Scenes from Childhood

[IN THE AUTUMN OF 1974, a year before emigrating from my Indian homeland with my family to the United States, I set down a collage of  thoughts in my extensive diary under the caption Kinderszenen – a German term I learnt at the piano for a suite of 13 children’s pieces, Op. 15, composed 180 years ago in 1838 by Robert Schumann.

In them, he contemplates the world of the child in musical terms, and reproduces that world through short, descriptive pieces with fascinating, enticing titles.The approach is always subtle and sophisticated. Undoubtedly the most famous single number in this set is the seventh, Traümerei (Dreaming), a gentle moody melody, which has become one of the composer’s most popular pieces of music. 

Here on YouTube,  performed by the inimitable pianist Valentina Isitsa at a Seoul (South Korea) concert, is Traümerei.]

Now to the chase! Under the heading – yes, you guessed it – Kinderszenen, I virtually mapped out a self-collage, as it were, one fall evening under eight subheadings. Thus,

KINDERSZENEN

  • The Party
  • The Pet
  • The Menagerie
  • The Hunt (“Son-of-a-Gun”)
  • The Cemetery
  • Overseeing
  • The Family
  • Hill-Tripping
  1. The Party
    – Noise of gaiety
    – Seeping through the mesh of mosquito nets
  2. The Pet
    Rover
    – Black Labrador
    – Sheeny thick coat  a great Retriever!
  3. The Menagerie
    – Chicken run –
    – Fluffy, yellow-ball Chicks
    – Trees
    – Full of birds  in the Mango
    Tree –
    ful of Parrots  and Green Pigeons;
    Trees
    – Full of doves,  mynas and crows
    and crows ad infinitum……
  4. The Hunt
    – Diana gun
    – Hunting among the graves and tombstones
    – MISBAH a crack-shot with placing his pellets;
    – My aversion to killing birds in cold blood
  5.  The Cemetery
    Qabarstan Cemetery for Muslims
    – Kikar Trees
    – the non-native trees– Barelimbed
    – Searching for the sky above
    – “Ghost” house
    – Charred stump- Peepal treeBijli Legendary Lightning Lore 
    ∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝it’s entering a room,
    ∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝it’s running around  and making
    ∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝its exit after claiming
    ∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝∝its victims!
  6. Overseeing
    – JESUS
    Venerable father-figure
    Overseeing the household:
    HOUSE –
    ful of servants:
    ASO the Ayah
    ASA the Bearer
    Sister & Brother
    OVERSEEING the family!
  7. The Family:
    – Twin sis(ter)
    —–and elder brother,
    – Moghul
    —–“princess”
    ———Mother
    – Sport-loving
    ———Father
    – Great shikari
    Trophies: Bear Rug  and Deer Horns,
    Tiger and Leopard skins
    Lovely!
    Fur Coat for Mummy
    With myriad spots
    of black on tawny
  8. Hill-Tripping
    (A) Sickness! Travel
    Zig-zag Roads and sip
    Hot Tea with Toast
    at wayside dhaba
             Vice versa! Dipping
             Hot buttered Toast in
    Hot steaming Tea conjures up
    Hill-Tripping
    (B)
    Old Charabanc
    Ford V8
    Old Number Plate
    Delhi (DLH 28)
    Underhill Road 

Afterword: Trees abound in Old Delhi to this day, but some species have rather out-of- this-world connotations passed down to younger generations. For example,
(i) KIKAR (Vilayati kikar, or Prosopis julifloara) was introduced by the British, but it has wiped out other trees wherever it has been grown, so the Indian government is now actively uprooting the non-native tree as an ecology threat to the Central Ridge in Delhi in the hope that the area’s original flora — which are called the lungs of the city — as well as fauna can be restored.
(ii) PEEPAL (Ficus religiosa) – like the Banyan – is a fig tree native to India and among the most venerated trees in that country. It has a huge importance in India’s religions and culture.  The Peepal tree is associated with Yama, the god of death and the tree is often planted outside the village near crematoriums.
The Peepal tree does not let a blade of grass grow under it. It doesn’t allow for any rebirth and renewal. While the Peepal offers shade from the sun, it offers no food. That is why it is not part of fertility ceremonies like marriage and childbirth where food-giving, rapidly renewing, plants with short lifespan such as Banana, Mango, Coconut, Betel, Rice and even grass, are included.

References: My Diary; The Indian Express (August 26, 2018); Wikipedia

Dear Readers,
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