Monday, May 20, 2013
Sitting at the Computer for a while is a pain---literally!!After suffering for over a month I finally went to the Doctor.Result?The start of Arthritis coupled with a Vitamin D2 and D3 deficiency---that's what was causing me to walk with a rolling gait,making it impossible to sit for long periods and yes I had to reduce my walks into small 10 minute stretches--but doggedly walk I did!!Anyway there are Pills to help control the pain and bring the levels back to normal.Tomorrow I go back to the Doctor with all the Reports and let's see what he says besides the Physiotherapy and Diathermy that have already been advised.So wish me Luck Folks--that pain's driving me nuts--besides making me crabby!!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Yesterday afternoon I got an extremely pleasant surprise.One of my very close childhood friends Anita--known to our group as "Pony' called up from Chandigarh just because a burst of sudden Summer Showers reminded her of me and our childhood and adolescence together.It was a wonderful half hour--reminiscing and chatting about the Past but it completely renewed and refreshed my jaded soul--bored to death in this sweltering humid heat!!A Silken Skein of forgotten Memories opened up----and those days came alive once more in my memory.
We were a motley group of friends studying in the same School,same Grade and living within a few minutes of each other.We shared many things---including a Cycle Rickshaw run by a fellow called "Moti" to ferry us to and from School in both Summers and Winters.During the Monsoons, the heavy downpours meant that Moti needed to make a greater number of trips to ensure that all of us reached both School and home sufficiently dry!!During the fine Weather there would be about 8-10 of us stashed into the Rickshaw---a tight fit but great Fun--for we would irritate poor Moti by teasing him about many things---but mainly the size of his Rickshaw and the tight fit!!!Moti stayed in our Bungalow--Daddy had taken a liking to him and given him the Outhouse as he preferred to call the Servants Quarter built to one side.A few years later Daddy managed to get him a job as a Peon in the Government Office and Moti became a permanent fixture in our home.Moti was a Bengali and skilled at cooking up Bengali Sweets and Savouries--hence an asset whenever we had Parties--he'd help out the Cook to prepare the stuff.Later when Sohan Singh left, Moti stepped in as general factotum to help around the House. Moti would eat his Meals with us--and considered all three of us his wards---Sudhir as the "Jamaaee Babu" or son-in-law was placed on a very high pedestal!!In 1973 my parents shifted to Mauritius on deputation and that was the last time he visited us in Bombay.However I digress---initially Moti was just a Rickshaw Walla--though a very popular and beloved one.
We were a group of 5 friends--Pony,Neelu,Gauri,Arunima and me.Of all of us it was Neelu's home we loved to converge in.Her grandparents--- Ammaji and Baaujee---- would spend the six months of the Summer and Monsoon with her in Chandigarh.We all waited eagerly for them to arrive--for that meant a Summer Vacation filled with a lot of Love and pampering for all of us equally--there would be no favourites!!Ammaji would bring with her so many Goodies from their ancestral Land in Bareilly--Sweet Pickles called "Murabbas",spicy Vegetable Pickles and above all for me a special bottle of yummy,spicy Bamboo and Dill Pickle--which I hoarded and treated like Gold much to Mummy's irritation!!I'd change the hiding place of my bottle at least 3 times each day---and howl like a Banshee when I finished it about 6 months later!!Both Ammaji and Baaujee were the quintessential grandparents I used to dream of having--cuddly,warm,approachable and infinitely lovable!!!I never knew my paternal Grandpa for he died long before I was even thought of--and my maternal grandpa Aazoba was exactly like Baaujee--but both my maternal and paternal Grandmas were not the types one cuddled upto!!Though warm and loving ,neither encouraged physical contact and preferred showing their love by cooking up their Specialities for us whenever they visited us or we them.That is one trait that I have inherited---I too prefer to keep my distance!!Ammajee was a dumpling of a woman--petite,round and warm!!For us girls she'd have innumerable stories from the Past--married off at age 10 she grew up with Baaujee 5 years her senior--and both were very attached to each other.Ammajee's arrival meant wonderful "Ambi Panna" as she called Green Mango Squash.She'd make it fresh for us daily--roasting the Green Mangoes in the embers of the Coal Fires till charred--and then peeling and mashing these well before adding ground "Misri" or Rock Sugar to it along with a few drops of finely ground Mint Juice and roasted Cumin Powder.Jugfuls of this mixture would be mixed with Water and she ensured we drank plenty of it throughout the day---this Summer drink is the perfect Summer Cooler and helps combat the Indian version of "Mistral" Wind of the Indian Plains called the "Loo"!!Yuuuuuuum!!
Another thing that I loved was the wonderful Dal she'd make.she insisted on all of us assisting her while she cooked--and many of my Vegetarian dishes have been taught by her---but no matter how hard I try somehow I cannot replicate the remembered taste.All of us would stay over at Neelu's whenever Ammajee was there--lured by the fabulous taste of her cooking.Her Recipes were simple and rustic for light everyday fare---not heavy with Ghee or Spices but somehow so lusciously mouthwatering that we all could never really get enough of them!!The first Summer Showers would be celebrated with huge amounts of fried Vegetable "Pakodas" or Fritters served with tangy Green Chutney ground with Green Mango,Mint,Fresh Coriander,spicy Green Chillies ,Black Salt and a pinch of Sugar to accompany it.There would also be large cups or glasses of strong,fragrant,sweet "Masala Chai" quaffed in generous amounts--to welcome the sudden dropping of the high tempratures!!
We were encouraged to soak in these first Showers---and most often these would be Hail Storms.All of us would rush out with our volumnious skirts outstretched to catch those tiny balls of Ice hurtling down in a deafening tattoo from the thunderous Sky above-----beating on our necks and backs with a sizeable thumping sound!!Crunching these under our teeth sitting on the slushy ground while more poured down is one of the simple pleasures of Summer that I miss here in Mumbai--not that I have the energy to rush out and eat these today--but those associations are so good and infinitely satisfying!!
Monday, May 13, 2013
Last night my cousin dropped by with his son for a visit.Shekhar or "Chhotu" as he is known is my favourite maternal aunt, Vidya Maushi's son.He was in the area to attend an Engagement Ceremony and recognising the landmarks ambled over to visit us---it was one of the fabulous impromptu Get Togethers that leave one feeling refreshed and chirpy!!
Mummy was the oldest among a clutch of 5 siblings---and Vidya Maushi was number 3.She was maybe 15 years old when I was born--and being the first Grandchild in Mummy's family I was very pampered and cosseted.For me Vidya Maushi was the epitome of Motherly Love while I was growing up--specially the 6 months we spent in Bombay during Mikki's birth---she acted as the barrier between Mummy and me for we never did see eye to eye on anything and everything!!I was spoilt,extremely willful and stubborn---and Mummy lacked the Patience to deal with me--specially in a heavily pregnant,bed ridden state!!It fell to Vidya Maushi to bathe me,feed me and generally keep me out of Mummy's way--something that was relatively easy in that huge sprawling old Flat.Vidya Maushi has sat with me in the Balcony for hours----singing to me,talking to me,cajoling me to eat my Meals by stringing stories around the Crows,the Pigeons and the Sparrows that populated the curved cast Iron awnings above the Iron balustrade.We'd sit there all day---catching the Breeze and gazing down at the crowded street below--the Trams ambling along with a clatter and the Red Double Decker BEST Buses making my heart flutter each time they turned the corner--they'd tilt so much on their sides that I expected any one of these to keel over and fall flat on it's side!!
An extremely beautiful young lady,she was perhaps the most beautiful woman I've seen---and while my mother and her other 2 sisters too classified under the beautiful tab none of them could hold a candle to Vidya Maushi.To my fanciful eyes she was the perfect candidate to play "Helen of Troy"!!Like all extremely beautiful women she was highly sought after in the Marriage Market---many eligible suitors beating a path to my Grandpa's door.Her heart however was already pledged---to another relative we called Subhash Mama.Now he came from a reputable family ,was a highly qualified Engineer and belonged to the same caste--but there was a "BUT"!!Vidya Maushi was 6 years older than him--and this was what the parents on both sides frowned upon.Both had to struggle to win parental approval but finally they were married in May 1965---unfortunately 6 months after my Grandpa passed away.
Both she and Subhash Mama made an extremely striking couple--she very,very beautiful and he so very dashingly handsome---they complemented each other so very beautifully.Subhash Mama had joined the Indian Army and because of this their Postings took them along the length and breadth of India.As I married very early both, Vidya maushi's sons feel like they were my nephews instead of my cousins---and their offspring are accordingly like my grandkids to me!!Vidya Maushi passed away in April 2011---a little before Sudhir---and another chapter in my life ended with her death.Keeping in touch with my cousins has kept her alive---but the person I knew was so very different from the one they were familiar with!!Spending time last night with Rohan and Chhotu sent a feeler to the Past once more----leaving me bathed in the warm glow of some wonderful, treasured childhood moments of my life!!
Thursday, May 02, 2013
I was enrolled in my beloved Carmel Convent School when it was but a fledgeling Institution---and my Roll No. in the School Register was 103.I still remember being petrified of Mother Marcia--and in love with Mrs. Samuels--my first class teacher.Mrs. Samuels remained my favourite all through my School years--and Mother Marcia the disciplinarian Ogre till the very end!! How I loved that Aeroplane shaped Building set in a huge Compound filled with thick Banyan and Mango trees.The circular Montessori building came up much later but the basic serenity of our School environments rarely changed.
We grew up in an Era when many old beliefs and superstitions clung to the Society of that time.The back Gate of the School faced a huge Park--which was dotted with many big trees--Peepul,Banyan,Jaamun to name a few.We were strictly forbidden to come to this Park during both the Short and Lunch Breaks for there were fears of Kidnappers lurking in there.Many a times we'd see the gnarled roots of the Peepul or Banyan Trees spread with a Red coloured square cloth--a sure sign that the Tantriks lurked there!!We were young enough to be petrified at the sight---and when that happened we'd insist on the Rickshaw pullers who were contracted to ferry us to and from School to bring the Cycle Rickshaws in----no one wanted to end up as a victim of those Tantriks!!Funny thing is we never ever saw one--but the fear was very real and almost physically palpable!!Superstition mixed with Black Magic creates a very potent Cocktail!!
In my case my nanny Amma, was a very superstitious Hill women--firmly believing in Good as well as Evil.Her fearful,grudging respect of Black Magic rubbed off on my impressionable mind.Around the same time my seeing a Ghost in the Circuit House in Kasauli and an encounter with her "Ojha" or Exorcist firmly fixed the thought that we are all susceptible to both Good and Evil and only our personal mental strength can help us combat the forces of Evil.India was still firmly entrenched in the Ancient beliefs and though today I still respect some of these Beliefs, during my childhood these were very real possibilities and a force to reckon with.From Amma I learnt to revere Nature or "Kudrat" as she called it as a very real Power--for according to her anyone who broke the basic Laws of Nature would get their just retribution meted out to them during the course of their lives!!I think she was right--for Mother Nature is meting out her Justice to Mankind for having abused her generosity today!!
I was an extremely fanciful child with a very vivid imagination---day dreaming most of the time in School---a cause of concern to both parents and teachers alike.Despite being very popular I was basically a loner--and loved my own company a lot.Maybe this is why I've been able to maintain a normalcy since Sudhir died-----one can never have any Best Friend like oneself!!
Another legacy she gave me was a deep core of unshakeable Faith in The Almighty.He/She has always been and will always be the very base of my existence--God/Goddess was larger than Life,very,very real and tangible.Amma indulged in a lot of things--Poojas,Fasts and feeding the poor.The one thing that we all enjoyed the most was her "Nirjali" Ekadashi Fast at the height of Summer."Nirjali" means Waterless in Sanskrit and Ekadashi is the 11th. day of the Lunar Calendar.During this Fast she would not drink even Water for an entire 24 hours---instead would dole out cold sugared Water to passers by during the day.We lived in Sector 7 and right behind us one of the huge arterial roads lay--- running North to South.It was
called the Sarovar Path leading to the man made Sukhna Lake.There were a large number of shady Trees bordering this Road--blessed with a very thick foliage and it was under these Trees that we'd set up a tub of Drinking Water sweetened with raw Brown sugar and cooled with huge blocks of Ice.The aim was to serve the maximum number of passers by--but given the excruciating heat of June there would be very few of those--and we children would end up drinking the delicious Concoction by the litres---in fact at times we'd hear it sploshing around in our tummies!!
Amma actually believed in the genuineness of the Mendicants that came to the door----she'd pour a generous quantity of Whole Wheat Flour or Rice into their "Jholies" or Cloth Bags while sincerely asking them to bless her "Sa'ab and Bibiji" with a son to ease their way to their Afterlife and Infinity!!All the "Sa'ab and the Bibiji" acquired were two more daughters during the course of the next few years---but no "Moksha" giving son!!In Amma's room there was this luridly coloured Poster--showing the various stages of Hell a Human Spirit passes through after Death--a truly frightening depiction of a chain of Events!!Very earnestly she'd tell us with total conviction that this is what we'd have to endure if we were "bad" children--literally frightening us into becoming good girls!!Not that it was a bad theory--a deterrent always works!!Despite this Poster Amma's room was one of the most peaceful havens I encountered in my early life.Filled with the smoky scent of Incense and the scent of Jasmine Flowers,I'd be lying on the Grass Mat with my eyes closed---listening to Amma recite her numerous Prayers and Invocations to various Gods gave me the feeling of being in a Temple.The soft cadences of her voice rose and fell with an almost hypnotising musical lilt-----and these are some of the moments that I escape to during my Meditation Sessions.They refresh me and help me to face my life ahead with a semblance of Peace.
Over the years I acquired a questioning mind while studying the basic fundamental Ideas that form my Religious Beliefs.I am a product of a devout Hindu upbringing with a large sprinkling of Catholicism thrown in thanks to the Nuns--and later acquiring a healthy respect for many other Religions of my beloved Sub-Continent thanks to the people practicing those and with whom I came in close contact.Today I believe in looking at Humans and doing the best I can to help people I come in contact with---for there is nothing like giving of yourself and your means freely to Society.Today I follow what my heart and my head preach to the inner me----the positive tenets of a mix of Religions that appeal to me.Though loosely I can still be classified as a Hindu, I am more of a follower of the Religion of Humanity--absorbing the best that each Religion has to offer!!
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