The memories of childhood are things which we adults always love to treasure and fondly remember. We also love to revisit those days and later narrate them to our children.
Mark Twain had nicely sketched all bittersweet and mischievous characters in in his stories. We can all identify and relate to characters of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
While reading out these stories to my children, I literally got reminded of our days when we played pranks and certain acts were similar to the characters of those books.
During our childhood we got to hear a lot of old wives’ tales. Like a sponge we absorbed all these stories and our innocent minds believed them to be true without an iota of doubt.
“Never throw away these loose milk teeth when they fall”, once my older cousin Rumni didi warned, when she saw me trying to pull out a loose milk tooth which was about to be dislodged from the gum of my lower jaw.
“What am I to do with the tooth then!” I asked her, surprised. “Keep all those fallen teeth in a match box,” she confidently advised and Tublu, my cousin. Being elder to us, she happily conferred on us her great wisdom which probably were passed on to her by some well wisher or a friend.
I asked her with awe, “Why should I do that?” while Tublu looked at her with excitement and surprise. Rumni didi gladly educated us that all our milk teeth are normally replaced by permanent teeth over a period of time. She also added that we must keep these uprooted fallen milk teeth carefully and then put them in rat’s holes.
“Why rats? We both asked in unison.
“Because rats are the creatures who are equipped with sharp and strong teeth which can cut through anything on earth,” pat came her reply. We eventually understood the moral of the story – if we present these teeth to rats, then we, the little angels, will be blessed with teeth as strong and sharp as those blessed creatures and the property so acquired will last for a lifetime.
Satisfied, having imparted a life-making knowhow to the novice younger cousins, Rumni didi also taught us the useful hygiene of washing the invaluable possessions with tooth paste and soap water so that clean and sparkling teeth, similar to the advertisement of leading brands of toothpaste in those days, were eventually gifted to the rodents. After all they were “the God of Teeth”.
During those days, there used to be competitions between cousins and we always measured ourselves in inches and centimetres to determine our heights. So, with the newly acquired knowledge of teeth, another category of competition was also introduced. How many fallen teeth do I have to my credit was an ambitious figure to show off and flaunt. These teeth were counted and kept back in a safe place with utmost care.
Eventually, none of us in the clan could put those teeth in the rat’s holes. The invaluable boxes containing our teeth used to disappear from each of our hiding places. The elders informed us that the boxes have been delivered to their destinations with assurance that we will be blessed with beautiful and strong teeth to smile for ever.
**cover image is a sketch by Aparna Mondal