Sunday, September 19, 2010
My parents were among the first few married couples in Chandigarh---that's why they were among the first few couples to get a house alloted to them out of the few first ones built in Sector 22.From here they moved up the ladder to another one in Sector 16---where we stayed till mid 1960----and we then moved to Sector 7A and there we stayed put till 1973---when they left to go to Mauritius.
My mother came from an extremely protected background into a totally alien one.In 1952 she married and travelled to the cold climate of Shimla----erstwhile Summer Capital of India---where the initial office of the Chandigarh team was based---from there she lived in tents on the Site for awhile as well.Though my Grandparents---Aaji and Aazoba were pretty modern for the period----the atmosphere she was catapulted into was totally opposite the one she'd been raised in!!!An extremely beautiful woman---and delicate---my father was a perfect foil to her beauty.Tall,well built and handsome---he dwarfed her---though she was taller than the average Indian woman.She was flung into the Club Culture of the early post Independence Era---she also learnt to speak a mixture of Hindi-Urdu---spoken in the Punjab of those days.Though she spoke very good English---she was in her final year B.A from Wilson College at Chowpatty and returned later to complete her degree----it was still difficult for her to absorb the ways of the Raj---Indians specially in the Chic Circles suffered a huge hang over of the British Raj Culture those days.Dressing for Dinner and wearing make-up was another new thing she learnt.She also had to overcome her basic shyness and absorb the new type of modern sophistication Daddy liked.
My father was an Architect who had lived and studied at Oxford and worked for awhile in Britain before he returned and was deeply influenced by people like Maxwell Fry,Jane Drew,Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret----he got the chance to work with and come close to each of them.According to him sharp clear cut lines and utility value of each object was the main base for it's beauty----she loved the conventional flowery type of Crockery and Furnishings---he wanted plain white Crockery and Solid coloured Furnishings---she slowly accepted his sense of aesthetics!!I grew up in huge Government Bungalows mosly with White Walls around me---and today don't want a single white wall in my home!!!In defiance I today buy the most Flowery printed Crockery that I can find---'coz I love it---and even today I hear Daddy speaking up in my head---"Komali---THAT???" and I look around guiltily----some things stick with you!!!
She herself was an excellent seamstress and very good at various types of Embroidery----Knitting,Crochetting and Tatting were her other hobbies----she was extremely fast in completing the projects she undertook---she'd make our Sweaters within 2-3 days---her speed of moving the Crochet or the Knitting Needles really fascinated me---I could watch the graceful beauty with which her supple hands moved swiftly to and fro for hours on end!!Mummy loved the Indian Handlooms---she had a collection of Saries from almost all the Indian States and varieties available----I loved all of her beautiful Silks----and their colours!!!A veritable Rainbow resided in her closet----she loved and wore all colours----her fair colouring was a perfect foil for them!!Mummy was a terrible housekeeper!!She depended solely on the staff she employed to run the house----keeping track of daily expenses was something she didn't much like----and it was only because she was blessed with reliable and honest Staff that we survived----unscrupulous people would've literally taken them for a ride!!!My mother was an awesome Cook---and proud to be one!!Her Dinner Parties were talked of for days afterwards in our small community----she had endless Patience when it came to cooking---everything had to be perfectly just so---all 3 of us have inherited that aspect of her personality.
Both my Parents adored each othet---and showed it openly!!!They were both innocent Babes in the Woods in handling Money----they could have saved so much---for Daddy had a very handsome Salary---but they never budgetted their expenses---instead were proud that they managed to live within it!!!We never lacked for anything---living like Princesses----they never let us feel their tension in any form.Today all 3 of us live according to our budgets---we don't scrimp or save but neither do we squander away our resources unnecessarily like they did---but they were lucky too----for God looked after Mummy after Daddy's death---she never wanted for anything as long as she lived!!
Daddy had a Honesty hang up---there were certain idiosyncrasies he had in those values.For instance we could enter his Study only when he was there---otherwise he kept it locked and carried the Keys with him---the number of times he lost them and the locks had to be broken open was countless!!!The reason behind this was that all the Stuff in there came from Government stock----expensive Drawing Paper,Staedler Pencils,Pastel Colours, Rubbers,Paints---he didn't want us using any of it---he'd buy us our own and to ensure that there were no accidents that room always remained locked!!!
Both my Parents were very headstrong and strong willed---literally quarreled like the proverbial Cat and Dog---but once the Storm was over theyd be cootchie cooing away again!!!As children we were given the security of a pair of Parents who loved each other---so these quarrels never bothered us---in fact we'd look askance at them if a day went by without a single spat!!!Daddy was extremely methodical and Mummy just the opposite----every Sunday the "Dhobi" or Washerman would arrive with freshly washed and ironed Laundry---this was when Mummy'd start hunting for the Diary where the number and descriptions of the Clothes given to the wash were written.We'd wait for the spat to start---thanks to her carelessness the Diary would take a long time being found---and Daddy'd start bellowing at the top of his voice---he had a very hot Temper---using choicest Swear words from Kolhapur---and after seeing the Dhobi off Mummy'd join issue---we ensured ringside seats fo ourselves---watching the Fun!!!It would end when both of them ran out of Steam---and within 5 minutes the situation would be like nothing had happened at all!!!Once Daddy decided that enough was enough---and he placed the Diary carefully---only flaw in this was that he forgot where he'd kept it---and it was discovered years later in the Storeroom behind Daddy's heavy Port Manteau when they were packing for Mauritius!!
Today I must admit that I miss those days---a secure childhood lays the foundation of a happy and confident adulhood---and I thank them both for giving us that base.Daddy and I had a very good relationship but Mummy was another kettle of Fish altogether---we were constantly at daggers drawn----too alike in Nature perhaps---so we mutually agreed to disagree!!Here however I must say one main thing in her favour---Daddy was very lucky to get a supportive wife like her----she stood firmly like a rock behind him in each decision he took---whether or not she agreed with him!!!
Friday, September 17, 2010
My father for all his Intelligence,Sophistication and Stature was just an overgrown baby at heart----the escapades he led us into had poor Mummy in a bind!!!It was as if she had to scold 4 children instead of just us 3 girls!!During Summers Daddy'd come home by 1 p.m.---and after Lunch, he'd snooze a little.By Tea time all four of us would be bored---and we'd suggest washing Daddy's hair or giving him a pedicure---which would perk all four of us up---and put Mummy in a funk!!
In the first option our father was balding----and there wasn't all that much hair left on his scalp to wash but he was game to let us play with whatever precious little hair he had!!He'd lie on the Divan in the Guest Room with his head stuck out over the edge----and we'd swathe his torso with Towels.Then from the attached Bathroom we'd carry in a Plastic Basin and 3-4 buckets of Water---filled to the brim and sloshing away!!The Floor would turn slippery and wet---Mummy'd be standing in the door glaring at us---absolutely fuming!!!We'd pour mugfuls of Water over his hair to wet it and the next step would be shampooing and scrubbing the hair---each one of us would spend 15-20 minutes just playing with poor Daddy's hair---turn by turn---but the Sport that he was---there was nary a complaint---not even a peep!!Today I realise how stiff his neck must have felt---but those days it was just plain fun and hilarious to boot!!!Finally we'd rinse it all off---then each one would take turns drying it out---jerking his head this way and that---for gentle we were not!!The last step was to comb it out and style it----and then show him the Mirror---just to gain his approval!!That evening he'd boast to anybody who was willing to listen---about how his three darling daughters had really given him such a lovely Hair treatment and Massage!!The Pedicure was worse---this was because we'd boil the Water and add very little cold water to it---but the heat never bothered him---he'd just sit back and relax---like a huge Teddy Bear in a pair of shorts---with his legs stretched out in the hot soapy Water!!We'd brush,poke and pull at his Feet and Nails but he never complained----it was the Creamy Massage at the end that he loved the most----and Mummy could never figure out how and why he endured this painful torture!!!The only thing he drew a line at was Nail Paint--that was a definite no-no!!!
Those days we'd get tall,strapping and handsome Peddlers coming down from Afghanistan and Kashmir to sell their Wares--- their fair skins,aquiline profiles and light eyes and hair spoke of their ancient Greek heritage!!They'd carry Dry Fruits and Saffron---Almonds,Pistachioes,Walnuts and Dried Apricots.They'd also carry beautiful Shawls---very large,thick ,soft and warm---made of "Shahtoosh" and "Pashmina" Wool as well as exquisitely hand embroidered Silk Material and Saries---there was a veritable Treasure Trove in the dirty white bundles they carried on their backs!!Mummy'd pick out the Stuff she wanted---Dry Fruits,Saffron,Shawls and Cloth and then the haggling would begin in earnest----it was an awesome sight!!Mummy arguing in mixed Hindi/Urdu while they used a broken Pashtu mixed Urdu----their accents too were so exotic and fascinating to our ears---lilting cadences of rising and falling musical notes!!All 3 of us would squat down there---for they'd stuff our fists full of the Goodies---"Bacchhaa hai Ammi---khaana do!!" (They're just Children Mother--let them eat)they'd exclaim with twinkling eyes and affectionate smiles.After the bargain had been struck and these Peddlers paid,Mummy'd get busy in trying to hide the Goodies in various nooks and crannies in the Store Room,Kitchen and Pantry---away from our greedy hands and hungry eyes----hoping to make the precious Stock last for 2-3 months at the very least!!!We'd then lie in wait for her Kitty Party day---she'd be away for 3-4 hours then---Daddy'd come home early and then we would start the real activity---each one of us would start hunting for the Dry Fruits in different directions---opening and closing various Porcelain Jars and Brass Pots----and when we'd find them---the feast would begin---by the time Mummy came back her precious hoard would be sorely reduced to less than half the original quantity!!!
Today I look back on these memories with greater sympathy towards poor Mummy's plight---I can understand her problems and tribulations---I too have brought up two equally devilish daughters and am still bringing up their Father---who is a totally spoilt Brat---but unfortunately too angular to be a cute,cuddly Teddy Bear!!!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I was a dreamy child---living with my head among the Clouds---reared on a steady diet of Enid Blyton----whom I still read by the way---the concept of Fairies,Brownies,Goblins,Elves,Pixies and Imps fascinated me.In mid 1960 we shifted to Sector 7 A----a bigger house and a huge Garden----filled with wonderful shady Trees----a new vista opened up for me---looking for a 4 Leaf Clover and Leprechauns in the patch that grew in a shady spot in the bottom of the Garden!!!Mummy was pregnant with Ritu---Mikki was a delicate child thanks to having been born a blue baby---the focus had shifted and I was pretty much left to my own devices.The new Garden was rambling and large---filled with Fruit Trees and Flowering Shrubs.There was also a sturdy "Neem"(Margosa) Tree----with artfully handy branches---I spent the entire Summer of 1960 cradled in it's arms----this Tree became my favourite perch---many are the happy afternoons that I spent there--both Summer and Winter reading tons of Books up in it's arms swaying with the Breezes---right till 1970 when I got married.
There were three School Friends near by ---Gouri next door,Poonam and Arunima down the lane---we became fast friends---forever together-----stuck together with Stick Fast!!!All of us loved reading and we sat together and read often in each other's Bedrooms or Studies----there was lots of space for us to stretch ourselves!!!However since Gouri was an only child we preferred her home---no siblings to pester us there!!!Gouri had a beautiful wooden Doll House which her Parents had shipped down from London---and we spent many delightful hours playing "House" with it.
Enid Blyton's Books were our favourites---specially the Famous Five,Five Findouters and The Circus Books---the last inspired us to pretend we were Circus
acrobats and would use the Swings in our backyards to really swing very high up and then jump off----thankfully never got hurt----or we could have been really badly hurt!!Around 1964 Gouri's Parents began work on building their own Bungalow nearby---the Building Material was stored in their Garden Shed.We began purlioning Planks and hacked out a rectangle in the Ground in a secluded and shady spot of their Garden.The Planks would be stuck into the hacked Dirt,then extra Dirt would be spread around the Planks---finally we'd water the Earth around the Plank aand tamp down the Earth firmly---the Planks would get fixed and stand upright----firmly fixed in the drying Dirt!!Thus we made a fence of Planks measuring about 8' by 6 '---leaving space for a door!!Then we laid Planks across the top to lay the Roof---but there were gaps left---which we were sure would leak terribly in the Monsoons!!To counteract this we collected all the pruned Branches from all our Gardens---the Gardners employed by the Government did a thorough job while pruning---and laid these over the Planks----on top of this we shoveled Dirt from the Vegetable Garden till there was no sign of the pruned Branches visible on top!!All this hard work took place in the hot Summer--except for 3 hours breaks in the afternoons we spent all our time and energy building this "Club House" that Summer---words can't describe the satisfaction of successful Labour when we crawled in and sat crosslegged on the floor inside!!!This Club House was crude but sturdy and strong---it became our haven---away from the prying and censorious adult eyes----and stood proudly for the next four years---it was dismantled by the new Residents after Gouri and her Parents moved out from the Government accomodation into their own!!!
One of the things that I'm grateful for is the fact that I was lucky to have such a wonderful childhood----the innocence of being a child was enjoyed to the hilt by our generation---perhaps the last to do so!!In 1971 Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon---the World changed totally---slowly,steadily,irreversibly---t
he stars went out from the vision of children across the World!!For us simple pleasures gave lasting satisfaction---our needs were simple and our environment healthy----we grew up happy with Life as it was---we enjoyed wholesomeness of being real without artifice--- the Magic of Films---it was a Fairytale come true---marvelling at Tom and Jerry's Antics----watching Walt Disney's Films spell bound---holding our breath with our hearts in our mouths during the Chariot Race in Ben Hur----fear mixed excitement during those thrilling moments!!
In the evening of my Life today I feel I couldn't have been born at a better time--or in a better Era---and therefore I thank The Almighty for having given me a really wonderful and great Childhood!!!
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