No, these aren’t curse words but they do mean something different to different people at different stages.
A fruity preserve that goes on toast
Or another word for DO
Or be with people to play music
Say JAM and that’s what you do!
To relax or just chill out
Or forcibly insert
Or give a sexy pretty pout
Or, like the Londoners, hang about
Just a moment, when you say
Or be in serious trouble
Or be the one to music play
Or party where beer will bubble!
Jam is great and awesome too
If you shout Jaaayyyum!
All it means is yet not through
But all I’ve said is true!
When I was four, I didn’t know any of the other meanings of jam that I’ve mentioned in the lines above… except the one where you spread it on toast and mess yourself up! I loved that, of course… like any other kid of my age. And we were four of us. My two cousins, my brother and me and, in retrospect, I know that we were actually enacting out almost all the meanings of JAM almost every other day without having an inkling of what we were doing. And this certainly includes an occasional whiff of beer too, as my grandfather owned Lashkar Hotel in Gwalior and the entire family stayed on the rooms on the first floor with the Hotel Bar being on the ground floor. But enough of family history for this post as I must now fly across time and tell you of a few things that we did then.
Love at four
When I was four, I fell in love with four things and when I say ‘I’, I actually mean ‘we’ because it was always the four of us who dived into every act together:
- Running away with any footwear in sight and throwing it in the canal that flowed behind the hotel
- Going on adventure tours in the vacant and unused dusty rooms
- Searching out lizard eggs
- Thinking of ways to place the blame on the youngest whenever we were trapped and strangely he was always sportingly willing
The small, soft, and silky eggs
Eggs. Lizard eggs. It wasn’t me but my elder cousin who stumbled upon them in one of the dusty rooms on the other side of the terrace. The side where we rarely went as it was so lonesome and seemed so far away that we had some sort of an instinctive fear in going there.
‘Eggs. I’ve found eggs,’ whispered Munna, my elder first cousin.
‘I know where they are,’ announced Titoo, the youngest of us, ‘they are in the kitchen.’
‘Not those,’ said Munna impatiently, and then looked at me as if seeking permission to go on. I was the eldest and commanded that respect.
‘Let’s go,’ I simply said. It was afternoon and all the adults in the family were either taking a nap or were busy downstairs discussing things we never quite understood.
We quickly made our way to the other side of the terrace and with our hearts beating fast, we entered the first room. Munna led the way. The rooms on this side were used to store the furniture junk of the hotel and were hardly ever cleaned. So there was not just dust everywhere but also cobwebs, and the room appeared to be sulking and brooding. This made the interior look ominous and foreboding and to add to this were the strange sounds there.
We stopped. A four year old has a lot of fears despite the over-abundance of foolhardiness… and the rest of us were younger than me.
‘There,’ my cousin said, pointing to a hole in the wall plaster just above the door, and then added, ‘I think the lizard has gone to search food.’
‘How do you know this?’ said Binnu, who was elder to Titoo and was always very careful about participating in any of our escapades.
Titoo had the sharpest eye and it was he who said, ‘The lizard is there,’ pointing out to the reptile on the opposite side.
‘It is watching us,’ said Binnu, ‘and will rush to attack us if we do anything to the eggs.’
‘No,’ said Munna with finality, and then asked us to help him push a three-legged stool near the egg-site. It was predictably Titoo who was made to climb the stool as he was the youngest and the most gullible of us. He boldly picked all the eggs and climbed down.
‘We’ll keep them with us and see when the babies come out,’ I said.
‘Babies,’ asked Titoo incredulously but did not pursue the though after that. He was like that… always accepting everything and waiting for things to reveal themselves to him. He rarely went beyond what was obvious. Munna was the explorer amongst us. Binnu was the sane and careful voice trying to protect us from imagined fears. I was the thinker and the leader.
A carton was found and the eggs placed in it on a bed of shredded paper. We came out of the musty room and were rather glad that the adventure for the day was over.
‘Don’t tell anyone where we were,’ I warned the team and we went on with the game that pleased us the most… throwing footwear into the canal and setting up newer benchmarks whenever possible. That day all we could find was top-nibbled chappal in the musty room and it was handed over to Munna as he was the one to lead us there.
The eggs, unfortunately, did not hatch as we found them broken the next day. This was perplexing and it was again Titoo who sighted a mouse scampering away behind the furniture stacks.
‘Wrong place for eggs,’ I remarked with the right thoughtful tilt.
‘What are you kids doing here,’ a voice suddenly boomed and literally made us jump. It was my grandfather who had come up to see if there was any more space for storing more junked furniture when he found the four of us bent over a few broken egg shells.
‘This is not the right room for you guys,’ he said in his gruff voice and then led us out, locking the room. The room was now practically barred for us.
Later that day our fathers were also informed of our adventurous excursion to the remote room but thankfully we did not get anything more than a few sidelong glances of concern from all.
‘These kids need the right kind of books now,’ said my grandfather, and then instructed our fathers to get on with the task without delay. Thus that same evening we all had nice colourful books in our hands and one of them had pictures of lizard eggs hatching… we were thrilled.
‘Now read these books and learn well,’ grandfather said with a smile, and then called each of us to hand over a game each. I got a Mechano set that had a lot of nuts and bolts and screws and little pieces with holes in it to be connected to build cranes and bridges and cars and whatever else I could imagine. The four of us pooled our gifts and were busy with them.
‘They are now going to remain busy for the rest of the vacations,’ remarked my mother, obviously over-looking the fickle nature of peace with four kids in the house waiting to pick up the next temptation!
And this is exactly what happened just two days later.
We were, predictably, in yet another jam… but this will come in another post later. Jams, you see, are second nature to kids… they simply love getting in and out of them!!
14 March 2012