School picnic is a real fun time. The memories of such days are cherished for lifetime. I have been lucky to enjoy many picnics during my school. Here I open a window into those delightful days which were fairly different than nowadays!
Those days, it was not picnic as Saelus (what we call Saer or Tafreeh in Urdu). Saelus indeed was the word that would buzz in the morning assembly. Then the letter to the head of the school on picnic, formally, was written at the 11th hour.
Firstly, children would raise hue and cry during prayer-time when summer months would set in. For, at least a minute, or two, Saelus Haz, Saelus Haz, Saelus Haz… (Picnic Sir, Picnic Sir....) would bustle in the morning assembly till teachers responded by ‘Okay’. In some schools the sound would reverberate for days until teachers paid heed to the demand.
This initiative would really move the school within. After this, would start a meeting of teachers in the office and then, next day, a teacher would ask us of our opinion about the spot we would like to visit.
Then it would again take us a day or two to choose a spot to-be-visited because the choice among the students would vary. Finally, teachers would select a suitable spot for the picnic.
The spot for a local picnic, I recall, in almost all the schools would remain some bank of a stream where drinking water was available. This picnic was amazing. In my school, Govt. Boys’ Middle School, Chraligund, it was like a fair when picnic-day was announced. It would take my teachers days together to select a spot. Truthfully, they’d take us to the venue of our choice.
Those days, no sooner the day for the picnic was announced we’d jump with joy and excitement. Most often the declaration was made by Gul Saheb (retired Haji Ghulam Mohammad Byhaqi). He’d, always, be accompanied by Fayaz Saheb in the morning assembly, our PET. Gul Saheb was popular among students those days in that school.
He’d come to school on his bicycle from Dandoosa; a village which at a two-minute-distance from the institution. His new Atlas bicycle, that I still carry an image of in my mind, was valuable when the school would plan for long excursions, as it helped him to go up to Dangiwacha or Watergam (two adjoining towns) to arrange a bus for the picnic.
Local picnics would differ from other picnics where we would visit some far off place. Local picnic was a thrill, simply a great pleasure. A host of things would circulate my mind like other boys, right from the day of announcement.
All boys and girls of my school would form toliyan (small groups) as they had to organise things for making halwa (a sweet dish). Every group had a leader.
Day before picnic, teachers would send us off to wash the uniforms and to do the preparations. I remeber the hustle and bustle in my village before picnic. In the evening, groups in the vicinity would remain busy making arrangements.
No group would accept me with it because I was a small naughty boy. My mother, God bless her long life, would request every one to take me along but my bad-luck, they’d refuse. I don’t know why? Then, finally, I had to go all alone.
I still remember that day of picnic when a boy from my village, who was a group leader, accepted me in his group. It fascinated my mother. Every group leader would collect Rs. 5 from each member in the group for arranging halwa (sweet-dish) which was made at the spot. And finally, when the day came, the delight would double.
A long queue of students was advised to walk slowly towards the site that we would reach in five minutes. I imagine, we’d carry with us so many things, like nomads. Quite often, we were taken to Shaat, a place on the bank of a stream called Hamal that was full of willow-trees.
No sooner we’d reach the spot than we’d open our tiffin-boxes and finish instantly because we had to prepare halwa. We’d crowd the place doing different activities. Group leader was meant for burning the stove. After an hour or so, halwa would get ready but lumps would remain in the preparation.
Perhaps, for the reason, that we hadn’t stirred the stuff properly. We’d, nevertheless, keep on talking, watching around, and mocking at one another. We’d relish the sweet-dish and take home some part of it for our parents in tiffin-boxes. Back home, our parents would dislike it saying that it was made in hurry!
However, unlike local-picnics, long-picnics were a bit different. No groups were made. Everybody had to remain with his brother or sister. No stove, no halwa, nothing at all.
All we did was to purchase things out of pocket money. I vividly remember, I’d wake up so early when my school had to go on a long picnic. Some of us would rather remain anxious to observe the day.
Long or short, such picnics were amazing. None can forget it.
Manzoor Akash works in Dept. of School Education J&K
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.