot sand pebbles to prevent the ant from climbing the slippery slope of the trap…after a few seconds of struggle, the ant would succumb..and the game would start all over again….

The kids who play with remote controlled cars ,  pilotless helicopters and computer games sitting in drawing rooms keeping the joy sticks in their hands will not be able to appreciate the meaning of Jagjit Singh’s song when they grow up. They may be wondering why he did not make fibre glass boats instead of paper ones ?
Or why he stayed in a place not well protected from rains?

I had to put an abrupt end to my thoughts as my cell phone rang….”why this kolaveri  kolaveri Di ” ..It was morning for my daughter in U S A.

By this time , a new singer had started singing “main nashe mein hoom”…….I was really intoxicated with memories of the past for sometime……….