Wednesday, August 17, 2011
On Thursday evening we recieved an Invitation to celebrate a 50th.Birthday in Pune---and it being a long Weekend thanks to Independence Day falling on a Monday--15th.August---we decided to go.Both Sudhir and I have always loved Pune or Poona---as it used to be.An ancient historical Town,during our childhood it used to be untouched by modernity.Old "Vaadaas" as those huge palatial homes were called, housed large joint families within their stone walls guarded by huge Brass studded wooden Doors---a testimony to the ancient Glory.As late as early 1800, it was the seat of Maratha Power---with the huge "Shaniwaar Vaadaa" of the Peshwas at it's centre.It's ancient name was "Punya Nagri" or Pune which the British converted to Poona after they took it over.
My maternal Grandparents had built a large Bungalow here in the in the late 50s with a huge rambling Garden at Erandawane,just off Prabhat Road.The Poona of those days was a quiet little Town----mainly populated by Pensioners and Intellectuals----with a very laid back attitude.Later after Aazoba's death in December 1964 Aaji continued to live there with my younger Aunts--Vidya Maushi and Vasanthi Maushi but sold it in 1971 because by then Vidya Maushi was married and Aaji along with Vasanthi Maushi had moved back to Bombay again. Poona also was a favourite Vacation retreat for Sudhir as well---our Aunt owned a huge Bungalow in Shivaji Nagar near the Station and this was a regular haunt for Atya and Baba every Summer.So they would descend there with their entire domestic Staff in tow.Since the Railway Station was a stone's throw away from "Sahyashram" as the Bungalow was named-- Baba could reach Bombay as and when needed and most times return the same day too!!
Poona to both of us in our childhood meant long walks every morning and evening,visits to "Kyani's" and "Dorabjee's" in the "Camp" area---the former's oven hot Buns and Mawa Cakes a must for Breakfast and the latter's Mutton Puffs and Chcken Patties an accompaniment for the afternoon Tea!!Besides it also meant drinking pure sweet "Neera" early in the morning daily--delivered fresh in "Matkas" or Earthern Pots to one's doorstep!!This "Neera" is the thin,milky sap of the Palmyra Tree which tastes sweet and heavenly fresh in the morning---by evening it ferments and turns into smelly, stinky "Toddy" the favourite Liquor of the masses!!!Evenings for me meant visits to either Erandawane or Sambhaji Parks and once there,eating the spicy "Bhel" a crunchy mix of raw finely chopped Onions,Chutneys and Lime Juice--tossed with crunchy crisp Puffed Rice,spicy Fried Parched Rice Mixture ,Peanuts and deep fried Chick Pea Vermicelli all together exploding with taste on the Tongue with each mouthful!!!This would be accompanied by glasses of sweet Green Mango Sherbet known as "Panhey"---an ideal combination.Poona in my childhood was a very quiet place---and since Mummy had loads of cousins----the Bungalow was always overflowing with people---more fun for me for that meant that I'd be pampered silly---my every wish being their command!!Those memories are full of tranquility and peace---soothing my heart each time I remember them!!
Later as my daughters grew up Sudhir and I continued our regular jaunts to Poona---gradually changing into a more alive place---and our daughters too grew addicted to "Kyani's" Breads,Buns,Biscuits,Cakes and Pastries and to "Dorabjee's" wider range of Non-Vegetarian Snacks--Chicken Rolls,Mutton Rolls,Pastries and such!!The very ambience was unhurried---and the simple Hotels of those days had all the basic amenities and great Vegetarian fare---specially "Shreyas" where we stayed at Deccan Gymkhana.The rooms were large and airy with large Balconies---when the entire joint family of all Sudhir's 4 siblings would descend there en masse in the month of May, the children would insist on sleeping in the Balconies of their rooms!!This was the nearest they could get to the open air and their giggling and whispering from adjoining Balconies would last late into the nights!!Poona had a lot of Green Cover and that kept it's climate pretty temperate even in the hot afternoons in Summer---today all that is gradually making way for more and more Construction!!
Till the year 2000 Poona remained a laid back,sleepy Town---and then the IT transformation began!!Today it is known as Pune---and grown into a huge crowded City---with very little of the familiar Landmarks left!!How vastly it has changed was rudely brought home to us this last Saturday night.
We left Mumbai at about 3.30 p.m. and got caught in Traffic snarls at Vashi just outside Mumbai and while climbing the Ghat towards Lonavla---taking quite a long time at both places.We drove into Pune around 8 p.m.---and found that the entire City had gone berserk with changes!!There were many "One ways" on arterial Roads like the Jungli Maharaj Road at, Deccan Gymkhana and the darkness as well as the light Rain added to the confusion!!However Cell phones are a boon---and thanks to these we rolled into the Hotel Porch by 8.30 p.m.!!The next day we began finding our way by searching for familiar Landmarks---many of which have just melted away---in their places stand shiny new Offices and Malls---so much so that only "Kyani's" at Camp still looks the same---"Dorabjee's" is now housed in a swanky new Building--the old arched structure has been rebuilt!!
Thursday, August 04, 2011
I just simply adore the Monsoons---always have since baby hood.This for me holds a lot of Magic---the newly washed various shades of Greenery contrasting so beautifully with the deep Steel Grey of the Sky---everything shining like new after the hot,dusty Summer!!During my childhood the pre-Monsoon Showers and later the Monsoon itself was a beautiful experience---and I have spent many nights sitting on my Bedroom windowsill watching the play of the Lightning forking and flashing through the dark,velvety Clouds----drumming away in harmony!!
The Monsoon in my childhood used to arrive with a lot of Fanfare---strong gusty Rain scented Winds would herald it's arrival--the very Nature surrounding us would dance on their tune in joyous abandon!!The cool Atmmosphere would bring instant relief from the dry,hot, dusty Summer in the Indian Plains and the Earth would welcome the first large Rain Pellets by releasing it's beautiful Fragrance---till today that Scent still intoxicates me!!!The first Rains would turn the Air chill---setting the Mood for the Season to follow--and then there'd be innumerable cups of hot,spicy, Ginger Tea with sizzling Platters of straight out of the Wok hot "Pakodas/Bhajiyaas" eaten with a Green Chutney made with Fresh Mint & Cilantro Leaves,dried Pomegranate Seeds,Hot Green Chillies,Black Rock Salt and fresh Ginger Root.For us children the Tea would be a different concoction---made with plenty of Milk and spiced with crushed Ginger Root ,Cinnamon,Cloves Carraway Seeds and Lemongrass---boiled with a sprinkling of Tea Leaves---- our Nanny---Amma----used to call it "Children's " Tea!!!Those days we'd also be regularly fed a Concoction called"Kaadhaa" at bedtime all through this Season.Made by Amma using certain Herbs which were boiled in Water and then the resulting Brew reduced to half of the original quantity---it was supposed to protect us from catching Chills and Colds---and most of the time--it worked!!
Monsoons in Bombay showed me a different aspect of this Season.Since Sudhir and I both love Rains---we've driven out many times at midnight----just to catch a glimpse of the wild Dance of the Elements----the heaving, crashing dull Grey Sea,darkly ominous Steel Grey Clouds overhead and the Lightning dancing like Silver Threads in their midst----sometimes lighting up the entire Sea Scape with Silvery Light whenever it flashed in Sheets!!!There is something primal in the savage beauty of such scenes---and these are incredibly rivetting to watch!!When the Girls were young we'd often drive into the Sahyadri Hills--- for day Trips to Lonavala and Khandala---making trips to the Bhushi Dam on the way. The rugged Sahyadris would be covered with a thick Green Cloak in myriad shades---punctuated with crystal clear or frothy White Waterfalls cascading down their steep,rocky slopes---the fields on both sides of the Road a lush deep Emerald Green!!The "Adivaasees" or Aborigines would stand by the roadside hawking their Wares--tiny containers fashioned out of large Tree Leave filled to the brim with Fruits of the Forest--- Cranberries,Mulberries,"Jamun/Jaambhul" and hand woven Bamboo baskets overflowing with the the lush green prickly "Kantolaas" a seasonal Vegetable that grows in the thick Forests lining the slopes of the Sahyadris.There used to be boiled,salted Peanuts,Cucumbers,ears of Corn---with options of getting it roasted over hot Coal and then to be rubbed with a Mixture of Salt,Red Chilli Powder sprinkled on Lemon Wedges----just heavenly---all this from the Farms flanking the Road---a real Feast for both the Eyes and the Stomach!!
The cool Monsoon Air would whip up our appetites---and the lure of eating sizzling hot "Batata Wadaas"---balls of spicy dry Potato Curry dipped in Chick Pea Batter and deep fried---were a MUST HAVE at "Ramakant's" in Khopoli at the foot of the steep climb of the "Khandala Ghaat" ---just the thought of eating these would drive us mad with craving!!Unfortunately today similar "Wadaas" aren't available anywhere --- the original Shack of "Ramakant" became an overcrowded Restaurant---and later when the Route changed from the original almost vertically steep Slopes to gentler levels---it too got left behind----it's not there anymore!!Anothe place we loved to frequent was "Pooranmall's" in Lonavla Market.Here for a song we'd be served Bowls of rich,spicy thin Potato Curry and Lentils(Dal) and piping hot crisp "Puries"---a puffed deep fried Indian Bread.The portions used to be generous and the cool,fresh Atmosphere would help us to tuck into platefuls of these with gusto!!Today most of the old haunts at these places have given way to new Restaurants---but these lack both the taste and the homeliness of their earlier counterparts!!
Today we have the Expressway with all the amenities---a boon for regular Travellers on the Road.The Expressway meanders through a lot of "Adivaasee" areas---their simple dwellings made from wooden branches and coated with layers of thick Mud very picturesque against the Monsoon Skies----surrounded by a Carpet of Greens in various Shades----despite rapid Progress a timelessness still preserves the Beauty of the Landscape!!!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Manasa's Blog set me off on a mental journey into my youth---and again brought alive a lot of Memories of the time during my courtship---and the first few years of my marriage!!!Experience taught me that Relationships like Plants have to be carefully and lovingly tended and nurtured to grow into strong Bonds---only Love is never enough!!It requires lots of Commitment,Tolerance,Adjustment and Co-operation from both Parties to make a Relationship grow into a Lifelong Bond!!!
Sudhir and I were two cussedly stubborn Mules---terribly in Love with each other but totally opposite in Nature!!While Sudhir was a cautious,deliberate and logical person I was the complete opposite!!Impetously impulsive and completely illogical, the main focus in every argument I got involved in was to win it---even to the extent of making foolishly idiotic statements!!I was very optimistic,naive,trusting and not open to be told to be careful---while Sudhir on the other hand being born and bred in Bombay learnt to be wary and suspicious from a young age---and being hopelessly pessimistic, never taking anything at face value!!On the other hand my over confidence in everything was backed by my theoretical knowledge---and use of this along with bombastic Words was my greatest fault!!!I talked nineteen to the dozen while Sudhir spoke very little---so he'd listen mostly while I'd talk!!There was one place where however I scored---being the eldest I was used to looking after my siblings and Sudhir being the youngest was used to being taken care of by his siblings!!So the two of us started our married life with a lot to do to keep our marriage alive!!
Since childhood I'd seen my parents--terribly in love with each other but both possessing volatile tempers----fighting like Cats and Dogs together but once their tempers subsided--which was pretty quick---they'd cool down and things would revert to normal mode.Not so my darling husband!!Each time he got upset he'd clam up tight---keep pacing up and down the room restlessly---literally driving me up the wall!!No amount of pleading,cajoling or requesting would get me an answer---and this would reduce me to a mass of tears!!I on the other hand when annoyed would yell and shout till everything was out of my system and then forget about the topic that had upset me so totally!!Besides Sudhir was pretty moody those days and I was stupid enough not to read the signs!!I'd go and irritate him by making Plans for the Future---while he prefers living day to day---irritating him till he flew into a Temper and clammed up!!After that I'd first cry copiously and then sulk all day or days till his black mood lifted!!These were the initial hiccups--however as I'm otherwise pretty amenable,tolerant and thoroughly practical---this helps me to adjust to changes in my immediate Environment!!!It helps to know how to let the Negatives loose enough to pass by---and grasping the Positives in one's hands tightly move forward into the Future!!
As we got along together over the first few years I learnt first to read the danger signals---and secondly to avoid topics that caused fights----one needs a congenial Atmosphere to live in!!The early years taught me to tread delicately--not barge in like a bull in a China Shop---for though being first cousins our respective upbringing had been vastly different!!Atya and Baba given their period were far more emancipated than both their sons---both extremely conservative in their outlook----- though Milind beat Sudhir in this hands down!!I was asked to start wearing only Saries---my Blouses had to have elbow length sleeves and high necks and both Sudhir and I struck a bargain---the area below my neck was his---the one above mine!!The dressing part was the least of my problems---because Daddy too had his idiosyncrasies---and if I wore a tight dress I had to cover my legs by wearing either a "Salwar" or a "Churidaar" along with a "Dupatta" or Veil---how that made any difference is beyond me!!Those days I used to apply a small Red Dot---just to please Sudhir because he liked it that way---the huge one that I loved was too rustic for these urban people!!I learnt to be smartly uncomfortable where dressing was concerned---one absolutely had to look "Band Box" fresh at all times!!So I taught myself to tolerate stiffly starched clothes----Sudhir's Kurta-Pyjama Night Suits would be so stiff that I swear they could stand up just by themselves!!Even the Bed Sheets were starched---and often I'd wake up with scratches on my arms and legs---chafed wherever they'd rubbed against the Sheets in my sleep!!
Besides there were traditional outlooks about being a wife.A good wife moulded herself to being a shadow of her husband---and I was traditional enough to do that.Being extremely possessive about him I was completely obsessed by him--- setting my parameters towards looking after him like a baby!!This forced Atya to remark that my daughters too could do with a little more of my attention!!All this was voluntarily done-----and for him I made myself his necessity--one he couldn't do without!!The drawbacks in this began manifesting themselves after my first stay in the Hospital thanks to Dengue in December 2002---Sudhir just came apart!!Never having bothered with anything concerning the running of the home he was completely at Sea and had Mummy and Ritu not been there as well as Sayali who had come down for a Vacation then there would have been total chaos in our house!!However within six months I was back in harness with my usual resilience till December 2006 and my Cancer Operation,Chemo and Radiation Treatments.This time too Mummy and Ritu stepped into the breach and stayed with us for 6 months---offering great support!!My determination to land on my feet again pulled me through but my Nemesis was yet to come!!February 2009 saw me back in ICU after a massive Heart Attack---and this time Sudhir had to go it all alone!! By now Mummy was a semi invalid suffering from an Enlarged Heart as well as PAH---and Ritu was busy looking after her so apart from providing emotional support and Tiffins of Food there was little more that they could do!!Sudhir lost a lot of weight in that period---and all the 15 days I was in hospital he barely ate enough to keep body and soul together!!
Coming home I was determined to fall on my feet like the proverbial Cat---and started working aqt getting back my Stamina---but it was an uphill Task!!!It also led to my being under total "House Arrest" for one year with Sudhir and both Chhaaya Bai and Vanita ensuring that I was not left alone for any part of the 24 hours during the Day!!My Friends in the Compound would take turns to walk around the Complex with me----thus everyone cossetted me tremendously for a year1!!!Exactly a year later I rebelled and declared my Independence!!Everyone was asked to back off and I began living as normally as possible.Things however changed gradually since then.Sudhir has begun to take care of his own Closet--look after his own packing when we visit the Girls---and generally trying to be self sufficient!!!However he needs to be aware of my whereabouts at all times---and that still gets my Goat!!I am as mobile as I can be---Pradeep, our Chauffeur ferries me around Town--a Taxi is totally out of bounds!!All the Attendants at my Grocery Store as well as my regular Fruit and Vegetable Vendors too take care to not let me lift any weight---watching me like hawks till Pradeep drives me home after my weekly shopping!!Sounds like royalty---but actually is very claustrophobic and annoying in fact!!But then "Beggars can't be Choosers" so I swallow my Ire and lump it---and am slowly getting used to being looked after rather than being the one looking after others!!Besides how much can one rebel???After all throwing Tantrums all the time too can be very tiresomely boring and extremely draining in terms of Vitality!!!
Today all the Negatives of living together have become obscured by with Time---all I remember are the wonderful Positives we went through---and our Bond has grown stronger through the years!!In all the forty odd years we've been together we've lived apart for barely 6 months during that entire period!!Today we are content to be with each other speaking unspoken words in our silences---our Telepathic togetherness needs no vocal expressions any more---as we're quite well attuned to each other's needs and thoughts!!Sudhir the proverbial "Couch Potato" and me with my varied Interests---we're like a comfortable pair of old Bedroom Slippers for each other ---content to live in each other's Pockets!!!
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