As kids, we learnt very early on that nature is man's first deity. All adults (and most kids) knew everything about mother earth and the bounty she held in her heart - which she so generously gave out to her dutiful children.
Vegetarianism was the general norm, though there were instances of patriarchs hunting and eating the kill - which then justified the hunting.
We learnt how to swim in the backyard pond .... older cousins using the insides of the banana stem to create a makeshift floater for the younger ones. We would catch little fish in knee deep water with a muslin cloth held in little hands on all four sides....just to let them back into the water in a few seconds.
We learnt to climb all kinds of trees - the sturdy mango trees as well as the slippery guava tree. Our imaginations took flight on our beloved mango tree. It became a bus, with strong little arms shaking branches for effect of the ride on bumpy roads; it became a household with different branches taking on the role of different rooms in the house. It became a beautiful classroom where young minds questioned everything all the time....
And when friends from neighboring homes came in to play, adding on to the army of 10 to 15 cousins in the family, the elders merely smiled and added more raw ingredients into the cooking pot.... a good meal was after all, a must for growing kids.
Dusk was when we ran back into the home, where some aunt or our grandmother would get every child scrubbed clean and into clean clothes. We then were promised some delectable snack ........ after the mandatory "Nama Japam" or evening prayers.
The lady of the house would light a beautiful brass lamp with cotton wicks, and place it at the appropriate location where all of us would gather round on the floor, and with hands folded sing out the comforting prayer songs which we were never taught - we just knew them !!
Of course the promised reward prompted even the naughtiest child to keep his eyes closed for the benefit of the watchful grandparent. Then came the reward. Steaming hot sweetmeats made with all the love in the world, along with a huge glass of warm milk.Needless to say, the pleasure of eating there, sitting cross-legged on the floor, in the company of playmates and grandparents, with not a worry in the world, is an experience I will cherish all my life.