Thursday, April 18, 2013
I sometimes wonder as to why my mind keeps harking back to the older Memories--maybe because these belong to a happier more carefree time--specially those of my childhood and the early years of our marriage.Belonging to the same bloodline made our relationship unique--but at the same time we were too alike in our thinking---so maybe that helped too.My father was a very broadminded person but had some funny ideas about being conservative--Mummy thought differently and had her own views about being conservative--both would clash on certain issues and that would send me confusing signals!!
Daddy didn't mind if I wore tight sheaths as my Dresses but these had to accompanied by a pair of Leggings/Shalwars/Churidars---he was not comfortable with my bare legs showing under the fitted Frocks after I turned 11 years old!!Mummy on the other hand had no problem with my showing off my shape----in fact she would make me walk up and down our Staircase with heavy books balanced on my head--to ensure a proper bearing and a straight back!!She also was okay with my wearing make-up and would often buy me some too--and Daddy agreed.The only rule they clashed about was Boys.Daddy felt that I could have friends who were Boys--while Mummy viewed the entire breed with suspicion. I myself was not too keen on Boys--preferring my Books to Company most often.Besides being schooled by Nuns since the age of 5 years---specially those who frowned upon the concept of about Dating had made me shy and inhibited--I was the classic example of an Inferiority Complex breeding a Superiority one!!Till today I find it difficult to feel comfortable with new aquaintances from the opposite sex--I either talk too much or I just clam up!!
That is why perhaps my equation with Sudhir worked so well--though we both could never understand some aspects about each other's personality.I felt he was too cautious and suspicious about everything and everybody---while he rued my rash and naive nature and the way I impulsively rushed into various situations!!This was a bone of Contention between us to the very end!!When we shifted into our present Flat about 38 years ago I had been instructed by him never to open the door--anytime of the day--without a sharp knife and half an Onion in my hand!!Reason??It would help in self defense if the need arose!!To me seemed idiotic that I'd be slicing Onions at any time of the day--but he was adamant and I complied!!Both of us were very fond of reading--and this trait was inherited by our daughters---both love to read and literally devour the Books voraciously.Sayali must have been about 7-8 years old when a Book Fair was held in her School.Both Lotta and she got an equal sum of Money to buy Books---but Lotta being the cautious one bought just 2-3 books while Sayali blew up the whole amount on a pile of them!!Sudhir came home early that day from the Court--a rarity while they were growing up---and hid in the entrance Lobby to surprise them when they returned from School.Both came home,were duly spooked by his "Boo!!" and then settled down to their evening Tea with him--jostling each other to fill him up on their day while I got busy with the evening Meal.
Suddenly Sayali's dismayed wail brought me rushing to our Bedroom----she had just shown him all the Books she'd bought--and he lost it seeing the huge pile she'd picked up!!!That was one of the rare occasions when he gave her a dressing down about going overboard-----and I kept out of it.A penitent and dejected Sayali sobbed herself to sleep while I remonstrated with him in private about it was just Books that she'd indulged in.He heard me out and turned round to tell me that she should learn restraint in deciding what she needs and what she does not---or Money will be a dangerous weapon to give into her hands.She had to learn to be accountable--that this time it was Books later it could well nigh be just anything!!!Money was not a plaything--it had to be treated with the proper respect it deserved!!I think Sayali learnt something that day because his approval was paramount to her--but not really much as the next incident will show!!
Around 1985 I decided to complete my Graduation through the Open University Plan just floated by the University of Madras.After passing the Entrance Exam I took to studying seriously--choosing my favourite Subject History as my main one.I'd finish my cooking and household chores by Lunch time and once the girls had been fed,would sit down study during the afternoon.The Examinations were scheduled to be held in the Summer Vacations---and this meant that we did not leave Bombay for 3 years till I passed the course.Both the Girls were dismayed and though there would be short trips for 2-3 days to nearby places--it was never the less not the Vacations they were used to.Their fertile brains came with the idea of being paid for staying put in Bombay---and both bargained and haggled with Sudhir to finally arrive at a figure agreeable to both parties--payable to Girls weekly.As expected,Lotta very cleverly would hoard her share and Sayali would be just the opposite with her share--spending most of it on Ice Creams and Chinese Buffets.It had become so that whenever she called up the local Ice Cream Parlour nearby, the person taking the order didn't need to ask her name--they'd begin with "Oh Hi Sayali--what would you like?"Besides Lotta,she and her best friend Lakshmi would frequent a Chinese Eatery and enjoy the elaborate Chinese Dishes they served!!One thing needs to be made clear here----Lotta very conveniently would forget her Wallet at home--and most often than not it was poor Sayali who ended up paying the Bill!!At the end of their Vacation, Lotta had almost the entire amount saved,Sayali had just a few hundreds left over---but this time Sudhir forgave her, because it was in lieu of their Vacation after all!! Today while Lotta continues to be very prudent with her money Sayali still splurges hers on many things----and one of her weaknesses continues to be---- Food!!!
Monday, April 15, 2013
My dear friend Janet is so right--Memories can be hard to handle sometimes--specially because of the people these are attached to!!In my case Sudhir's death was so sudden that it froze my senses instantly--I mean how could he just die in a moment--leaving me without any intimation at all??Actually my father died the same way too and my mother who was just 42 years old then, aged overnight from the shock!!It is today that I'm finding comfort in my memories of our life together and that is what is helping me to deal with the huge vacuum and emptiness his passing has left behind in my life.
There are moments when I just feel the need to have a physical remembrance of him--my Computer has many short Video clips taken by Sayali on her Cell phone stored in it.All I do is just play these or the Songs he has recorded and put the volume on high.I then continue to carry out my chores--just listening to the sound of his voice drifting out of the children's bedroom--for that's where the Computer is--reassures me and comforts me that he is still around.I need to do this at least once everyday--it helps to keep me emotionally on an even keel--guess it might sound a bit odd but there it is!!Of course there are countless Memories stored in my mind and these suffice to run me through the entire range of emotions---specially Love and Laughter!!
I learnt to drive at a very young age---that too Daddy's car--an Ambassador.This car was like an elephant--large and awkward to handle!!The breed actually was an Indian adaptation of the Land Master--and because it was a really rugged Car it was the most preferred of all the Indian Brands.The roads in Chandigarh were huge and empty of much Traffic--a few Cycles,Cycle Rickshaws,some local transport Buses and even fewer Cars---for the most preferred transport was to walk!!Daddy taught me to drive--and anyway since I had been blessed with a lot of strength and energy despite my thin wiry appearance--I picked it up quite well too!!Things went well for about almost a year till one day while returning from a Shopping spree I took too wide a turn and ended up the Embankment outside a neighbour's home at the end of our Lane!!We had to be dragged out of the Car carefully--for the front wheels were pointing at the Sky--and that put an end to my days behind the wheel!!Sudhir tried umpteen number of times to make me drive in Bombay--but each time something or the other spooked me and I'd give up!!
The first time I got a Learner's Licence we had a reasonably good run for a month at the Worli Sea Face--the quietest stretch of road those days in this hustling and bustling City.However one fine day as we were cruising along a BEST Bus overtook me--forcing me to side track a little.That did it---I threw up my hands and dissolved into tears--I just couldn't drive any more!!!The second time the process was repeated,a Cabbie shouted at me for blocking his way while he was trundling along cruising for a Fare--and I threw up my hands once more!!The third and final time I just couldn't gather up the courage to venture onto the roads--and Sudhir had to accept that I was not cut out for Bombay roads!!Funny thing is that I'd drive without a qualm in the chaotic streets of the Hill Stations of Lonavla and Mahabaleshwar and towns like Poona (now Pune) and Kolhapur---- despite these being packed with a combination of Cyclists,People and Animals--- without batting an eyelid!!Maybe mentally I was more relaxed there--I don't know!!
While we spent many of our Vacations in the North,a large amount were spent in Kolhapur--my hometown.Travelling to this sleepy little Principality was something that excited me--despite the fact that I'd never really lived there--only visited during a few Vacations.However the sense of belonging is very strong--and Sudhir used to tease me about the way I'd be hard pressed to contain my excitement as we drew nearer to the place.I'd be like a dog--sniffing the Air to catch the familiar smells which for me spelt relaxed,peaceful tranquility---days of just lying back,doing nothing and getting refreshed completely!!Our common uncle Shyam Kaka was a partner in this residential Hotel that he and his friends had opened in a sprawling old Mansion.The girls loved to stay there--the Food was finger licking delicious and we took either of the two rooms with attached Terraces---where we'd sleep out under the Stars in the cool,Summer nights.After 1982 our pair of miniature Lhasa Apsos joined our family--and Milind began teasing us about being "You two,two girls and two dogs--nicely balanced"!
This was the place where we spent time eating wholesome traditional Marathi cooking--spicy and fiery.Since Shyam Kaka married pretty late in life his children were nearer our girls' ages than ours.This created a perfect balance for us--all three of our cousins would spirit the Girls away for the day to our old ancestral home in the old Town and Sudhir and I would join them in the evenings.For both of us the old part of Town,the River and our trips to both the Panhala Fort in the higher reaches of the Sahyadris and visits to Daak Bungalow in Khanapur on the Deccan Plateau near Belgaum would be highlights that we all looked forward to.
The entire routine never changed--my Shashi Kaki--Shyam Kaka's wife would cook us a tasty Lunch consisting of a Mutton Curry,Boiled stuffed Masala Eggs, an Onion Raita,Sorghum Bread called Bhakris and a huge pot of Curd Rice.This last item would be freshly prepared early in the morning.Rice would be cooked and when still warm fresh Milk to which the Yoghurt Culture had been mixed well in would be added with a little Salt.This would then be allowed to set in a warm corner of the Kitchen.Just before leaving she'd season it with a generous Seasoning of hot Ghee to which Black Mustard,Fenugreek and Cumin Seeds were added with a generous pinch of Hing or Asafoetida.She'd then throw in Fresh Curry Leaves and Dried Red Chillies just before pouring the sizzling concoction over the beautifuly set Curd Rice.The container would be capped instantly to shut in all the aroma--and later seated under a capacious Banyan Tree in Panhala we'd literally gorge ourselves silly before stretching out under the thick foliage on Grass mats for our afternoon Siestas!!
An amusing incident occurred at Panhala once.We were being troubled by a few Monkeys who wanted the Bread we had with us.Initially we ignored them but as they grew bolder and started coming too close to us for comfort Shyam Kaka started scolding them in Marathi--making angry gestures as well while asking them to back off.To our surprise and hilarious amusement the biggest Monkey--must have been about 10 kgs. at least in weight--began giving back as good as he got--chattering away excitedly in his language and waving his arms around in almost an identical copy of Shyam Kaka's antics!!!Till today we all recall poor Shyam Kaka's initially outraged expression and later his sheepish look which gave way to uncontrollable mirth eventually with a lot of fondness!!Those were some days and great Memories!!
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The Weather is bringing with it so many beautiful Memories--despite the sweltering,humid heat that is making it's presence felt!!I admit that one cannot run away or close the door on unbidden thoughts and Memories---but because the associations are fewer it does become easier to function.Last year I missed all this--because I was in London with Sayali and and the associations were far away.Also the fact that Kartik and she had shifted to Central London and were not in their earlier Flat also made it that wee bit easier---since the new place held no memories of Sudhir for me.Besides I still was partly under shock and numbness about his death so things did not really penetrate that deep down into my conciousness.This year I'm wide awake and very much in Mumbai--and all those associations with my Past!!
April always was a favourite month with us--as a family.The Girls and their father both would begin their Summer Vacations a week or so from each other--specially when the Girls were in School.The last week of April would be spent booking our Rail tickets for our annual Vacations North---- and while both Sudhir and i truly loved the Railway journeys the girls just put up with these!!We'd reserve our Compartment well in advance---and because Food was always one of the main parts of the journey we'd make arrangements for that as well.Luckily in India we've always been lucky with Railway food.During our childhood Food would be freshly cooked on the Trains and delivered to our Compartments at the different Stations that the Trains stopped at.The First Class had all the etiquette that it's status demanded---we'd be served by liveried Staff--with Cream coloured Stoneware Crockery and heavy Silver plated Cutlery--both embossed with the Logo of the Indian Railways.Later when they came up with through Trains we had a choice--either of eating in the Dining Car or in our own Compartment.The orders would be taken down by the Stewarts in advance.How I loved the Food then--the Kitchens were fired by Coal and the Food was cooked to perfection--my favourites were the Omelettes,the Railway Mutton curry and Roast Chicken Dinners--and of course the creamy Soups and crisp Toasts!!
Later it became hazardous to cook on Gas Cylinders on the running Trains and this was when we began getting our orders picked up from Caterers at certain Stations--and this is where our daughters came in--this is the Era they remember.However the comfort and style of the Trains was still very much a part of the Railways.Specially when one took the Rajdhani running between Bombay and Delhi.As always Sudhir and i would bag the lower berths--both of us sitting glued to the windows looking out--watching the Countryside pass by!!Lotta and Sayali would arm themselves with their books--clambering up to the upper berths to read their books in peace.The AC comfort kept the outside heat at bay but we really waited for our favourite Stations to catch our favourite Eats.Palghar was the last stop in Maharashtra before we crossed into the State of Gujarat at Billimora--and it was at Palghar that we picked up the fresh,sweet and juicy Palmyra fruit called "Taad Golas" in Marathi--Ice Apples in English.Of course to get these one had to take The Deluxe or the Paschim Express--The Rajdhani would cruise straight through without stopping there!!Surat,Baroda and Godhra were favourite stops for the wonderful Surati crisp Biscuits known as "Butter" as well as the sweet called "Ghaari" made with a Milk Solids stuffed Pastry.The other two for thick sweet,Dry Fruit and Spice flavoured Masala Milk,thick,creamy Ice Creams and of course Yoghurt----those days we never looked askance at many things which today I would do--and stuffed ourselves like greedy Pigs with the Goodies.Besides this there were Savouries galore at each Station the Train halted--and by the time the Food we'd ordered came around we'd already be stuffed to the gills with other Stuff!!
The changing landscape was actually imprinted on our minds but still Sudhir and I would gaze out at it rapturously.Some of the best sunrises and Sunsets have been glimpsed through the Train windows--not to forget the bewitching beauty of Moonlit nights that we've gazed at spellbound.Both of us loved those nights---the Trees standing like dark,mysterious Sentinels dotting the Landscape and the tiny twinkling lights of the isolated Homesteads near the track.The Moonlight would create deep, dark shadows in small recesses and below some boulders--as well as in the "Bihads" or the Sandy Ravines on the banks of the River Chambal---an area famous for armed Dacoits.My purse always held tiny screw topped bottles of Red Chilli powder and a sharp pair of Gardening Shears--just in case we were attacked!!It was an unwritten Code--one never opened the door to one's Compartment without being fore armed!!
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