Bumps, bruises, scrapes and falls are all part of growing up for an active, curious child. A child grows up after seeing and experiencing many falls. That is true of every child, myself included. A child who hasn’t fallen and injured himself or herself has not experienced childhood in its entirety.
One of the earliest injuries I remember happened to me when I was playing with an old scooter tyre. I must have been 4 or 5 then. “Tyre aata” was a popular pastime in those days, which never tired you out. We just ran around “driving” the tyre. When we wanted to go to a friend’s house, or on some small shopping errand (to buy a nimbehuli peppermint or chikki) we ran fast ‘driving’ the tyre with a small stick. It was a thrill to run after and control it when it went down the road. Me and some of my friends also played this in our house compound, keeping a particular route in mind.
Once while I was going round and round the compound driving my tire fast, I tripped and fell flat on my stomach. There was a deep cut on the right elbow. I cannot remember crying for it as I mostly didn’t. The scar mark is still visible, although faintly. But I remember the fall clearly.
Children hurt themselves mostly while running or jumping. One such incident happened to me when I was in 1st standard. This was when I was studying in Hymamshu Jyothi Kala Peetha. It was a Wednesday, which meant colour dress. I was wearing a new ‘Safari Suit’ (thanks to the left over cloth of a pant piece). The school bell rang and I wanted to be the first to cross the gate. A few others in the class also wanted to be the first to get out. We were all waiting with our respective canvas bags, aluminium and plastic boxes. The bell rang and before we knew, we were near the gate but another friend pulled me by the collar and dragged me towards an Ayah. The next thing I saw was my “off white” colour shirt was all red and my upper lip was torn.
Another earliest injury I remember occurred when I was probably in 2nd standard. We were playing cricket in our house compound. There were three to four stone slabs that were laid in front of the door. The slabs were not completely pressed inside the mud. There were gaps between the slabs. I was bowling from the end where the slabs were uneven. I was about to deliver the ball, I felt terrible pain in the thumb of my right toe. I fell down and saw that the nail had come out. One of the square shaped slabs was the culprit.
Childhood injuries linger in memory for a long time especially when they are deeper and bigger ones even when there are no scars to remind. A mender was a luxury. Like many of my friends, I used shaving blades to sharpen the pencil. My mother would do the sharpening most of the times. Once I wanted t show that I too was capable of doing it and thus got my first ‘cut’ on my left thumb from a blade when I was in UKG. I immediately started sucking the finger, until it stopped bleeding.
While playing, we would do ‘first aid’ ourselves from what was found ‘at the injury site’. We looked for some thrown matchbox – the phosphorus strip which would be torn and applied on the wound as it was believed to disinfect. We did not use the word ‘disinfect’, but it was believed to speed up healing! How did we know about it? Our older friends were our masters! There was some plant which we could identify but didn’t know the name. We would pluck its leaves and squeeze it hard and apply the ‘rasa’ coming out on the wound. When this plant was not found, we would even search for thrown cigarette pack paper/carton which would come in handy to remove blood from the wound as much as possible and often they would be pressed on the wound until we went home. Some other times, we used to borrow a small amount of coffee powder to apply on the wound! If there was a tap close to the place of injury, we would rush and wash the wound and then go home. Sometimes if there was nothing, we would apply some mud on the injury to stop the bleeding. Some applied one’s own saliva if there was a small bruise, thus licking their wounds. If the injury was small, we just continued to play.
We often tripped and fell on rough tar roads in the process of quick running! If I imagine that now, it gives me goose bumps. We cared for nothing. You know, we played various games on the mud pavement, open ground or on the tar roads, from Cricket to Hide & Seek to Mara-Kothi to Soor-chandd to Lagori to Kalla-Police and what not. All barefoot. Wearing our hawaii rubber slippers for play was unthinkable even on hot summer afternoon play!
When I was about seven or eight, I was still learning to cycle the proper way, i.e. sitting on the seat and pedalling. Of course, first we learnt to ride “Khatri”. Only then would we ride sitting on the seat. It was summer holidays. I was still too short for the black cycle that one of my uncles had. A popular teacher at National High school, he often came to our house on his black cycle. (Even as a child, I remember me sitting next to the cycle pedal and rotating it with my left hand.) That fateful evening, I thought I was quite tall to ride his cycle. As he went inside, I took out the cycle. My legs would not reach the pedals or ground sitting on the seat. So kids our age had learnt the art of riding the bicycle standing on the pedal on left foot and using the right foot for the other pedal, through the centre triangle of bars. This required a different kind of balancing and control with the hands. At times, we had our left hand holding the handle and brake and the right hand was gripped on the seat! So only one brake, the rear one was in use! When I imagine this now, with me riding like this down the gradient and quite fast, I get a chill or two! Of course traffic was not an issue at all but the element of risk was, of falling down.
I pedalled up the road and while returning home I had a fall a few feet away from the gate because I recall that I had sped the last few feet. It was a nasty fall. I had scraped my left knee and elbow on the rough tar road. It was a wide scraped wound that made my life difficult for many days. It disappeared over the years, like many such ones did. But one scar remains. It was not from a fall, but from a protruding steel handle of a BTS bus seat.
This happened sometime in 1981. It was usual for me to accompany my mother to any relative’s house, travelling from one locality to another in a BTS bus. We would be home only past 9 in the night, by which time I would have dozed off in the bus next to the window. One such night, as the last stop came, I heard my mom waking me up saying “last stop banthu, iliyo”. I got up and was about to get down. A steel rod cut the inside of my left arm so smoothly that the scar can be seen even today.
We were afraid to get injured in school. We dreaded the burning sensation when Tincture was applied on the wound. At home also, antiseptic lotion Dettol was kept handy with some cotton. By the way, no injury list is complete without a banana peel story. That happened to me in the late 1980s.
It was in KV Malleswaram. I must have been in 8th standard. A cold war was on between me and Suresh Mani, the shortest boy in our class. Hanuman (he is no more) also joined in the game. The previous day had seen tense moments, ‘tragedies’, enmity, friendship and reconciliation – all because of a new Geometry box that Suresh Mani had bought! It was a Saturday. We were in Whites. The bell rang at 3.10pm as usual. Suresh Mani was already near the door to escape. Me and Hanuman chased him all around the school. He went up to the second floor and came down to the first floor and made his way towards the stage from the staircase next to the Staff room. He jumped off the stage and went towards the back gate. (It’s difficult chasing shorter fellows. They manoeuvre in the tiniest of gaps and crowds quite easily.) I turned around to see if Hanuman was there running behind me. Just when I was about to jump off the stage I slipped and fell 4 feet below the stage. Hanuman came from the front ground and told me to get up and continue the chase. I couldn’t even move as I had twisted my ankle.
Suresh Mani stood near the gate and taunted me saying “I know you are acting…come on catch me if you can”! He was rubbing salt into my wound! I did not want to give up. I shouted back to him saying “sprained my legs, I will catch you some other day… I have left you now, go.” He then came near me and asked if I was Ok. The culprit for my current state was a banana peel. I was too engrossed in the chase. Did not notice the peel at all. By 4pm, I somehow came till Agarwal Bhavan (presently where there is Printo) and fell down as I could not move. I sat there till 5pm. A passerby helped me in getting inside an Autorickshaw. My mother was already panic stricken that I hadn’t returned home. She stood near the gate. As soon as she saw me in an Auto, she came running. A cook opposite our house immediately took me in the same Auto towards Link Road Sheshadripuram, saying he knows someone who is a Puttur Bone setter. I was dead scared but had no choice. Fortunately for me, the shop was closed! We came back home. My mother called most of her friends and neighbours to be with her. They initially inquired about the incident, then they were busy enjoying the snacks and coffee my mother made. I could hear the talk getting drifted towards the increasing Telephone and Gas bills. Later in the evening, our neighbour took me in his green Ambassador to Dr.Srinivasan’s clinic in 17th cross around 7 in the evening. An X-ray was taken. There was a fracture. A cast was put. A relative of mine was extremely kind enough to pick me up from my home and drop me to school and back home on her Kinetic Honda everyday till I got back on my feet literally!
There was an old Carrom Board on which we used to play quite frequently. A few months before he passed away, my father had redone the board, because except the heavy frame, the termites had had their breakfast, lunch and dinner of the centre board for a few days. Gradually, the frame had got worn out. Splinters had developed in certain places where the striker hit very often. During a game I had got a small one pierced by it between the left thumb skin and nail quite deep.
I will close this post by quickly narrating two cycle stories, quite similar to each other. The cause for both accidents was over speeding. One happened in the summer of 1992 in Pune, when I was riding my cousin’s blue cycle. In order to avoid a stray dog, I turned the cycle to the right and left just a bit. Unfortunately for me, there was enough small stones on the ground which made the cycle skid and dragged me along for a couple of feet. I got wounded on my right knee and right elbow, unable to move for a few days.
The other injury happened in 1993 close to my home, a few feet down the road, when I was coming back home from school on my red Atlas ATB. I took a turn to the right towards home, and due to a lot of sand that had collected, my cycle skidded. The injury was bad because it tore my school trousers near the knee. The wound did not matter. I made sure that my mother did not get to know of the injury. I quickly cycled to 8th cross and got the torn patch on the pant darned for 8 rupees, ready for the next day.
Several injuries happened to us while playing. These days, people rush to the doctor and take a Tetanus shot whenever they get injured, afraid of consequences from it. In our days – I’m talking of the early and mid 1980s – we used to just wash off the blood and do some home dressing. I don’t think Tetnus was spoken about with such seriousness in my younger days. It was still a luxury. Every home had some cotton, tincture and dettol lotion for any emergency. As we came to High school, it was our PT masters, Shivanna and Satyanand Sir at KV Malleswaram who told me Nebasulf powder was good if there was any bleeding on the wound.
An injury can occur anytime, anywhere to anybody. Every injury is different from another. There are lessons we can learn from the experiences of others. Hearing the stories of others can educate and inform us.
Would love to hear your stories! Am sure there are loads of them! Over to you!