190712 musical instruemnts
Playing musical instruments is a common hobby. Image Credit: Getty Images

When we were young, none of us were “encouraged” to cultivate hobbies.

We were not instructed on the physical, mental, emotional and other benefits of hobbies and during our holidays we were not enrolled in painting or dance classes or any other hobby classes that would help “round” off our education.

I am sure we would have balked at the very idea of “classes” of any sort during those days of freedom from anything that was even remotely related to “organised” activity. Holidays, for us, meant that we could choose to get together with our siblings and play or argue or build or destroy something or we could wander off in those spacious bungalows and enormous gardens we were lucky enough to occupy, and have adventures on our own.

But somehow, while going about all that, we also acquired hobbies of our own — and what pushed us towards acquiring them was the example that was set for us in the house.

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Father’s primary hobby was cultivating and he grew vegetables, fruit and flowers when there was enough space — and sometimes, even when there was not. He also raised livestock and poultry and kept pets and when he was tired from his outdoor exertions, he took up a pencil and sketched pets and children and some of the finer details of the flowers and leaves he cultivated.

Mother’s passion was music. When her chores were done and even when she was doing them, she gave herself up to the lilt of the tunes she hummed and took an extra step here and there to keep to the beat of the drums that played in her head. Like Father, she was also a creator — and she did this at her sewing machine or with a hand-held needle, making clothes for us and embellishing them with intricate embroidery designs.

Both of them left behind works of art that we treasure even now and share among their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

While our parents were gainfully occupied even when they were not “at work”, it was taken for granted that we would be too — and it was easy for each of us to acquire hobbies that kept us happy, kept us out of mischief and out from under their feet.

Hobbies in our home, however, had their downside. For instance, Father proved to have amazingly green fingers and everything he touched bloomed and blossomed and proliferated beyond normal expectations. And so, while others produced enough vegetables for their daily fare from their vegetable patches that were the same size as his, the yield from Father’s patch had our household swamped with things we got quite sick of eating. Although some of it was given away, the rest of it was pickled and preserved, and thus it stayed as a constant reminder of that hobby.

Mother’s love for sewing translated into a penchant for collecting bits and pieces and lengths of leftover cloth from all her sewing projects with the long term goal of making patchwork quilts and blankets and skirts and whatever else we desired, but there was never enough “variety’ for her — or us — to take the plunge and actually get started on that patchwork. Ergo, there were bundles of colourful “cut pieces” occupying space in various cupboards and boxes.

Since we had absorbed all we could about hobbies from our parents, we tried to emulate the good and avoid the bad by abandoning hobbies that filled our homes with half-finished canvases or sacks of onions and tomatoes or we converted them into full-time occupations and attempting to make a living out of them.

That’s when we learnt about the trouble with some hobbies. They take over our lives.

Or is that the trouble with us — not with our hobbies?

— Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.