Wednesday, March 23, 2011
By now our Menagerie included an Alsation Dog named "Pasha"----a very bad tempered beast---but a very good Night Patroller for the entire street!!!Then there was "Cutie" ,a tiny Skye Terrier Bitch---sweet natured and loving.The main "Star" of our home was our pure bred Siamese Cat named "Polar Bear"---a really snooty animal---reduced by Ritu to being called plain "Pussy"!!Polar Bear was originally owned by a British family---and when they returned to England needed a home.Ritu begged and begged Daddy so very piteously that he gave in and brought her home---thinking she was a Tom!!Now he didn't realise that Polar Bear was preganant though Mummy kept wondering at the Cat's ability to gain weight on a daily basis----till the day she used Mummy's best Pashmina Shawl to give birth to her six Kittens in Mummy's closet!!There was such a pandemonium that day----Cutie ran into the room just after the birth let in by an impatient Ritu----barking excitedly and Mummy who was with Polar Bear trying to find a way to extricate both her and the Kittens from the Closet---got so badly scratched on her hand that she needed six stitches!!These six Kittens were so beautiful and cute---pale beige with Cocoa Paws,Ears and Snouts they had each inherited their mother's mis matched eyes---one Emerald Green---the other Sapphire Blue!! Ritu promptly named them in the following manner---Mintoo,Pintoo,Chintoo,Tintoo,Kint
oo and Bintoo---and those poor Kittens began getting smothered by her affections.They quickly replaced her Dolls---she began dressing them up in Doll's clothes and would wrap them up---actually swaddle them up like human babies!!Despite Mummy's spankings and Amma's entreaties---nothing worked---everything always came back to square one---till one day things came to a head!!It had rained heavily the previous night and the Garden was soggy---the Lawn sopping wet.Madame Ritula as usual walked into the Winter Sunlight with her charges and let them play---till she realised how muddy and dirty they'd become!!So before any one could chastise or scold her, she quickly swooped down on them and scooped up all her charges,rushed them into the Bathroom and put the Plug in the Basin.Then she filled the Basin with cold Water----and one by one dropped those poor hapless Kittens in!!The terrible mewling that followed brought Amma rushing in post haste---and then the those poor Babies were rescued,wrapped in thick Turkish Towels and dropped in front of the Heater which was switched on pronto---to help dry them out!!That was the one and only time that Amma lost her cool---in the entire time I'd known her!!She caught hold of Ritu and shook her hard wailing all the time"Yeh kyaa kiyaa Bawaa--Billian mar jayengi toh teraah toley kee Billian banani padengee Sahab ko--woh bhi chhey--Billi maarna Paap hai Bawaa!!"Meaning if these Kittens die---your father will have to make 6 Cat figurines of 130 gms.Pure Gold each---for killing a Cat is considered a Sin!!That day Ritu got it right, left and centre---by evening with the exception of Mintoo the rest were all given away by Mummy to whoever wanted them on first come first serve basis---and Ritu was thoroughly spanked and scolded--and left feeling very sorry for herself!!Very soon this birthing of Kittens became a regular feature in our home---snooty Polar Bear became plain Pussy and stopped discriminating about the pedigree of the Toms!!
Daddy's younger sister---Kusum Atya's family had just shifted to New Delhi from Lucknow and they visited us in early 1965.Both my cousins---Meera 2 years older than me and Vaija 9 months my senior---thought they were very "Sophisticated" compared to us Country Bumpkins---because they'd studied for a while in one of the famous Boarding Schools of Mussoorie---a beautiful Hill Station in the then North Indian State of Uttar Pradesh.We were meeting each other after a long gap of 5 years---and both of them turned up their noses at our Pets---saying that it was cruel to keep Animals as Pets!!!Besides they also laughed at our Agriculturist neighbours-----while enjoying Auntyjee's excellent Yoghurt,Butter and Chhaas!!Later in the year Meera came down to spend part of the Summer Vacation with us---and that was when we set her straight!!
Mummy was a so-so housekeeper---always relying on her Domestic Staff to keep the show running---but unfortunately Amma's ailing father became serious and she had to leave to nurse him.This was a big blow to all of us---specially me ---and the Farewell took place in a flood of tears!!We were not accustomed to so many things---mainly being by ourselves---and besides Ritu was a real terror---needing to be watched constantly!!Ritu loved drinking Mummy's home made Squash by the Bottles---and would only drink it in Daddy's Crystal Glasses---despite being warned again and again against using these.Finally one day a glass finally broke---and all 4 of us were terror struck---Punishment would be meted out to all 3 of us---Ritu for breaking it and Mikki and me not preventing her from using it!!Mummy was very slipper happy---and meteing out spankings was her favourite pastime!!That was when Meera had an idea---we'd dispose off the Glass on the Garage Roof for the time being and then get rid of the broken Glass later---since there was no option we agreed.It was done and forgotten---till a few days later we were very rudely reminded of it.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon when our Parents were out visiting,as usual Ritu climbed on to the Garage Roof to pick a few ripe Grapes from the Muslin Bags---and while climbing down stepped squarely on the jagged edges of the Glass---incurring a very deep cut on her Sole!!!This began bleeding profusely and howling at the top of her voice she somehow managed to climb back up to the Terrace and limp into my Bedroom---leaving a sticky trail of bright red Blood behind her!!It was Mikki's quick thinking that worked--I was totally stunned and Meera fell down in a swoon at the sight of Blood!!Mikki quickly wrapped Ritu's foot in a towel and elevated it on a footstool---and urged me to tie a Tourniquet around her leg--- which I did---but the bleeding just wouldn't stop!!It was Mikki who called up our Parents at the place they were visiting to inform and ask them to get home post haste.Luckily they were at our Family Doctor's home and he accompanied them back.The Bleeding had reduced but it stopped after an Injection from Doctor Uncle---and then Ritu was carted away to his Clinic to get her foot stitched and bandaged---ending up with two more shots---one of Tetanus and the other a Painkiller.Mikki and I washed away the Blood from the Floor---letting Meera stay unconscious till we were done----we'd lost patience with her regaining consciousness---seeing the Blood on the Floor---and swooning again umpteen number of times by the time Ritu was attended to!!
This incident made our Parents sit all 3 of us down and tell us that one should never shy away from telling the Truth----for suppressing it could lead to unnecessary complications.There Honesty was always the best Policy---and no matter what the consequences---one should always stick to the Truth!!This left such a deep mark on my mind---that if I try to lie I get caught out instantly!!I have lived my Life since then following the Principle"Honesty is the Best Policy!!"
Monday, March 21, 2011
During the beginning of the War we got new neighbours on the other side.The Unclejee was attached to the Secretariat as Agricultural secretary and the first thing he did on moving in was to turn the Servants Quarters into Cow and Water Buffalo sheds---tying up 2 plump Jersey Cows in one and 2 fat Buffaloes in the other.The Upper Storey turned into a Hatchery and Hen House---the Terrace into an open Air Grain House and a Tractor ploughed up the Grass Lawns---the Garden became a miniature Farm!!
The Family moved in on the Ground Floor---and our lives changed dramatically!!!Overnight we got introduced to foaming Fresh Milk---adding a half cup of Water to it before warming it,oodles of Freshly Churned home made White Butter,thick Creamy "Dahi" or Yoghurt---all available at a nominal price---and buckets of cool,fresh "Chhaas" or Buttermilk---absolutely free!!The Miniature Farm began growing Crops of Maize,Shallots,Potatoes,Peanuts----and this really fascinated Daddy.He saw an advertisement in "The Illustrated Weekly of India"s Advertisement Pages the name of a Seed Shop named "Vishnu Sadashiv &Sons"---situated in Poona.He like the sound of it---and off went a Money Order with a large list of Seeds----I still remember his little Jig of Joy when the Seeds were delivered by Post!!The poor "Maali"( Gardner) literally rued the Day our new Neighbours moved in---for his "Saheb" went a bit more mad than usual---and started working alongside him with a Hoe and Spade to produce masses of luscious Fruits and Vegetables from the Garden!!It didn't end there---Flower Beds were turned into larger Beds---and Maize,Shallots,Potatoes and Peanuts sown there!!As soon as the Plants started showing above the Ground--my impatient father would heave these up to view the progress under the Soil--mainly with Potatoes and Peanuts!!He really drove all of us mad with his blow by blow Daily Bulletins---the moment we saw him approaching the 3 of us would scatter in 3 different Directions---we were that fed up!!
I was the oldest and after all he was my Father---besides due to our regular Treks and Hikes we shared a bond of Friendship as well---so I'd help him in all his Projects.He taught me the Artistic way of using my hands---be it making Model Houses,Painting,creating objects from Plaster of Paris,Wood Working or Clay Modelling---we did most of it together!!He also taught me the art of packing---even today I can pack a whole lot of Stuff into my Bags---a skill that has stood me in good stead each time I travel to meet my daughters---my Grand Daughter calls my Bags"Ali Baba's Cave"!!Therefore we were partners in Crime---and he taught me love Nature from a very young age!!Both of us discovered that we had Green Thumbs---and got excellent results from the Seeds we planted!!The only Crop that failed was Peanuts---all thanks to Daddy!!Each morning and evening he'd religiously pull up each Plant---and if a tiny peanut had formed---pluck it,wash it and pop it in his mouth!!How could we reap any Peanuts----after such activity???
Not just this Daddy made Wine at home too.Le Corbusier whom we called "Grand Pere" had brought special cuttings of Grape Vines for his cousin Jeanneret Uncle.He gave some of those to Daddy and these were planted to form a cool canopy over the Garage Roof.Each year Mummy'd stitch Muslin Bags for the Green Bunches that formed---Daddy tying these over those Bunches in a specific manner---something he forgot he'd taught all 3 of us too!!It became our favourite activity during Summer---when the Grapes started ripening--- to climb down to the Garage roof from the Terrace,open the Bags and pluck out the ripe Grapes---retying the Bags in exactly the same way as Daddy!!Poor Daddy never could understand how despite a bumper Crop his tally of Bottles of Wine never went beyond 15-20!!
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Fresh,Soft Puran Polies!!
Hot,Spicy, deep Fried Kachories
Crispy,Golden Spicy Samosas---Stuffed Pastry Triangles!!
The raucous sounds of Holi revelry are floating up from the Garden---all the youngsters are having a FUN time dunking each other in the Water in the Fountain!!!This reminds me of the Holi revelry that I enjoyed in my childhood----though for the past 40 years I've not played Holi---it is something Atya did not approve of!!
In my early childhood my Parents both enjoyed playing Holi--in Chandigarh's small Community it used to be a Red Letter Day--filled with Song and Dance---Fun and Frolic!!!Lots of Snacks and Sweets were prepared a day earlier---the highlight being the Traditonal Maharashtrian "Puran Polies" that Mummy used to make fresh---serving these hot from the Skillet to everyone who visited our home.Those days there used to be huge Metal Syringes to spray Coloured Water on each other---and these were refilled with Watered in various Colours stored in Buckets.Dry Colour Powder too was used liberally---being rubbed vigorously on the Face and Hair.We'd go from house to house---playing with the Colours and eating the Delicious Snacks and Sweets laid out on large Tables under the Trees----that kept us till evening----Dinner used to be a Bowl of soup with Toast!!!
Mummy never learnt her Lesson---she'd be awake at the Crack of Dawn,bathed and her Hair washed to begin making the "Puran Polies"----light as a feather and melting in the Mouth perfection---and a huge Pot of home made Ghee(Clarified Butter) would be kept ready next to the huge pile of neatly folded stack of Polies---along with the other Snacks coming piping hot from the Kitchen---supplied by Narayan Singh our Cook.Each time new groups of Friends popped in, Mummy'd be drenched in sprays of Water--her face and Hair sticky with Colour Powder----coloured vibrantly in Parrot Green,Yellow,Blue,Red and Orange----by evening each one of us would be unrecognisable---till we bathed!!
Those days we'd form "Tolies" or Groups with a "Dholaki" or Drum playing along accompanied by high pitched Singing we'd make the rounds----throwing Colour on all and sundry!!Daddy was a fabulous Singer---and mostly Lunch would be served in our house---with the "Dholak" playing and Daddy singing to it's rhythm--- K.L. Saigal and other old Songs and Ghazals---this Session would continue throughout the afternoon----with Refreshment Breaks in between!!
As I grew older I began shying away from mixed crowds of Boys and Girls---not liking the furtive groping that the Boys indulged in---the slogan being"Holi hai Bhai Holi hai--burraa na maano Holi hai"---meaning that please do not Mind Folks---it's Holi!!I never really understood how that gave anyone a licence to furtively grope and feel somebody else---I considered it a violation of my privacy!!!A result of this was using both my Lungs as well as my Slippers with gusto---I'd become an expert in this since early childhood---and now coupled with my wiry strength I made large Red marks on the person of the Undesirables---and since my reputation preceded me---The Undesirables preferred to steer clear of me---much to my relief!!
Those days Holi came in early April---but sometimes it would be in March ---and the Weather would be cold and chilly as well as rainy at times---not deterring us from having Fun though---even if it meant falling sick for a Week .When Daddy was the Principal of the Architecture College(he was the Founder-Principal) his Students would spend the entire day with us---for he was extremely popular and well loved by them---so much so that after he died, his old Students bestowed a Scholarship in his name by gathering a Fund to do so----for deserving 2nd. Year Students !!!Even today the whole Memory is as bright as if took place just yesterday---the Atmosphere charged with Fun and Frolic--colourful Dust suspended in the Sky--the smell of hot "Kachories" and "Samosas" hanging in the Air---and the melliflous tones of Daddy's voice washing over us in hushed,pin drop silence---his Students forming a circle around him!!Those days have long gone---so have my Parents and most of those Uncles and Aunties----but the Memories live on!!
I have been very lucky to experience the "Joie D'Vivre" of almost everything---and my mind has allowed the unpleasant experiences to filter away---except maybe the memories of War.I have danced joyously atop captured Pakistani Patton Tanks and mingled with victorious Indian Soldiers with boxes of Sweets for them----but I have also seen and experienced first hand the Terror and Devastation of War---while working a Volunteer Letter Writer for injured Soldiers in Hospital during 1965.Those Soldiers that died were lucky---for no Medals or measures of Appreciation can replace lost Limbs or Organs---the person who lives is honoured but as Time passes by is forgotten---his pain belongs only to him and his Family---for no matter how grateful a Nation---some things cannot be shared!!The Stoicism of those Soldiers impressed me deeply----there were no open admissions of Pain----they taught me that showing Pain is a waste of Energy---bearing it with Fortitude is what makes it easier to bear---a Lesson that has helped me become stronger and more positive in facing Life!!
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