Friday, November 26, 2010
I grew up in Chandigarh---then a part of erstwhile Punjab State---later after the trifurcation into 2 new States----Punjab,Haryana and Himachal Pradesh,it became a Union Territory. Very early memories of my childhood are linked to all my uncles---the oldest Gopal Kaka or "Anna" as his brothers called him,lived in Mumbai,the youngest Sharu Kaka too lived in Mumbai with Atya and studied in the Sir JJ College of Architecture and Shyam Kaka in Kolhapur.Daddy's step sister was called "Mothi Tai" or oldest sister and Atya was "Tai" older sister---both given deferential respect by all their younger Siblings.
The four brothers were called"Anna " Gopal Kaka the oldest,then my father called "Nana", then Shyam Kaka called "Dada" by my aunt Kusum Atya and Sharu Kaka because they were the youngest---this was their way of showing respect to their older Siblings.All these siblings were extremely close knit and very close to each other.My Uncles and my father were actually grown up kids---our homes resounded with laughter---resulting from the Pranks they too took part in as well!!If those people who saw only their strait laced "Public" faces at work could've seen each one of these at home---they'd have thought that all these brothers were Schizophrenics!!All the brothers loved Food with a Passion---and being blessed with hearty appetites as well---ate with gusto!! All of us have inherited their huge appetites---that's why some of us are having problems controlling our intakes!!
I was barely 3 months old when my parents took me to Chandigarh---and I recollect very faintly my first visit to Kolhapur.Being used to modern Plumbing the ancient system at Kolhapur came as a culture shock to me---then 2 years old---nothing would induce me to visit the Loo---which was primitive to say the least!!!I remember both Shyam Kaka and Sharu Kaka bribing me with Ice Cream to get me to use it---which worked albeit reluctantly---with long and loud lamentations!!Daily there used to be new incentives---but this relieved poor Mummy immensely!!Both my Uncles would take me around Town---showing me off as "Nana's Daughter" and talking to me in broken Hindi---since that was the only language I spoke then!!!They'd also needle me to make me mad---my stamping my feet,swearing in Hindi and generally being a nuiscance amused them terribly---this was their favourite entertainment!!!So I grew up with the misconception that they were the same age as me!!!
Shyam Kaka was the adventurous type.An expert in Car Mechanics,Cars were his passion.His association with the erstwhile Royal Famly fuelled his passion for Cars and he was a regular visitor to the Royal Garages---familiarising himself with the finer Features of all those Rolls Royces and Mercedes' they owned----he acquired the title of being an Expert in that field!!He owned an "Adler" and was very fond of it---in this car he and his friends travelled the length and breadth of India---braving bad roads and the elements!!!To us he was(still is) a hero----for given the dangerous condition and primitive resources of that period---it was nothing less than high adventure to take to the Roads in all types of Weather!!
Sharu Kaka left to study in Oxford in 1956--following in Daddy's footsteps---and settled in Britain.He married an English lady and Photographs of him with Aunt Mavis started making their way to India viia the Mail Box-----his two children---Amanda and Nigel---joined the Family Photos as they were added to the Family. We saw them for the first time in person as late as 1972---when they made their first trip to India!!!Shyam Kaka stayed put in Kolhapur---and it was with him that I interacted the most !!Visiting Kolhapur in my childhood used to be great fun----my Grandmother Akka had got rid of the Family Cow and Buffalo---and instead arranged for two Milkmen to walk their Cow and Buffalo to our doorstep-----she'd get Fresh Milk on the doorstep----the milking taking place there and then!!!There were different sized Vessels for the Milk--depending on demand and need----and would be used accordingly each early morning and evening----warm frothing fresh Milk---absolutely rich,pure,creamy !!!How we loved drinking it just like that---warm from the udders!!!Even today the taste still lingers in my memory!!
Shyam Kaka was the only one to retain his hair in later years---the other three faced the problems of partial balding and thinning hair.Those days these people didn't like dying their hair---so in the hot Summer afternoons we used to be kept occupied combing our fingers through their hair---picking out and plucking stray single White hair----leaving the Black hair intact.Now this was a tedious job---and the primary thought behind it was to keep us out of mischief and at the same time ensure a peaceful post Lunch Siesta for themselves----so they'd offer to pay us a quarter for each White hair plucked!!Now we were not eager--despite the bait---to do this for very long.Hence we evolved a system----find and pluck a single White hair and show it to the concerned party---then just give a gentle tug at the Roots of different Black hair shafts---and keep showing the single plucked White hair after each tug.By now these people would drifting off to sleep and would just nod their heads---and nod off!!In the evening we'd turn Shylocks---- force them to pay their dues---and then blow up the money we'd earned on trifles!!Funny thing though----neither of the three men caught on till we told them long after those days were over!!And then of course everyone laughed long and loud at the memory!!
Today so many Memories crowd my mind---it will take some time to untangle and unravel them---but all of these are happy memories----each precious and jealously stored in the inner recesses of my mind----Life was much simpler and less complicated when we were growing up in the 1960s--70s!!