Old people are a funny lot, they are supposed to be unreasonable, close minded, frustrating to talk to and out of our league but they are wonderful, they have stories innumerable, they have seen things so different. They were here when there was no electricity, no telephones. They have lived the life close to the soil while we are just getting further and further away with each passing year and each growing generation.
The incidents of their life which they recount don’t seem like real happenings, rather they seem to be the stuff of stories. It makes you think as if you are sitting in front of Premchand who is telling you some new story which he has constructed just now about the rural India or as if you are seeing the life shown in Do Beegha Zameen , or as if you are being told the story by some person who rode with Kishore Kumar in Chalti Ka Naam Gadi.
There are many common stories which all the grannies tell children, like the value of one paisa at that time, how they could buy so much stuff in something as ridiculously small as 1 paisa and now even 10 Rs seems like just another note to us. There are stories about the games they used to play, how they used to run around in farms, eating fruits from here and there.
I just wanted to share some of the interesting things I have heard.
The first one is about my Nanaji (maternal Grand Father), supposedly once when Gandhiji came to Agra, Gandhiji touched his feet, now my nanaji was 61 years younger than the man but actually what hapepened was, in the excitement of seeing The Man, he somehow climbed the train and was dangling in a very odd position seeing which Gandhiji , himself an old and frail man, caught him by his legs and with the help of others pulled him down. Now that is One Huge Achievement!! 😛
I have my nani, telling me tales about the father of her Grandfather(which would mean 6th generation from me 😛 ), who was a judge, which must have been a huge thing at that point of time for an Indian, it feels so great, you feel as if you yourself are travelling back into time and meeting those people and seeing them live their life.
Then there is a series of tales which my mausaji tells me, he is also quite old, he is retired so he can comfortably come in the category of old people. He tells me about the times when electricity was not so common in houses and only a rich person got a connection from the electricity pole to his people and other people just waited for such a rich person to come and be their Messiah because bringing the wiring from pole to homes was a very costly affair which only a few could afford. He also told me about his studies and how till his 10th class, the measurements used to be in FPS and not in MKS system which seems such a odd thing to us in this age.
Another interesting thing which he told me was about the share of Brahmins in education at that point, now you can find Brahmins all over and I was really shocked to hear from him that during his childhood most of the Brahmins were poor and couldn’t afford such education and most of the places you could see the children of rich Baniyas.
It always feels as if you are browsing through a book of history just that the book is giving you the comfort of listening to it, rather than reading it, thereby making it less boring than usual. I always hope that I continue to have such experiences in future with these old people, so that I can learn more and more about how India and life in India was in those days.
In same sense, it is always a pleasure to talk to alumni, knowing about their version of IIIT, the state of IIIT in the days when I was a young kid in school. The people who made IIIT, people who have been instrumental in shaping IIIT. I feel, the older a college starts growing, the less influence people have on the culture and name of an institute.