Wednesday, April 1, 2020

B is for Bullock Cart #AtoZChallenge

The bullock cart stood outside our boundary wall without the bull.

"Don't climb up the cart." the adults at home had issued a standard instruction.

Parked outside in the gully (lane), right next to the big metal gate, conveniently out of sight of adults at home, the cart invited me to get on board and explore. I couldn't resist. As a five-year-old, I knew how dangerous bulls could get and how one must be careful and respectful of their space. But this was perfect. The bull wasn't there. Only the cart stood in the lane, tipped forward; its yoke resting on the ground with the rest of its body pointing skyward. Imagine a bullock cart in a downward dog yoga pose and you'll get the idea.

The wall circled Papaji's entire garden and stood five feet tall encasing our house, its inhabitants and their instructions.

My kingdom of play lay outside this wall that day. My mission was to climb, conquer and rule over my castle of cart all by myself. I set forth. Solo. Not a soul in sight.

Climbing over the yoke was easy. Any child could do it. The thick wooden beams had become smooth with use. The wood felt warm. Each inch I scrambled forward boosted my confidence and gladdened my heart. Soon, I'd be Jhansi Ki Rani *--higher than the tall boundary wall and mightier than anyone I knew.

Excitement edged me forward. I was now in the middle of the cart, close to where the top of the wheels were. The afternoon sun was bouncing off the green and brown glass shards that were embedded in cement covering the top of the wall**. Oblivious to the world around me and utterly absorbed in my conquest, I started talking to myself as I often did and still do. On that hot afternoon, I was addressing my subjects as their Rani. My imaginary sword glinted in the sun and boosted my resolve to reach the very top of the cart.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a bunch of children appeared. Did I hear them or did I see them first? I can't recall. But at that exact moment I was hurtling down the cart from my Rani Jhansi spot towards the ground at speed.

Dust, broken slippers, naked feet, stapu marks, pithoo calls, screeching children and someone shouting out, "Aunty ji, Arti gir gayee...khoon nikal raha hai." (Arti's fallen--there's blood) swirled around me like a whirlpool.

I had no idea how I had managed to fall so spectacularly.

Years later, in a Physics class, I will get acquainted with terms like centre of gravity and fulcrum and I will have an example from my own life to illustrate the concept of equilibrium.

It will be based on Beji's retelling of how too many children had clambered onto the cart at the same time causing its skyward-pointing-end to come down with a massive thud and how I was catapulted out of the cart with some force landing on the ground, face first.

The gash that let all the blood out ran from the top of my right eyebrow to the top of my cheekbone.

"Rub da shukar karo, kuddi dee akkh bucch gayee." (Thank the Almighty for keeping her eye safe.) was a comment Beji often made whenever she recalled the story of the bullock cart.

The diagonal gap in my right eyebrow is proof of my conquest on that hot summer's day.

***************

*Jhansi ki Rani or Rani Laxmibai led the first war of Independence against the British Raj in 1857. 

**Embedding glass shards on top of walls is a method used to deter thieves and intruders. It was quite common in Dehradun where I grew up.


I did get a chance to ride a bullock cart all by myself after all-- 
more than forty years later 
in rural Tanjavore.
Notice how happy I look and how unimpressed the bulls!


Are there any stories of falls from your childhood that you can recall?

26 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Oh my, Arti - I do think we are kindred spirits!!! What a wonderful memory (albeit potentially disastrous). Such is childhood and I think our generation really benefitted from the time before lots of personal electronics and generally safer times... YAM xx

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    1. Warms my heart to read that you feel we are kindred spirits Yamini.
      Wishing you a peaceful day.
      Hari Om.

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  2. What a brat you have been in Dun!!! Always thought you were one of the serious but chirpy types in school. Keep it coming. Remind me of those wonderful days...

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    1. Cheers Himanshu. What? serious? me? Na! Appearances can be deceptive:)
      I'm happy you're enjoying the posts.
      Thank you for reading and for commenting.

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  3. Something you remember every time you look in the mirror I guess! A great story.

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    1. Luckily, the scar has faded a lot over the years.
      Thank you for visiting.

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  4. Jack n Jill went up the hill..........,hai re bachpan!! i bet if there is anyone from our generation who has not had a fall,if there is anyone, what a pity that would be! Aisa bachpan bhi koi bachpan hain??
    i was told by my Appa who was an expert with marhampatti(first aid), "when you get hurt,you get stronger.You gain the confidence & strength to handle that category of pain for life." So each time i would get hurt, my only worry was about the rule i had breached and what punishments would follow, not the wound and its physical damage.
    Yes and what a contrast life our kids are living! Can't blame them fully,for sure. The only things that can hurt them now a days is "NO WIFI".
    My Appa's statement has stayed like a permanent bandage in my head & i have used it with my kids almost everytime. It really works.
    I have a list of falls,some with a visible mark for everyone to see and some with an invisible mark but a mark in my memory for keeps. With this is new set of ABC's you are surely making most of us nostalgic.We love it every bit.
    Btw, have you ever fallen from 1st floor of a building like a filmy hero??
    Chai per charcha karte hain kissi din. Chalo kal milte hain, C ke saat.

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    1. Wow Vidya....a fall from the 1st floor like a filmy hero! Was it intentional or accidental? Looking forward to post-Covid lockdown catch up.

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  5. Wow, that was a fall! Having a little scarf is like a souvenir ;) I remember a fall when I was maybe 10 years old, I was on a bicycle and going down a steep street in my village (in the French mountains, roads can be very steep sloping roads...) anyway, I coundn't stop the bike before hiting the door of the house at the end of the street. See the picture, like in cartoons, a little girl smashed against a door... It not even open! I had a broken wrist, nothing I can feel today so it's ok ;))
    Quilting Patchwork & Appliqué

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    1. Ouch! That sounds very painful Frederique. That cartoon visual is stuck in my head now. Glad you healed well.

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  6. My God... That childhood act requires real Jhansi ki Rani courage... It's amazing how kids are the most courageous and with age the courage changes to fear and inhibitions... Nice narration of the bravery act... Even the snap in the last looks quite brave to me :)

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    1. You're so right Ira. Children are fearless but I think it's the adults around them and their fears that sub-consciously mould the children into fearful or inhibited adults. I'm grateful that none of the adults who brought me up were like that:)

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  7. Interesting! Thanks for posting this.

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  8. That must have been a horrendous fall!
    I have had my share of tumbles. One fall I remember quite vividly is one while running. I tripped and fell, with quite a bad wound on my knee.

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    1. Fortunately, I don't remember the pain part of that fall Pradeep. Having said that, I've had a couple of worse falls after that one which are etched clearly and painfully in my psyche!

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  9. Gracious - that was quite the adventure. I love the photo of your adult self in a far better position with a cart.

    I was a meek child and not inclined to pursuing adventures, but I do clearly remember a fall I had when I was five. I was out walking with my sister. It had been raining when we first headed out, but it had stopped. I had my child-size umbrella closed up and I was walking with leaning on it like it was a cane, and it skidded out from me. I fell off a curb, flat on to my face into the street hitting the huge puddle that had gathered, and did so in front of a lot of people both on foot and in cars.

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    1. Ouch! That fall sounds painful Deborah. Thank you for sharing the story though. I'm imagining little Deborah with her little umbrella:)
      Thank you for visiting.

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  10. I love your style of writing. This post definitely made me laugh out, especially the parts about addressing your subjects as Rani and the practical example to remember Physics. :D That being said, to quote your Beji, thank God your eyes were saved.

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  11. Cheers Shweta. I continue to talk to myself even now. Only difference is, I do it while meditating:)

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  12. Hi Arti, your bullock cart fall reminded me of several of my accidents. I will recall my famous fall!
    This is the incident of Kota, when I was in 12th I used to go to Bansal's classes, on scooter, for my Maths tuitions, some other friends used mopeds (a type of small motorcycle with bicycle pedals).
    Well, that time, the famous Bansal classes for IIT tuitions, had just started, and we were fortunate to learn Maths, from Bansal sir himself, sitting around a dining table.
    So, we were a bunch of girls and used to pool our trips for Maths tuition. Once while my way back home, I was having a nice laughter time with my friend who was sitting on the rear seat of my scooter. My other friend, who was on her Luna (moped), was too curious and wanted to hear why we were laughing loud, so she brought her Luna too close to my scooter that our handles (handle of my scooter and her Luna) got collided and our vehicles skidded and three of us were on road!
    As it was a busy road, so in moments we were surrounded by a huge crowd, who helped us off from our vehicles. We were too embarrassed, we sprang to our feet, brushed-off our clothes, though we got bruises, but the only thing we wanted that time was to disappear from that scene! Now that I recalled this whole incident, it brought a smile on my face.

    Well, I just wanted to say that your description of the cart with Downward Dog made me laugh. A yoga practitioner can add the element of the yoga in every aspect of his/her life. Looking forward to read more...
    Stay happy and blessed. Nisha

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story Nisha. That fall sounds painful and yes, at that age, embarrassment hurts much more than bruises and scrapes.

    Yoga is always here, with me:)

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  14. My first broken bone was from doing something I wasn't supposed to, too.
    (Running on ice, of all fool things. In fact, I had *just* replied, "No, I won't" to my dad saying, "Slow down, you're going to fall and hurt yourself!" when BAM!)

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    1. That is a funny story Jz, albeit a painful one for you.
      Cheers for sharing.

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  15. After meeting you couple of times i could say that you must have been a fun loving person n your story proved me right . Like you i always wanted to explore n experience things from my childhood but thank god nothing happened to you . Love you jhansi ki rani ...i guess you still carry that trait .❤❤❤

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