Typical childhood and early youth in Our Navsari District Village.
This article by Natubhai S Patel is in response to Bharatbhai D Patel’s article about the carefree way many of us grew up in East Africa. (see Kenya Section)
I was born and brought up in Viraval about 1 KM away from the Navasari saher.
I consider my self very lucky to spend my memorable childhood in India and oh how we enjoyed these special days:
* 14 January: Makar Sakranti Kite Festival: Patang chagavwani Maja, patang kapwani, patang lootwani maja, doro thread majwani maja and tallina ladwa khavani maja you can only enjoy that in India. Today in Viraval we have big houses with terraces/balcony and many people have loud music and spend whole day upstairs enjoying the kite festival.
* February/March Holi and Dhuleti: We always used look for ward to the Holi festival. On that we would hire a bicycle for a day and roam round from village to village and stop by at the Kohla for a sweet Sherdino Ras (fresh sugarcan juice). The unique thing about that this juice was made in front of you and no machinery was used but an OX (balad) would be used to turn the wheel to crush the sherdi (sugarcane) into juice. In the evening we would gather at choro for the Holi pooja and help prepare the Holi. Oh it was lot of fun to collect wood for the bonfire and chhana. We used to enjoying eating burnt coconut/khajur etc and following day when the fire had cooed we would search for the coins.
* March/April: RamNavami: This was a very popular festival. We would help out and participate in the seven day Saptah (continued Bhajans kirtans for 24 hours, 48 hounrs, 3 days etc). It was so much fun meeting up all the village folks and participants and sharing food and fun.
* Cricket: We had a junior cricket team and we used to enjoy playing in the village and visiting other villages around Navasari to give them games.
* Gili Danda, Patta (playing cards not for money though), playing marbles and roaming round village with a riding a bicycle wheel with a stick and playing carrom boards. These simple games provided so much fun and you didn’t have to be rich to enjoy these.
* Swimming: Viraval village has a very popular Poorna Nadi (river) and a big bridge (poole). We used to enjoy jumping from the bridge. Height was no problem. We were fearless. We did not go to swimming pool to learn swimming (come ti think about it we did not even know what a swimming pool was). We learnt our swimming in the Poorna nadi with the help of Banyan tree trunk, Dry big Dodhi (tombdo- the vessel you have seen in the picture usually carried by a sadhu) and climbing up friend’s backs and just kicking our legs in the water. It was so much fun.
* Fishing: Yes we did go fishing and got into lot of trouble with Machhis. These fishermen every so often used do the vher kheta (puling fishing net from A to B). We would be at the back of the vher and catch lot of fishes and get into trouble at home. We were encouraged by our elders to go to the rivers.
* Eating fresh fruit and vegetables: We used to enjoy so much eating Galeli, Bor, Aamli, Ananus, Badams, bananas, Mangos, papaya, sing dana straight pulled from the ground, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. (stealthily taken from others farms).
* Cinemas: In my days Navasari had three talkies (cinema ghar). We regularly went to see the cinemas eating paan etc. Occasionaly we would go to Surat to see a brand new release. Once we went to see “Sangam” and skipped the school and got into very big trouble at home and Mr. Wadia at the Madresa High School.
* Shravan Maas July/August: This is a holi month. We used to enjoy going to our Ram Mandir and visiting the Somnath Mandir in Bilimora. We loved eating loads of laddu and other sweets.
* Garba/Navaratri: September /October: We used to do lot of garba. It was held at our Gamschoro all in the open and without shoes in the rough ground. But it was lot of fun. We never complain about aches and pains in the feet.
* Diwali and New Year festival: Yes we enjoyed so much during these festivals. It was good clean fun for about 10/12 days. Doing the Rangoli, visiting the village to see who’s done the best rangoli, eating lots of sweets. Fatakda (fireworks) fodwani tau evi maja koi di bhoolay nahi. On the New Years Day we would be up very early and have our showers/baths at the Gandhi Vidyalay School and wear brand new clothes. Everyone from the Viraval gam were provided free snack and a drink at the Majesty restaurant near the tower in Navasari.
* I can probably go on and write a book about it.
* Yes the fun continued after arriving in the UK as follows:
* Going to school: You can probably say it was not fun going to school specially when you don’t speak a word of English. However I was very lucky I had few Gujarati speaking muslim friends and I can always depend on their help. At school it was lot of fun drinking loads of free milk and a bag of biscuits snack. It was all at no cost, until Mrs Thatcher came to power. In the winter I used to enjoy playing in the snow (yes we had plenty of that without fail every winter) and making a snowball and throwing them at people and making snowmen.
* Going to Public Baths at Poplar: Many people didn’t have baths at home. They used to use the portable tin bath and many people went to Public baths to have their baths.
* Use of Paraffin heaters: We did not have a central heating so it was a question of using the parafin heaters moving from one room to another and taking lot of risk. Yes the paraffin van used to come round every week. They did very well business wise.
4. I think this is enough for now.
Remembrance by: Natubhai S Patel. Essex. UK.