Tuesday, 23 July 2013

School poems one still remembers!

Sleep was hard to come by last night and the words from two old poems I learnt at school continued to resonate in my mind. My first instinct was to switch on the wi-fi and do an instant search, but knowing my super smart five month old who is sharp to sense my absence, I decided to wait until morning. And as soon as hubby left for office and the Small One permitted me, I saw these poems and a rush of memories came flooding back.

The first one's titled the Ice-Cream Man and I remember the words of the first and the third paragraph very distinctly even after a good 19 years. Moreover, I also remember the 'chart' I had made for display with a little ice-cream cart on it and the innumerable times our class-teacher made us recite this poem from the said chart. Thanks to the technology and in particular the web, for preserving our memories in some distant unknown corner for us to rediscover them one day! Only today did I also realize that in Class 6 when I read this poem we never cared about who the 'Author' is, rather it was the ABC chapter of our Madhuban English Reader which was going to be part of the exam as per the semester syllabus. Today, while I was researching on the net, I was delighted to learn that the poem today forms Chapter 6 of the Odisha state english reader for class 7 and hopefully once again, in remote parts of the country, it will stimulate the imagination of many children just like two decades back it did mine.

That apart, it was that era when ice cream parlors (Aka Nirula's) had not yet arrived and for our daily (?) dose we actually depended on the ice-cream carts which passed down our streets and offered a staple of few flavors only. However, the ice-cream men  and the cart  we saw were in stark contrast to the one in the poem and I remember fantasizing about the possibility of having various flavors of ice-cream and drinks (dint even know about the existence of soda-fizz drinks then or perhaps we were not permitted). Given that as a child I was notorious for my endless demands, the fact that ice-cream was the focus of a school textbook must have provided a legitimate excuse for my expectations!

The Ice-Cream Man
Rachael Field

When summer's in the city,
And brick's a blaze of heat,
The Ice-Cream Man with his little cart
Goes trundling down the street.

Beneath his round umbrella,
Oh, what a joyful sight,
To see him fill the cones with mounds
Of cooling brown or white:

Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry,
Or chilly things to drink
From bottles full of frosty-fizz
Green, orange, white or pink.

His cart might be a flower bed
Of roses or sweet peas,
The way the children cluster round
As thick as honey bees.

The memories of another poem whose first two lines have always helped me remember Sicily belongs to Italy (and thus Corsica to France!) are rather hazy and it did not even form part of the standard text. I remember having seen it in some workbook for some grammatical exercise and it was only yesterday that even the meaning became clear to me. While am yet to figure out the author, the use of specific geographical names to convey a story is something I had never seen before and was greatly humored and impressed at the same time.

Long legged Italy, 
Kicked poor Sicily, 
Right into the Middle, 
Of the Mediterranean Sea, 
Austria was Hungary, 
Took a bit of Turkey, 
Dipped it in Greece, 
Fried it in Japan, 
And ate it off in China.

The first four lines are self explanatory. The long leg refers to the Calabria region which protrudes a bit more than the other leg (Apulia) and seems to kick the island of Sicily (red) which lies in the Mediterranean Sea. Sicily being poor in terms of economic development vis-a-vis the rest of the country. Austria was hungry ( the line actually refers to the Austro-Hungarian Empire which operated from 1867 to 1918). It adds a bit of turkey (as in ham, bacon etc) to Sicily and uses grease (Greece) as a dip. Then it fries it in Japan ( the non stick enamel which coats the pan) and eats it off China (as in bone-china cup, plate etc).

Never thought that looking back at something which sounded so simple will be a source of infinite joy much later in life and will even teach me a thing or two!

"How quick and rushing life can sometimes seem, when at the same time it's so slow and sweet and everlasting.
― Graham Swift, Tomorrow

1 comment :

  1. wow, it's wonderful the way you bring out the reminiscences... it transports one to one's own childhood :) I ended up searching for some of the long forgotten beautiful poems we had in our text :)