The weekend is upon us again and I sit watching my children and grandchildren engaged in, what is referred by them as recreation. My daughter sits glued to the television watching her favourite soap, while my granddaughter is busy exercising her thumbs in a frenzy of texting on her cell phone. As far as I am concerned, I consider modern technology as an unavoidable convenience, but one that has effectively broken up the traditional family unit.

Before television cast its ‘disruptive’ influence on us, we had the benefit of radio - not the high pitched racy sound of FM, but mellow AM stuff, where one was offered a bouquet of programs ranging from news thrice a day to dramas and music. There were slots reserved for children like the Sunday morning show with Mohini Hameed and the daily story telling in the evening. It was here that the great Rafi Peer (my mentor and voice trainer) cast his late night spell through the celebrated suspense show aptly named “Darr e Aama” and the western music request program hosted by Yasmin Imtiaz (later Yasmin Tahir) brought the great Billy Vaughn into our drawing rooms.

The radio receivers of the time were works of art and I wish that ones in my home had not, over time, disappeared – since they would be rated as invaluable antiques now. These sets (for this is what they were called) were like small cabinets made of beautifully polished wood. A rectangular or round screen with names of cities and frequencies adorned the front end. Stations could be tuned by turning a knob-like dial that moved a thin vertical line or a needle. The speaker was usually above or below the annotated screen and covered by a piece of fabric resembling upholstery. Reception was only possible if one had rigged up an aerial on the roof. This device was often made up of a tape like strip of metal netting, many yards long. Each family member had his own preferred programs and tuned in for that particular broadcast, without detriment to any other activity.

Then there was the gramophone. The one in our home looked like a green leather suitcase. When opened, it revealed a turntable sized for a 78 RPM record and a ‘sound box’ linked to a curved arm with a needle holder (called the head) at one end. A crank adorned one side of the ‘suitcase’. We gathered around the contraption with a stack of records from our collection and platefuls of ‘Pakoras’. The gramophone was cranked (to wind up the coiled spring, which rotated the turntable for about two minutes), a fresh needle was fitted inside the head and placed on the outermost groove of the record – and presto, we had K L Saigol’s rich voice singing our favourite number out of the sound box.

Picnics were a regular feature in those carefree days and we required the smallest of excuse to pile into the car and breeze off to the lush banks of the Ravi (which was a real river then) to feast on ‘Chikar Cholay’ and ‘Nan’ purchased en route. Our weekends were unforgettable, as cousins, aunts and uncles from the walled city arrived, creating a full house. These evenings were a riot, with elders (even grandparents) joining a game of ‘Aankh Micholi’ (Hide and Seek) setting loose the child inside them. On other days we had activities like caroms, playing cards or even ‘Pachisee’, where everyone got together as participants or onlookers.

The ‘Pir’ family lived across the road from us and their eldest son (who was my eldest sibling’s age) frequently brought over his hand-cranked and lamp-lit projector along with rolls of 8 MM cartoon strips that we projected onto walls. We even held masquerades, where I being the youngest of siblings, was coerced into dressing up as a hookah bearing rural rustic complete with ‘Pugree’ and moustache. I remember one occasion, when dressed in this manner, I entered my grandmother’s room frightening the old lady out of her wits.

Once a month during the cold season, we reserved Sundays for a ‘Nihari’ session. Charpoys (yes – charpoys) were laid out in the side lawn and everyone gorged themselves on Sami Dehlvi’s mouthwatering fiery concoction followed by a warm, sunny siesta on the charpoys.

Life was good in those days since we were carefree. The bread earners in the family went about their professional commitments without greed or avarice, dividing their time equally between work and recreation. None of them brought work or worries home. This was a golden age, where family bonding and mutual happiness took priority over other things – this was a time to remember.