The other day, I watched indulgently as my grandson began protesting against his mother’s efforts to make him wear a woolen under vest on the plea that it made him uncomfortable. This episode triggered some very old memories of my own ‘childhood woes’ that are more than likely to resonate nostalgically with readers.

My eldest sibling, who is eight years my senior, had a gaggle of friends from his college and our neighborhood. Since I found this group and their activities funny and interesting, it was inevitable that I should sidle my way into whatever they were up to. On their side, they found the presence of a child amidst ‘grownups’ very undesirable and it was more often than not that I was rudely told to “buzz off”. I usually sulked after each ‘rejection’ and this became so annoying that my parents told my brother and co. to include me in their daily game of cricket. Not ready to be outdone by someone eight years their junior, the group began intimidating me with some body line deliveries that hurt. I nonetheless persevered, till a stray ball made contact with my grandfather’s ankle and the game became ‘persona non grata’ on our premises.

Eid brought with it the specter of donning an ‘achkan’ made from salvaged antique ‘angarakhas’ (worn by our elders in bygone times) in order to follow tradition. I was very averse to the idea of wearing a colorful piece of attire with an abundance of sparkling golden motifs as it made me feel odd. This was one occasion where even my grandparent was overruled by his daughter, who would wrestle me into this costume, with the incentive that I could discard it on returning from the Badshahi Mosque, where the entire family went for Eid prayers. It was the same, when cold weather set in and our woolies emerged from large wooden boxes reeking of ‘phenyl’. While one could do with over garments, it was underclothing that chafed against the skin and turned a perfectly good day into a nightmare. The same thing happened when we had to wear starched clothes. My continued reluctance to ‘thermals’ and starch is perhaps a consequence of these early days.

As children we often developed sore throats (thanks to ‘Taoo’s’ kiosk in the ‘maidan’ behind our home and the candy sold there). My mother’s remedy to combat the condition was quick and simple. She would melt a lump of pure homemade ‘ghee’ (rarified butter), apply the hot and sticky mess to a wad of cotton wool and wrap the same around our throats before putting us to bed. There came a time, when we began to conceal the fact that our throats were sore, in order to avoid being subjected to this treatment. I must however admit that in spite of passing a very uncomfortable, smelly and ‘oily’ night, the remedy was very effective.

Winter also brought with it the annual practice of ‘running the Cod Liver Oil gauntlet’. This was one event that could not be sidetracked and every ‘ingenious’ move made by us was effectively countered by our parents. Mercifully, the practice of holding our noses and forcing down a spoonful of this ‘horrid medicine’ was soon replaced by capsules that could be ingested without more ado.

Our old ‘khansama’ was also a professional barber and alternate Sundays became our haircutting days. This was akin to being punished for something that was out of our control – a healthy head of hair. Our dread stemmed from the idea of sitting still, which came into direct conflict with the many things that we had intended to do that day, least of which was sitting immobile.

We now have tablets and video games that keep young ones occupied with no desire to ‘intrude’ into grown up sibling activity; thermals that don’t itch; inoffensive throat remedies; fish oil capsules that don’t smell of fish and barber shops that are part fun houses. Yes, the world may have become a better place, but there are times, when childhood memories prevail - for these were indeed golden moments in the life of every adult.