Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Holi reminds me of many different passages of Time in my life--Childhood mostly because I guess one loves looking back at a time that was carefree in every sense of the word.As I've said often my first tryst with my beloved Mountains took place after we shifted to Sector 7--near the Rajbhavan.I was just five years old and I still remember the Dusk falling on that first night--in mid April.The entire day had been spent in putting things away---and as I stood at the window facing North the Mountains began weaving their Spell on me.As the streaks of a darkening Rose into Orange banners of Colour appeared and disappeared on the background of an Azure Sky a strange thing happened.The setting Sun's Rays caught and glinted on the Glass panes of those tiny houses and cottages crowning the peaks--and these sent forth a glorious blaze of Light beaming right down at us in the Plains.
It was this beautiful sight that caught my attention and held me spell bound--watching rivetted to the window as the Sky darkened from shades of a gloriously riotous Orange into a darker Violet and then as Dusk cloaked the Slopes, tiny twinkling Stars appeared----and soon the entire slopes and their heights were covered in a blanket of twinkling Stars--the million lights shining out through the darkness as homes and streets were lit by Electric Bulbs.Add to this the haunting strains of the Bugle as it sounded the Retreat when the Indian Flag was taken down for the day at the Raj Bhavan--the Governor's residence.There was something so completely magical about the whole thing--the Sunset,the multi coloured Streamers streaking across the Sky and finally the haunting strains of the Bugle coupled with the starry twinkling on the Hillsides in the distance!!I was a fanciful child--the kind that believed in Fairies,Elves,Gnomes and Imps and would faithfully hunt diligently in every Clover patch for the four leaved one.Not that I ever found one--but the search gave me a sense of adventure.Not just that I was a loner too--for despite my friendly nature and plenty of friends there was a private core which was never revealed to anybody.Hence first the Mountains and then Sudhir became my Best Friends and Confidants.The beautiful Mountain Hamlets with their lyrical names had a mystical ring to them.Kasauli the largest one of these was a Hamlet that was transformed by the British into an Army Cantonment and in my childhood retained it's colonial charm.A wonderful shop called "Daily Needs" was the first halt for us when in Kasauli--for till today I've never tasted better Ham,Salami or Bacon to compare with--forget rival--their product.They bred and cured their own Pork, having started in the late 1920s to supply the Army Garrison posted there.
At the time of our engagement Sudhir had never tasted Pork--or any of it's products.It was "Daily Needs" Pork products that converted him---and we became regular visitors to the Cafe Galleries at Breach Candy in Mumbai after we married.Besides Kasauli there was Badog and even before that Dagshai.Dagshai was where we'd drive to to play in the Snow whenever it snowed in the Hills.I still remember Sudhir's first visit to me in mid January 1970.He'd come to the Supreme Court and had just caught a Bus to Chandigarh from Delhi on an impulse.That i was delirious with Joy to find him at our doorstep unexpectedly is another story--but he reached just in time to see the Sunset.I literally dragged him willy nilly to my bedroom window to introduce him to my beautiful Mountains--and to get their approval.Just as we reached the window the entire Picture came alive--the blazing windows,the darkening shadows and the sparkling Lights--for the Snow had heightened their shine!!Both of us stood in rapt wonder looking out at the wonder laid out before us--his arms around my waist and his chin resting on the top of my head--his breath stirring the tendrils at the top of my head.I don't know how long we gazed enraptured at the Hills in the distance but it was a moment of mystical Magic--a feeling of rightness about the both of us paying homage to "Prakriti" or the power of Nature.
During the week he spent with us we drove up to Dagshai and then ahead to Kasauli and back.The look of wonder on his face at the sight of Snow was a pleasure to watch for me--actually everything about him was a pleasure--we'd just discovered that we were in love--and young with our entire life together spread out ahead of us!!Sudhir kept coming back to see me in Chandigarh--deciding on the spur of the moment--just flying in from Delhi whenever he got the chance.The Summer of 1970 in particular is perhaps the longest period of our courtship that we spent together.My bedroom had very little to recommend it apart from the fabulous view.It was sparsely furnished with a Bed that Daddy and I had made together,also a Study table similarly got along with a straight backed Cane chair which I used while studying.One corner held my Apron,Easel,Palette and my jumble of Oil Paint tubes.An old Glass Jug held a large assortment of my Pig's hair flat brushes and often my room smelt of Turpentine.My various Charcoals and Sketching Pencils were housed in my father's old Pencil Box--which I still have and the Bookshelves were overflowing with books--and my drawer of the Study Table held my numerous poems as well as my Diary---the latter I destroyed just before my marriage.Besides my room adjoined the Terrace and would turn into a furnace in the Summer when the bricks on the Terrace caught the full heat of the mid-day Sun.Add to that I did not have a Fan--neither a Table Fan nor a Ceiling Fan--but having one wouldn't have worked due to the massive Power cuts in the North for we mostly didn't have Electricity in the afternoons in Summer!!Today I wonder how I could stay in that room despite the terrible heat--but I guess Sudhir as well as me were too engrossed in each other to notice mundane things like our surroundings!!My bedroom however became our haven and I have to appreciate my father's broadmindedness in just letting the two of us enjoy our privacy in peace--much to my mother's chagrin.Later when I was pregnant with Lotta Sudhir just commended my father's trust--to which my father just turned around and said that he was sure we wouldn't embarass our families--we'd both been too well raised!!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Reading about Janet's grandson I was reminded of Meha at the same age.She was an extremely pretty but mischeivous little thing and also very bossy.She knew for us the Sun shone out of her--and what I remember most is the look of delicious anticipation she used to wear the moment her mother rang our bell---and the extreme delight on getting the desired reaction from us!!Lotta fell ill when Meha was about 2 years 6 months old and as a result they spent the next few months with us till Lotta recovered fully.
It was during that period we took a trip to the North to my beloved mountains.Meha loved the Train journey--and because we'd taught her to eat everything she literally enjoyed the excellent Food available on the way.However drinking Water was a problem.Sayali and Kartik were dating then and Kartik knew someone who manufactured Drinking Straws made from Fibreglass.These straws had some Silver and other things inside it to purify the Water and really stood us in great stead during our trip.Meha loved drinking Water at that age--(would I that she loved it as much still!!) and was initially very fussy about using the straw.The topic of stubborn arguments was that if Aaji (me) could drink straight out of the Glass why couldn't she too?Besides knowing that her mother wasn't very strong she'd very imperiously order Sayali,Ritu and me around like we were her lackeys.
Besides there was the problem of Commodes.We'd carried her small Potty Seat---large enough to fit over a Commode but she hated using the Indian Squatting Toilets--screwing up her nose at these.One of our family friends Narayan Da and his wife Pushpaben had accompanied us as usual and luckily the room they had alloted to them had a Commode.So finally the little fiend was satisfied!!Cell phones had just made an appearance in India 2-3 years before Meha's birth.Sudhir had this habit of pacing up and down while using his Cell phone--Meha would use her toy Cell to mimic him--walking behind him mouthing the same words in the same tone of voice till he was forced to call off before doubling up laughing--the situation really used to be hilarious!!Sudhir had this habit of praying before his Meals.at sundown and the moment he woke up.Meha would leave the Girls' bedroom early in the morning as soon as the Milkman rang the Doorbell.She'd amble out of the bedroom with her arms outstretched and eyes tightly shut calling out "Aaji malaa ghey" meaning Aaji please pick me up as she ambled up to the Kitchen.When I'd pick her up she'd put her arms around my neck and legs round my waist,clinging on to me like a little Monkey!!By now Sudhir's Tea would be ready--and i'd deposit Meha and the cup of tea with Sudhir.She'd snuggle down next to him--telling him about the Dream she'd had the earlier night and once he'd had his Tea, clamber on to his stomach and play with his hair!!If it was a working day,she'd do her best to detain him next to her cooking up all sorts of wild stories--making poor Aabu feel as guilty as Hell for going to the Courts !!
Meha's afternoon naps always meant Story time--she loved to listen to everything I pumped into her--Aesop's Fables,Hans Christian Anderson,The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and many stories from the Indian Pancha Tantra as well as the Jataka tales.She was like a sponge--absorbing all this with each minute detail intact.I discovered this when once she came over to visit us along with her first cousins--Jinal and Monil.Monil being a year younger had to bear the brunt of two older sisters who felt they knew better than he did.While this applied to Monil, Meha herself refused to accept Jinal's authority totally--despite Jinal being 6 years her senior!!While asserting her independence to Jinal she would sometimes quote some stories from the Pancha Tantra to drive home her point more effectively and thus to get her own way.Other times she'd cuddle Monil and tell him some of these Stories to lull him to have his nap.
When Lotta fell ill, Meha came even closer to us.She'd sleep in our bed between the two of us--something she continued doing as she grew older.This continued onto become a family ritual--each time Lotta and she visited,she'd insist on sleeping with us.Later after they moved to USA it became an unwritten family tradition--the first night after we reached and the last night before we left,she'd share our bed.She'd sleep with her arms slung around our necks--exactly just the way she'd greet us at the Airport when we arrived.She'd come flying towards us like a long legged,mettlesome Filly--her thick mane of hair streaming out behind her--to hook an arm around both our necks and then draw us close enough to strangle us in a tight hug!!Last time it was only me--and when she clutched me tightly with tears streaming down her cheeks,I knew our little girl had grown up--the cuddlesome little Baby Doll had disappeared for ever!!
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Sudhir and Me--Our Engagement 29th.december 1969
Our Wedding Reception,11th.October 1970
Sudhir and Me ,Bombay April 30 1977
Sudhir and Me, New York,November2009
Sudhir and Me,London June 2011
Passing by the old House yesterday brought back a host of memories.Though Sudhir and I had an arranged marriage,looking back now I feel that the undercurrents were very much there--but unacknowledged and unspoken.I remember our last visit to Bombay in 1968--18 months before we got engaged---and I was a few months short of 15 years old then.Those were the days that I was beginning to become aware of my own femininity--and to begin debating on whether the male admiration that had begun to make it's appearance wherever I went was desirable opr not wanted.I had also become a very fast drawing pro in removing my slippers to bash up roadside Romeos--who literally think they're God's Gift to women--how I detest their kind!!
I was more of a tomboy--Daddy treated me as his equal--I mean I knew to use all the Tools he had and though I weighed barely 80 lbs. then, I had the stamina and wiry strength of lifting more than my own weight--earning me the appreciative name of "Pathan" from my father.I loved using my hands to create new articles--Carpentary,Painting and moulding wet Clay to sculpt small pieces of abstract Art got me plenty of support from my father.Not just that I also learnt to do Batik--and literally churned out plenty of Stuff till I was implored to stop--the house was overflowing with my Art!!It was around this time that my maternal Uncle got engaged and Mummy was asked by my Aaji to officiate during all the religious proceedings at his marriage.That did it--we came to Bombay for the Wedding in late April 1968.I had been to Bombay in 1965 before this--and had pestered the daylights out of Sudhir--my name for him was "Dadoba"--meaning older brother.In 1965,being 9 years older than me he had his own life--which definitely did not include pesky cousins from the Outback!!His day was all mapped out during the free time he had on his hands--spending it with his friends mostly.It was only when I'd complain to Baba about him neglecting me he'd spend time discussing the Books we'd both read--English and Marathi--with me.Both of us were huge fans of Pearl S. Buck,Somerset Maugham,R.K. Narayan and Jane Austen--also Marathi Literateurs P.L. Deshpande and C.V. Joshi both famous for their satire.Those days Mangal, another cousin,who was in Bombay--poor thing, being paraded in front of many young men in the Marriage market.All three of us would sit together and discuss books--specially "Silapaddikaran", an ancient South Indian Drama written during the ancient Historical Tamil Sangama period.This was being shared in "The Illustrated Weekly of India" as a serial.Our fights would mainly centre around who managed to snatch the Magazine as soon as it was delivered and read the latest Episode first--here too Sudhir would mostly win--and I'd let Mangal read it after him--for we never knew which fellow would say "yes" to her and when!!She was an extremely sweet looking girl--thick,long Black hair and twinkling Black eyes set in an oval,fair face--with a small straight nose and a dimpled smile.She was Sudhir's first cousin--Baba's younger brother's daughter and just a few months older than Sudhir.They had grown up together till they were in their early teens--and that closeness was something that lasted till Sudhir and later last year Mangal too passed away.
It was in 1968, when there would be family discussions about the proposals that had been received for Sudhir that I'd feel pangs of deep sadness thinking of his marriage.Surprisingly I'd had no problems accepting Milind's wife Nina when they got married in December 1965--though Milind too was one of my favourite cousins.Leafing through all the Photographs recieved I just couldn't find a single one who measured up to him in my eyes---that he dismissed the idea of getting married just then too was a relief--though I didn't know why!!I had always admired Sudhir--to me his perfect features and his bearing,the way he carried himself and his puckish sense of Humour--all were something I liked and perhaps that was why I loved spending time with him on my visits to Bombay.It was only later--after he asked me about marriage that I realised that I had been attracted to him earlier--but since I was too young and innocent, it never even remotely registered that I could be in love with him!!However after my initial shock of coming to know that a marriage between certain sets of first cousins was a custom,the idea that he could marry somebody else if I didn't say "Yes" pushed me to propose to him immediately the next day--and was immensely relieved when he accepted!!That was the first inkling I had about how much I loved him--and in that one moment my life changed completely.By the time we tied the knot a year later I was completely besotted with him--and he with me.Both of us were very naive and inexperienced having grown up under a lot of conservative supervision--for though both our fathers were pretty broadminded the fear of children going astray loomed large in their minds--and with me specially, the environment too helped to add extra tabs.It was only later when our two daughters were growing up I realised the burden of what my parents must have been through and definitely appreciated their efforts a thousandfold!!
Get An Email Alert Each Time KOMAL53 Posts