Friday, February 04, 2011
The Himalayas have been a constant presence in my life----living very near their Foothils they have fascinated me since babyhood!!!The Shivaliks were a constant attraction each morning I woke---I had to satisfy myself daily that those misty,purple Stalwarts hadn't taken off during the night---till I was almost 6 years old.
Besides my Nanny,Amma was a "Pahadi" or Hill Woman---hailing from the Mahaasu District of Chhota Shimla----she belonged to Sabatthoo---a tiny village near Shimla----often the Bedtime Stories she told me were populated by Nymphs and Demi-Gods living in the mysterious Lakes in the higher reaches of the Himalan Peaks!!Not just that---every evening the rays of the setting Sun would set the Slopes ablaze---they'd turn into a blaze of Light---reflecting from the myriad Window Panes catching those setting Rays!!It used to be an amazing sight to behold for a child who believed in the Fairies,Elves and Magic!!
This beautiful Blaze would gradually dim as Dusk descended---and tiny magical Lights would start twinkling in the approaching Darkness---looking like a carpet of Stars laid on the Slopes!!!On Moonlit nights the dark outline of the Mountains towered in the Horizon---deep,dark,mysteriously brooding---but infinitely dear---my own---to be hugged close to my heart!!They became my Best Friends and my closest Confidantes----there was no secret thought of mine that they were not aware of!!!
Going up to them---walking on their Slopes filled me with a heady Exhiliaration----I imagined that they welcomed me and embraced me with love---and that I belonged with them!!!All those sparkling Brooks babbling merrily down the Ravines and the Scent of the Deodars and the Pines---all would rush to greet me---specially when we travelled to the higher heights of places like Shimla,Mussoorie, Dalhousie,Dharamsala,Nainital,Sarahan-----it broke my heart to leave them behind!!!
For 13 years now my beloved Himalayas and me haven't met---I lie back and close my eyes to be transported back to their Scents and Vistas,Pines and Firs----or I feast my eyes on Pictures like these----The Himalayas in all their Glory!!!
Thursday, February 03, 2011
From Mummy I learnt to be precise in everything I did---Cooking,Sewing,Knitting---I'm extremely proud of my neatness and presentation!!Thanks to her I became a highly efficient Home Maker---in fact I honed it to become as perfect as possible!!!I also learnt from her mistakes---both Daddy and she were spendthrifts---and because of that they never managed to save as much as they could have.I taught myself to spend within reasonable limits---I'm a spendthrift too but much better than my Parents were!!!
My Parents were a devoted Couple---deeply in love with each other----and that gave all three of us a very secure base during our childhood---whatever their worries they always made us feel safe!!!In 1976 Mummy moved out of our home into her own Flat in South Bombay---and Sudhir and I began living just by ourselves in earnest.Mummy too became involved in her new life----and because we both lived in Bombay----I would visit her for dayspends---Sudhir would drop the girls and me there on Saturday mornings and pick us up at Tea time-----I rarely stayed the night!!In fact it was mostly Mummy and my sisters who'd come over to stay----because it suited all of us better that way!!By now both my sisters were working.Despite her wanting the Girls over for visits---this happened very rarely--that too only when Sudhir had work in The Supreme Court in New Delhi and I went along---Sudhir felt that our children were wholly and solely our responsibility---both our Mothers had brought their kids up and didn't need to be saddled with ours too!!!
Mummy belonged to a large Family and was very close to her family---specially her mother and her younger sister.In fact she was an exemplary daughter to my Aaji----till Aaji passed away.Mummy had no idea of budgeting---that was what the two of us would bicker over----she'd have loved to have the freedom to spank me as she did when I was younger---specially in 1985 and 1986---when my sisters were getting married!!That was when I made out a Budget---and insisted she go according to it---which incensed her tremendously!!!She hated carrying those Lists around--so I'd carry them----and ensure that she got the best of whatever she wanted---accomplished thanks to Bombay's Speciality Shopping Areas---great Stuff at Wholesale prices!!Cooking Utensils,Gifts and various other Trousseau Items---all fit into the Budget---gaining pleased approval from the Grooms Relatives--and getting me a grudging approval from her AFTER the second Wedding in 1986!!!
After that she lived more or less with me---Sudhir and I preferred that because she was a Diabetic too.She however would feel restricted because she was an extremely social person---having been born and brought up in Bombay---and she enjoyed the freedom of being on her own!!!In 1987 she accompanied us on our Summer Vacation---we made a Pilgrimage to the holiest of the Holy Hindu Spots in the Himalayas---The Chaar Dhaam Yatra---which took us to the sources of the two Sacred Rivers--Ganga(Ganges) and Yamuna---and Kedarnath(abode of Lord Shiva) and Badrinath(Abode of Lord Vishnu)-----which she was very happy about!!!Later Ritu and her husband returned to stay with her due to Ritu's husband's Health Problems---and after Ritu's divorce in 1991 she continued to live with Mummy.
Mummy and Ritu stayed with us during the preparations of our older daughter--Lotta's marriage---mainly in the period between 1992 and 1993---when Bombay was engulfed in Riots---a miserable time for us.Luckily the Wedding was on 14th.February1993----and a semblance of normalcy had returned to the City by then.Then our Grand daughter Meha's birth on 23rd.1994 was the high point for her---she was just 63 years old---and a Great Grandma---I still have Photographs of 5 generations of us---an unbroken line of 5 oldest daughters of each generation---Aaji,Mummy,me,Lotta and Meha----a beautiful Memory!!Mummy's Health began deteriorating after 2003 and in 2008 she suffered a massive Heart Attack that immobilised the right side of her heart---she was lucky to retain the use of all her Senses and mobility----only she tired easily and had trouble breathing.She existed on Oxygen for most of 24 hours----hating it with a passion!!My only regret is that she lived to see a bad attack of Dengue that I suffered in 2002,then my Breast Cancer in Dec.2006 and finally my Heart Attack in Feb.2009,the Death of Mikki's husband in January 2009, and finally Ritu's Uterine Cancer in June 2009!!!
I loved Mummy---the umbilical tie was very strong and till 2006 was a good daughter to her----but faced with my own diminished physical strength I was relieved to shift the mantle to Ritu for the last three and a half years of her life.I consider her lucky to have been blessed with 3 daughters who cared for her throughout her life after Daddy passed away---and though she had a very good Pension from the Government,all 3 of us insured she never lacked for Money or those amenities she was accustomed to---nor was she lonely for she had a large social circle and later was well connected by Phone!!!She had her own personal Caregivers---who ensured her healthy Diet and supervised her Medicines and Bath---looking after her needs with loving concern and she was content with the people who cared for her---her biggest problem was her immobility---from which she was released on 9th.January 2010---exactly a year after Mikki's husband Kiran's death.
This is my Tribute to my Mother--who was more my Friend than my Mother---may her Soul rest in Peace!!!
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Being the eldest Grandchild from my Mother's side had loads of Advantages----besides the fact that Atya and Baba were twice related to me was a Bonus!!!While Atya was Daddy's oldest sister,Baba was my Granduncle---my Aaji's younger brother---so in that house I wielded loads of Power!!! As a child I spent most of my Holidays away from my parents---there was such a large army of Aunts and Uncles to pamper me that I hated going back to Chandigarh----because once home the remonstrations and scoldings would start in full force!!!
I was an extremely naughty and mischievous child---I wouldn't have liked to have a daughter like me!!My mind was a fountain of new Ideas---all irritating and exasperating to poor Mummy!!
Aazoba built a beautiful Bungalow in Poona---a huge sprawling one designed by Daddy with a very large Garden.A friend of his and he had together bought a huge piece of land and then sub divided it---with Aazoba retaining the rear portion of the plot. As a result of this the Bungalow was very quiet and private---a Pensioner's Dream---and a long curved Driveway led one to the House----shaded throughout by Mango Trees,Jamun trees and a beautiful "Bakula" Tree laden with the beautiful fragrant tiny Beige Flowers in bloom!!!The huge Garden was a Fairyland---filled with many varieties of Fragrant Flowers---various Jasmines,climbing Roses in Pink,Cream and Pale Yellow,a "Chaapha" Tree with Golden Flowers spreading their heady perfume and best of all a "Surangi" or Orange Blossom Tree!!!There were medicinal Trees like the "Neem" or Margosa Tree,Fruit Trees like two varieties of Guavas,Papayas,Figs,"Papanas" which is a type of Grapefruit and "Kokum" or Mangosteen Tree and not to forget the different variety of Palms----Coconut,Date as well as Ice Apple or Palmyra---a veritable Treasure Trove and a cool haven in the Summer Heat.There were creepers of Morning Glory and Bougainvilla as well as the "Krishna Kamal" Flowers and "Raat Rani"both an open invitation for Snakes---mainly Cobras---hence out of bounds for us while playing in the Garden!!The Garden was a tangle of Creepers,Bushes and Trees---Aazoba liked the untidiness of it as he felt that the Riot of Nature had it's own poetic charm!!!
Aazoba was the head of a large Joint Family and this Bungalow always was stuffed to the Gills with People.There were always a minimum of 20-25 people living here----at any given point of time.My great Grandma---Ba-Aaji --lived with her oldest son as did his youngest sister-in-law---Mami Bai Kaki, a widow--and her four children.Of these four, my Aunt Bina was the youngest---and just 15 months older than me!!This made her my playmate and favourite companion and many are the scrapes I led her into----for which she willingly took the rap because being older,the Elders felt,she should've known better!!This Bungalow had a huge solid and heavy Front Door carved from the famous Shisham Wood---the hinges were of solid Brass----and there were some gaps between the Door Frame and the Door.
One day I gingerly slid my hand through one of these gaps----it passed through easily!!!Emboldened by this I asked Bina to slide her hand through it too---which too happened.This quickly became a game for the two us---sliding our hands through the gaps and shaking them through the gaps---giggling all the while!!We'd play this game for hours seated on the Floor on either side of the Door---and Mummy heaved a sigh of Relief ----very happy that instead of getting into scrapes I spent time sitting by the Front Door---playing peacefully---only she didn't know at what!!!All good things have to come to an end---this did too!!One day I don't know how---our fingers got stuck---try as we might--those fingers wouldn't come unstuck----though we laboured silently for more than an hour!!This was when both of realised that we'd be there forever---and began howling loudly in earnest!!This brought Mami Bai Kaki and Aaji post haste to us---shocked to see our plight----thankfully for me though Mummy had gone shopping!!!The Carpenter was summoned post haste and he unscrewed the Hinges and we finally were released from that uncomfortable state---both suffering from swollen fingers and a bad case of Pins and Needles---some three hours after we got stuck!!!Both of us sat there,feeling very sorry for ourselves with our fingers swollen and painful while being severely and roundly scolded by Aaji and Mami Bai Kaki!!!Bina got off lightly compared to me---because Mummy spanked me so soundly on her return home that I had trouble sitting on my Butt for 4-5 days after that---besides one hand too being out of circulation for awhile!!!Till date both Bina and I can't fathom what went wrong so badly to get both of us stuck---the Mystery remains!!
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