Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Indians are blessed with beautiful Flora and Fauna all over the length and breadth of India---some common---some exclusive.One of these perfumed variety of Fauna is a Grass is called Khus.This highly valued popular Grass is prized and widely available in India and is made into a popular perfume or "Attar" which is the distilled essence of this .Earlier, this Grass used to be woven into aromatic blinds by tying bunches of Khus Grass to Bamboo Rods with Twine.During the Summer these blinds would be hung on the windows of the house.These blinds would then be wet thoroughly with buckets full of Water poured over them.Water would then be trickled over these to retain the wetness through Water pipes.After the use of Electricity grew,a table fan would be placed on the outside of each window and would blow the cool Air into the darkened rooms. This was the Indian way of air conditioning the rooms during the hot dry Summers all over India.Later,after a few years when the Air Coolers and Air Conditioners replaced these aromatic blinds-----they slowly faded into history!!!
As a child this was my favourite way to spend the afternoon siesta during the Summers----napping in that cold room surrounded the scent of Khus!!!
Our Garden was full of Summer flowers like creepers of a delicately pinky white flowered Chameli, a hedge of Mogra in full bloom, Madan Baan and the shady Bakula tree.These are different species of Jasmine which bloomed during the days in Summer.The nights used to be scented with the heavier perfume of different species of the 'Raat Rani' or 'The Queen of the Night' and the delicate Prajakta flowers which would bloom at 4a.m. each morning and drop to the ground the moment they bloomed.We'd cover the ground below this tree with old bedsheets to catch these creamy white flowers with orange stalks as they fell.This was one of Daddy's prized possessions---the Prajakta Tree is said to have flourished in Heaven from where Lord Krishna---an incarnation of Lord Vishnu ---brought it down to Earth to please His consort--Satyabhama.
By mid May we'd start getting Dust Storms blowing in from the deserts of Rajasthan in the west-----how my mother hated this!!! In spite of closing each door and window tightly Sand would still creep into every nook and cranny in the house-----she had to deal with the cleaning!!!!The air in the closed house would be scented with the smell of Sand and the world outside the windows would be dark and gritty.The mid afternoon would transformed into a dark and stormy night for the period it lasted----sometimes for 2-3 hours or sometimes even longer!!!
Chandigarh back then was surrounded by thick woody pockets of trees.These had a lot of wildlife----specially Jackals,Foxes,Wild Cats andplenty of Snakes living in them!!!!These Jungles also were teeming with variety of Birds---Mynahs,Parrots,Parakeets Hawks and Peacocks.These were shady groves and a cool haven in the blazingSummer Sun and were great Pic-Nic spots.These provided us wih a hands on lesson in the study of wild life----specially during the Summer showers!!!
There also used to be sudden showers of Rain from mid June-----sometimes accompanied by large Hail Stones.These storms would arise suddenly---the Wind would blow in forceful gusts sending the clouds above scudding together---changing their colours from Grey to Indigo in minutes.Then the Thunder would crash and roar,the Forked Lightning flashing in and out of the dark clouds till with a thunderous clap the Rain would come down in huge wet drops.This was a beautiful sight---specially if we were in the car---stuck in the middle of nowhere---- a few miles from Chandigarh.The Peacocks would appear and unfurl their tails into fans and would shake their spread plumage in a manner to create a ripple of colour.They'd then throw back their heads and uttering shrill cries would dance in joyous abandon!!!
This was the time if we were at home, to make hot deep fried Pakoras(Fritters) to eat with a spicy hot Green Pudina(Mint)Chutney----yuuuuuuum!!!How we loved rushing out into the Rain----getting soaking wet----to gather those Hailstones----they tasted great too.The Air would smell sweet,clean and earthy-----the Garden looking clean and refreshed----the different types of Jasmine perfuming the feeling of freshness around us!!!
All of these are treasured moments---hoarded jewels in a chestful of memories----held very dear and closely guarded---to be polished,reviewed and hoarded again in the vault of my mind.
Monday, January 04, 2010
My very dear friend Nita, has a lot of similar experiences-----only she lived in Karwar----I lived in Chandigarh!!!We both belong to the same age group----the same community-----only we lived a long way from each other---still do!!!Like her, my memories too are centred around living in a small town with it's basic flavour of having a rustic environment all around us.Only unlike her my memories are full of the flavour of both---Maharashtra and Punjab!!!Maybe this is what has bred in us a passionate love for Nature----no developed City can ever teach you to love Nature nor adore it in it's totality----wild and raw as well as gentle and serene!!!We are soul mates in so many ways---it's amazing!!!
Daddy loved trekking and during Winter we'd go trekking into the villages surrounding Chandigarh.The activity of making Jaggery from Sugar Cane juice would be in full swing.The smell of the Sugar Cane Juice cooking in huge Iron Cauldrons set on fires lit in huge pits dug in the ground would hang in the Air scenting the area for miles around it.We'd reach there around Lunch time and the farmers would be ready to sit down for their mid-day meal.These farmers used to be hospitality personified and would invite us to join them for the meal.Their rustic food----Mustard Greens and Corn Bread(Rotis) tasted heavenly with tall glasses of freshly churned Yoghurt Smoothies(Lassi) and balls of home churned white Butter!!!I was a skinny little thing but my appetite was HUGE and today it embarasses me to remember the huge amounts I could easily put away-----my stomach was like a bottomless pit!!!!Offering money for their hospitality would be viewed by them as an insult----so Daddy would place orders for fresh blocks of Jaggery and pure homemade Ghee(Clarified Butter)which they'd sell for a nominal rate!!!He'd come and get it from them at a later date.
The visual in my mind is as sharp as ever---the endless fields of Yellow Mustard Flowers spread out as far as the eye could reach----the Cobalt Blue Sky above with strips of white Cirrus clouds floating across it----the earthy smell of the watered soil heated in the Winter Sunshine and the sweet scent of the cooking Jaggery-----a beautiful collage of sight,smells and sounds---one of my most treasured and beloved memories of childhood!!!!
We all spoke fluent Punjabi---in fact I used to write and read the Gurmukhi script----my greatest regret is not having continued with it---this year I plan to refresh my memories by taking a crash course in learning to write and read the Language again.The people of the Punjab are a very large hearted and loving people---both the Sikhs and the Punjabis.Their spirit of Hospitality is legendary----they welcome everyone with open arms!!!
We had a large compound surrounding our Bungalow.This was in the form of a Garden full of flowers in the lawn in front-----Roses,Lilies,Narcissi,Pansies,Ch
rysanthemums,Dahlias----name the flower and you were sure to find it there!!!There were Neem Trees and some Mango Trees bordering the Lawn.We also had a "Prajakta"(Paarijaat) tree and a DrumStick Tree in the front Lawn.Besides the English varieties of Flowers we had creepers and shrubs of varieties of Indian Jasmine----Zaaee,Zuee,Chameli,Hazaar Mogra,Madan Baan,Mogra, Bakuli and four to five varieties of Raat Rani---Queen of the Night!!!
The Backyard was divided into two parts----in half we had a lawn and trees like the Silver Oak,The Jacaranda, Peach,Apricot,Lychee and plenty of Mango trees---different varieties like Dussehri,Langda,Totapuri,Chausa,Haapus and the wild variety called Raival(Choopney waaley Aam) the other half had the Vegetable Garden.Here there were two Trees---Loquats and Figs------we grew our own Vegetables mainly Brinjals(Egg Plants)Carrots,Radishes, Tomatoes,French Beans, Pumpkins,Ivy Gourds,Bitter Gourds----a whole host of these as my father loved gardening. He'd get the seeds from a Seed Shop in Poona named Vishnu Sadashiv in Camp Area----it still exists today!!!All through the year he'd spend his spare time in the Garden with the 'Maali'(Gardener) looking after his crops------we were equally interested and it meant spending more time with Daddy---so it became a family activity!!
Chandigarh was built on fertile farmland which had been bought from the local farmers because of it's situation.Anywhere in the city you can always see the beautiful Mountains as a backdrop.The lights of Kasauli and higher up--Shimla twinkle in the evening dusk and look like fairy lights in the dark nights!!!Today I've not visited it since 1980---so maybe things have changed----but memories are unchangeable---they still frame the same picture!!!
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