Amma’s childhood

20 February 2020

How quickly the days pass. I was surprised to hear from Ciro the other day. When my old phone died, it took with it a lot of data including Ciro’s number. Ciro wondered why it wasn’t stored in iCloud. Silly me didn’t have enough storage space. One thing he mentioned intrigued me. He wants to live in a Caribbean island with less people. More space, less people, he said. I suggested that he buy an island, a dream. 

Amma and kunjamma reminisced about their childhood days. I thought I had an idyllic childhood. It seems it was nothing compared to theirs. The two of them recounted their exploits with glee. Their favourite pastime come the fruit season was to climb the trees. They had their pick of trees in their backyard, with over 20 cashew nut trees amongst many others. The only tree they didn’t attempt to climb was the coconut trees. From the tree tops they plucked the cashew nuts and left the fruit intact, leaving my grandfather to wonder what had happened to the nuts when he picked the fruits. 

They helped their dad pick the fruits and feigned ignorance when he felled the intact fruits along with the nut-less cashew fruits. They knew the trees so well that they could tell the difference as to which cashew nut came from which tree. 

The neighbours never picked their fruits and the bats had a field day amongst the crop. During the frenzy the bats would drop the cashew nuts on to Amma’s backyard. The two of them would collect these and keep it for themselves. They would also wake up early in the morning and collect the fallen nuts from the neighbour’s garden. Most of the time they did this without calling each other. It was sibling rivalry at its best. The neighbour’s backyard had snakes, mostly rat snakes, and was not a safe place for children to roam at that time of the morning when it was still dark, nevertheless the money signs were too hard to resist. Whatever they collected was theirs to sell for a profit. 

They managed to fall from most trees, but nothing deterred them. Their escapades didn’t go unnoticed. Once kunjamma fell right in front of her dad. She saw him coming, got frightened, lost her grip and fell. Amma once jumped off a tree instead of climbing down with the nuts safely wrapped in her skirt. Thinking it was a thief who had jumped off the tree the family dog dug his teeth into her knee and wouldn’t let go. The bite marks still remain to this day. The treatment, pepper leaves covered in oil, heated in the oven and applied to the wound, was even worse than the bite. 

And there’s more, much more. Walking home from school, my mother said the quickest route was to walk along the railway track. The trains were not that frequent in those days and they would walk along each track, sometimes holding hands. The two of them giggled like school kids as they took the trip down memory lane. 

During our childhood we had the space. In my mother’s time they had more. The acres of land space and also the freedom to roam space. Sandy told me that he tied firecrackers to a cow’s tail once and set it alight to see the cow jumping. A cruel joke but we had the chance and opportunities to get up to such mischief, some took the chance others didn’t. Those who did have lots to tell. Priceless memories. 

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