We were playing an intense game of catching squash at home this evening (and having a jolly old time of it), when it suddenly occurred to me that little pleasures like these – randomly throwing a ball at the wall and catching it, tripping siblings down the stairs, pretending to be an aeroplane and zooming about the neighbourhood field – have gone straight out of our small-flat-in-big-city lifestyles. A great many people my parents generation managed to mature and prosper in the locales of their birth, their children playing similar games in similar lanes and almost re-living similar lives. Most of us, on the other hand, have been evicted from the lands of our childhood without moving an inch, because the place we call home have changed almost beyond recognition. Gone are the fallow fields, the ponds, the little clump of woods, the birds and foxes and badgers and rodents. And the broken stone-lined roads, the slippery alleys, dull white tubelights matted with dust, ramshackle tin buses, and powercuts thrice a day.
And with it has disappeared the cache of aphorisms and nursery rhymes we used to carry in our heads, and use in conversations ever so often. No one really does that any more (except the occasional cliché-ridden journalist or internet debater). I’m actually rather good at aphorisms, both in English and Bangla. But my stock of nursery rhymes have been eaten away by years of neglect and grown-up living in these brisk, abrupt, prosaic times. Pooling our resources, my husband and I could come up with only a very tiny number of these, even though both of us had read reams of the stuff in our cuter days. Here are the ones we could recall: noton noton pairaguli joton bNedhechhe; laal jhuti kakatua dhorechhe je baina; khoka ghumalo para juralo, borgi elo deshe; khokhon gaechhe machh dhorte, kheer nodir kuule.
Are there any more you could add to this list? We’d be ever so delighted. We’re especially keen on rhymes with khuki (little girl) in it, since all the adventures are always had by khoka (little boy). It’s khukis who chanted these “chhawras” gleefully generation after generation, memorised them, and passed them dutifully on to their sons and daughters… yet do you see a trace of them in the narrative? No. Indeed, the only presence I remember khukis having is via media, in the rhyme about the whiny cockatoo. Vain cockatoo wants a comb and a mirror, and raises a right to-do about it, whining and whinging. Not only is its wish not fulfilled, however, it is also promptly told that no one’s wants mischievous children [so it had better shut up and behave]. I’d take that at face value, but it never seems to apply to khoka, who gets up to whatever he wishes, and still gets to be the apple of the folk poets’ eyes.