I fondly remember the childhood memories of holidays, especially the summer vacations which I spent with my grandparents, parents and all our relatives in the village. We used to live in Chunar, where my parents worked in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh which is near Varanasi. Every year around May to June during the summer holidays my parents used to take me to our native place in Changel village and Basua Village of Katra Block in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. My Dadi lived in Changel and my Nana and Nani lived in Basua. In Changel there was a big pond in front of our home, and a Lord Shiva temple by the side.
Our yearly journey to Changel started from our government allotted quarters in Chunar, by riding a Tanga/ Ekka (horse driving cart). After loading all our bags and boxes on the tanga we headed towards the Chunar bus stand or the bus adda as we used to call it. The bus adda was located on the other side of the railway line of Chunar junction. It took us half an hour to reach the bus stand to catch the bus coming from Mirzapur going to Varanasi. There was a halt at Chunar for taking the passengers who were going towards Varanasi and nearby areas like Barewa, Kailhat, Narainpur, Ramnagar, Paddav, Kashi and Varanasi City (Alaipur).
My parents and my brother and sisters used to thoroughly enjoy the bus ride from Chunar to Varanasi which took us across all of the above towns and villages. My mother used to pack our dinner for the bus journey from Chunar itself. After traveling for two and a half hours covering a distance of 44 kilometres we reached Varanasi railway station in the evening around 4:30 - 5:30pm, from where we had to board the Varanasi - Muzaffarpur fast passenger steam engine train. The train from Varanasi would start its journey around 8:00pm. The train had no sleeper class and all compartments were general bogies. We occupied our seats in the general compartment as soon as the train reached the station. After my mother and father got us all settled on our seats we then had our dinner which usually consisted of Poori, Sabji and Achaar (pickle). We also used to carry a surahi (earthen pot) to carry water to drink for our journey. The train took around 12 hours (around 9:00am on the next day) to reach Muzaffarpur. Once we reached there we headed towards the Muzaffarpur bus stand to board our bus to Changel. There were three buses running at different times from Muzaffarpur bus stand to Baigana nus stand via Runi, Sadpur or Benibad. At that time my Dadi and Nana - Nani used to come at the bus stop to receive us.
My Nani - Nani offered us refreshments once we arrived at the Baigana bus stand in the form of rice, curd, cooked vegetables, poori, fruits, banana, sugarbeat, etc. After meeting and eating we headed towards Changel on a bullock cart where my Dadi used to wait for us at her home with my aunt. Upon reaching we got settled with all our luggage and relaxed for a while, after which we had dinner. The food was cooked on an earthen choolah on flames created by burning wood and cow dung. After dinner we proceeded to sleep. While all the males of the house used to sleep in the verandah on either bamboo mats or on a Chowki (wooden bed), the females used to sleep inside the house. In the morning everyone used to get up early, with the elders getting up even earlier than us children.
We had an indigenous toilet inside and outside our house, but at that people people preferred to go outside the house in the fields for morning and evening evacuation. For brushing teeth and cleaning our tongues there was a practice of using Dattun (Neem twigs) or Bamboo twigs. The concept of toothbrush and toothpaste was not common at that time. I remember that I did not use toothbrush during my entire schooling and Dattun was my only preference. After taking a bath in the pond in front of our house or from the kua (well), everyone went to the temple to offer water on the Shivling and to offer prayers and chant mantras from the religious books. In each house in the village there was a space or a room identified for keeping the idol of Kul Devi (Goddess Kali) where every house member went for some time daily to worship. After completing our morning routine of cleaning, bathing, etc. we had breakfast which was served under the supervision of Dadi. My Dadi was very attentive and caring with regards to the needs of every member of the family. The morning breakfast was served to everyone between 08:00am to 09:00am in the form of Chuda-Dahi, Chuda-Aam (Mango-Rice) or Alua Doodh (Sweet Potato-Milk) served on banana leaves. Every house had a banana and mango plantation. Lunch was served between 01:00pm to 02:30pm. My grandmother was very particular to ensure that everyone had finished their breakfast and lunch. Most of the times rice, dal, vegetables, curd and pickle were prepared for lunch. There was light refreshment in the evening between 05:30 to 06:30pm in the form of some fruits, roasted groundnut or Makkhana. Stone fruits (Bail) were liked by most of us along roasted items. Dinner was served at night after 08:30pm and before 10:00pm. Swollen Chapati (Phulka) cooked on choolha along with cooked vegetables was prepared with steamed rice and pulses with Chatani (Sauces).
My Dadi also took care of the farm-laborers and used to take Panpiahi (lunch or breakfast) to them in person. Once I accompanied her to the farm and it was a pleasant moment to share with the laborers and learn from them about farming. Dadi used to have her lunch at the last after ensuring that everyone had had theirs first.
In the evening everyone used to gather around the Dalan (a sitting place outside the house) along with the neighbors and have conversation and share their ideas and opinions on a range of topics. The topics discussed were on the development of villages, weather, history, religion and contribution of the society members. My uncle and aunt used to narrate the importance of education and studies. At night before sleeping, my grandmother used to tell us the stories of gods and goddesses and freedom fighters.
During the day all of us children - my younger brothers, sisters and friends went to the mango orchard to observe the ripening stage of mangoes, and we used to pluck all the ripe fruits and eat them together. We also used to swim in the pond and play cards and other outdoor games in the village. I also used to go to the village library, and to our neighbor’s house with my brothers and sisters.
Before coming back from Changel we went to visit my Nani - Nani in Basua. To reach Basua we had to travel through Baigana bus stand and a government primary school after crossing a river known as Lakhandai river. In summers it was possible for us to cross the river on foot as the water level used to be low. Sometimes a boat was also made available on the bank of river. The distance of Nana - Nani’s home from the river was hardly 1 kilometre. We often came by walk from Changel to Basua. It was about six to seven kilometers away.
My Nana used to accompany us from Changel to basua on most occasions. As soon as we reached at Nani’s place she expressed her happiness to see all of us. My Nanaji was very disciplined and careful. He fulfilled all our desires related to eating and celebrations. My Nani used to make Alua-Doodh for our breakfast. Curd was prepared in earthen pot and was delicious. I also liked sweet potato roasted in the flame of the choolha. I remember Nani’s contribution in the family. She too narrated to us the stories of gods and goddesses and told us about the importance of fasting and worship. During our stay in Basua we used to go to the Lakhandai river along with Nanaji to take a bath, and after it we used to go to the Shiva temple situated on the river bank to pray. Normally we spent three to fours days at Nani’s house and then came back to Dadi’s house for preparation of our return journey to Chunar.
The entire trip consisted of immense learning, remembrance of ancestors, and understanding of natural resources with its importance, and acquiring sharing and caring attitude from our elders. Our parents contributed a lot to take us to our village during summer holidays after the schools were closed.
This learning process really enhanced our capacity in various ways viz; developing confidence, time management, disciplined life, listening ability, physical strength, spiritual awakening and co-operative attitude. With all above qualities, we again got engaged in our routine educational enhancement career along with my parents at Chunar.
These are the lessons and values I learned from holidays and I believe that these practices must be continued by parents for all-round development of children’s personality which is really a human capital.