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The treatment of childhood in Nirad C. Chaudhuri's "The River and the Rains"

In "The River and the Rains", a section from The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian Nirad C. Chaudhuri describes the river and its condition during the rainy season and the subsequent impact of the rains on the people of the town where the author passed his treatment of childhood period. In this section of the book the author describes the life and atmosphere of his native town as it appeared to him as a child. The author also incorporates his own activities and feelings as a child as he grew up in the atmosphere of the little town situated on the small river.

The author describes the river and tells that though it was like an emaciated channel during the dry season he loved it. He describes how as a child he bathed and enjoyed in the water of the river -- "But we loved the stream. To compare small things with great, it was our Nile. Our town was the gift of the river. We drank its water, although this water never allowed us to see the sides or the bottom of the tumbler unless fetched very early in the morning. We bathed in the river, paddled in it, and when we got dry after our bath we looked fairer than we really were with a coat of fine white sand.... We also looked on with delight when the elephant of joyka, a near neighbour of ours, waded majestically into the river and disported herself in it. She had a young companion, not her own calf though, who also came with heron occasions and had his bathe in the river." 

The author describes the river and its surrounding atmosphere from a child's perspective. He says that the river was a shallow one -- in most places the water was knee-deep, but there were pools where the water was really deep, still and cool. There was one such pool within the half a mile of the author's house and he describes how as a child he enjoyed bathing in the pool. Along with depicting the life and environment during the rainy season, the author depicts the childhood fantasies about different object of nature and how the elderly people used to frighten them in order to restrain them from bathing in the pool "We were told by our elders, I cannot say whether truthfully or with the sole object of keeping us out of mischief, that in the middle of the pool these creatures attacked human beings in shoals." The author beautifully records the childhood memories of being frightened by different creatures of nature. He tells how the imaginary fear of leeches used to frighten them - "Then arrived the leeches, which frightened us not so much by sticking to our shins, arms and backs as by the threat, imagined by us, of creeping into the body cavities, of whose existence and vulnerability children seem to be so acutely and painfully conscious."

The author as a child was very observant. Nothing escaped his attention. He observed everything very minutely and with a keen interest. He observed how the village maidens appeared out of the dark jungle down the path with earthen pitchers, walked into the river and bent over it to fill their pitchers. He also viewed with minute detail how the village peasants appeared with bamboo cages and nets to catch fish in the river. He also records his feelings as a child. He incorporates in the section how he felt as child when he hear that many boats were destroyed during Japanese invasion "I was sorry to hear that thousands and thousands of these boats had been ruthlessly destroyed at the time of the Japanese invasion scare of 1942."

The author as a child immensely enjoyed the boat-race that took place on one day of August or September in the river. The colourful and diversified boats for the competition arrested the boy Nirad's attention. The author records how as child he enjoyed the boat race -- "We gazed bewitched at the boats as they darted past us one after another to the accompaniment of tremendous chorus, and we trembled with suspense when the fantastic Ootar boat, which looked more like a rainbow floating upside down in the water than a boat, came gliding with its apparent disequilibrium in the path of the shooting racers."

The all-observing eye of a child becomes evident when he records the beauty of the rain drops in the inner courtyard of the house. The boy Nirad exerted tremendous enjoyment form the scene caused by the rhythmic downpour. The imagination of a child was at work when the rain fell rhythmically. During the rainy season when there was a heavy downpour and the inner courtyard became waterlogged the raindrops falling on the water jumping gave the author the appearance of a glass pencil or a bunch of dolls dancing.

Thus in "The River and the Rains" the author records the carefree days of his childhood period. In this section of his great book the author describes the early environment and atmosphere he passed through and the place he lived in. What is remarkable about all these descriptions is that everything is viewed from a child's  point of view.


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