This was the first time I took a trip--completely alone in my entire Life!!!The last time I flew back from L.A. doesn't really qualify---for at that time I had this desperate all consuming urge to get home---where I felt Sudhir was waiting for me---as usual impatiently!!!This time was different---and many things sank in--specially the fact that for the first time in my life--I was completely on my own!!!
From my early childhood my worst nightmare was the fear of being left alone--stranded at some God forsaken Station--for we travelled by Train those days.Both my parents would be busy loading or unloading the numerous pieces of Luggage in the bare 5 minutes that the Train stopped at the Station either to or from Bombay.The same applied whenever we went anywhere--this was one paranoia I carried into my adult life---and one that gave Sudhir plenty of laughs--till he one day really almost got left behind---and the state I was in when he finally reached me brought home to him exactly how much I suffered each time he played that particular Prank!!!Hence though I did not show it ----for it would have unsettled everyone--specially Sayali---I was exceedingly apprehensive about travelling alone!!!!So here follows an account of the entire Journey as it happened.
I was handed over by Ritu at the CST Mumbai International Airport into the capable hands of an affable young fellow named Joseph---he was to be my "Meet and Assist" Manager.He loaded all my Luggage on to a Trolley,took charge of both my Passport and me---and the Experience began--a thoroughly enjoyable one for me!!!Whenever Sudhir and I travelled I'd be the Manager---from packing and getting the Bags weighed to filling in the Immigration Forms,finding the right Gate etc.---Sudhir just wouldn't remember the very last Flight we'd taken earlier--even though it was never more than 8-9 months apart!!!He always used to say that if I wasn't there with him he'd never be fit to travel anywhere----- a compliment that I didn't much appreciate for that meant that it was my responsibility to deliver him in one piece to his daughters!!!l Hence it was a real pleasure to rely on someone who did the basic requirements for me--while I sat and twiddled my thumbs instead!!!After going in for Immigration however I was on my own-----but the greatest number of the requirements had been dealt with!!!Finding my Gate was my next priority--and once done I sat down at the first available seat---to get my bearings.
Looking around I spied an empty Lounger--right next to a large group of women who seemed as if they were travelling to Mecca for their "Haj" orthe Muslim Pilgrimage.I immediately snapped up the lounger--moving with the agility of a Cat--albeit a Fat one---and heaved a huge sigh of relief as I sank down on it--and put my feet up!!!In my paranoia to avoid the Traffic I'd reached the Airport early--making completing the formalities easier--but leaving me with a lot of time on my hands--I had 4 hours to kill!!!Since I was not hungry and the distance of the Lounge was considerable from the Gate--I felt that it would be better for me to be near the Departure area----ensuring that I was amongst the first to board!!!So after a glance at my watch I decided to snooze---which I did so well that I'm sure I must've snored---hopefully along with my neighbour---must have been some Snoring Concert!!!I was finally jolted out of my slumber when my stomach started rumbling--almost 1 hour 45 minutes before my Flight--and I walked into the Cafe just opposite the Gate for some Soup and Bread--enough to keep me going till Lunch!!After the Soup I took a Stroll through all the Duty free Shops nearby--browsing through lots of Stuff--Toys,Make-Up,Perfumes ever Liquor for want of better Entertainment!!!Finally I saw the Wheel Chairs boarding and I hurried back---and within minutes boarded the Aircraft.That is when I took over Sudhir's job--standing on tip toe I hoisted my case into the overhead Bin and pushed myHandbag under the Seat---and finally settled down into my Seat with a sigh--I was aboard the 'Plane at last---there was no way I'd be left behind!!!
There was however a new developement this time-----I watched four Movies on the 'Plane!!!With Sudhir next to me I'd sleep all the way--waking up only for Food-----but this time I didn't get sleepy at all---and had a great time watching Alvin,Puss in Boots,Bambi and UP!! one by one---with a little T.V. thrown in in!!!!By the time we landed at London I'd psyched myself up to go through the Immigration--and yes--hoist my Bags off the Belt!!!So walking fast I cleared Immigration and Customs--and reached the Luggage Belt to reclaim my Baggage.Luckily it was amongst the first few pieces of Luggage to be loaded on the Belt--and thinking of Sudhir I grabbed the heavier one hoisted it off the Belt in a single attempt---can't tell you how great that felt---the second and smaller one was then just a little pull--and with all my Bags loaded onto the Trolley--All By Myself---I walked out through the Green Channel to where Sayali was waiting for me!!!
Maybe the Number is playing on my mind---for that will be the longest period I'll have stayed away from home--with or without Sudhir.This will be my first trip abroad without him and to say that I'm a bit nervous would be an understatement!!!Sudhir and I were literally living in each other's pockets---and he was such an integral part of my Life---that there are no words to describe the intensity!!!My entire day revolved around him--from the moment we woke up each morning.He liked me to be contactable at all times---and therefore I kept all the Telephones--my Cell as well as the 3 Landlines as free as possible during the day when he was at Court.That's the reason I'd be in a hurry to finish my 'phone calls---and since all my friends knew this--they'd call off as quickly as they could!!!Once abroad Sudhir and I would venture out for walks and eat Lunch out mostly---and New York was the place where we really had a lot of fun!!Sayali worked and stayed in the centre of Manhattan--and though we never ventured far from our comfort zone there were still plenty of things to do----specially visits to the Brooks Brothers Store to buy Shirts and Ties---for Sudhir loved Clothes!!!There was also a Pink Store nearby---and most of our time would be spent in these shops where he browsed---and I drowsed sitting on a footstool till he was done!!!Weekends were when Sayali took over--taking us out to Brunch or Lunch--some a hit and others a miss as far as Sudhir was concerned--for adventurous in trying out various Cuisines he was not!!!
L.A. was never a problem for since Lotta was a homemaker, she'd be there with us throughout the day.Father and daughter would hold long conversations all through the day---agreeing and disagreeing vociferously on many differences of opinion while I busied myself reading the Books she'd arranged for me.Both Lotta and Sayali knew of my love for reading and I've spent many happy hours in both their homes---deep in a wonderful Book!!Here I must state that the fact that in Rochester NY, New York--and later London Sudhir would be stretched out beside me on the bed while I read---and though sometimes he'd snore a little--I'd still wait to catch the sound of his breathing and I would instinctively stretch out my hand to feel his warmth!!!
This time I'll be alone and on my own in London--for that will be the start of my journey and I'll be there for 5 weeks at a stretch.Sayali has moved away from the terribly windy Canary Wharf to a hopefully calmer Central London location--and she's arranged for a Cell phone and Oyster Card for me---plus printouts of various Bus Routes to places of interest nearby.Though extremely nervous to venture out alone--I'll start doing that by myself---taking baby steps to return to being the confident person I used to be!!!So--Bond Street,Harrods and Ye Olde London Sights--here I come!!!
A Message on my FB from my Granddaughter says--"I love you and miss you a lot Aaji--you don't even know how much---and will spend all my free time with you when you get here!!!" ---a real sight for my sore eyes to feast on---and a wonderful balm for my lonely heart!!!However I don't think I'll take her up on it---for she's a Teenager with plenty of Friends and Social commitments---but it was lovely the way she included me in her Plans!!
My biggest problem is that I'm not really demonstrative with those whom I really love deeply--the only two exceptions to this being Sudhir and Meha with whom I was always extremely open with my love---my two daughters however lost out ----for hugging them was never easy---except when they were in pain!!!I spent most of their childhood building a bond between their father and them--because I didn't get sufficient time to bond more with my father I didn't want them losing out on their relationship with theirs!!So while I was the Disciplinarian during their growing up years---he was the Wind beneath their Wings--till the moment he died!!They would call him almost every day and talk to him for hours about everything they thought of-----and he would be very flattered at this---but would pretend he was not---complaining to me about how they told him about every comma and full stop that occurred in their lives!!Meha on the other hand was a more recent addition to his Fan Club.Sudhir was a very patient listener---and Meha began confiding in him since she was 7 years old and with her permission I was the only other person to be included in those confidences!!!
The day before he died, she gave him all the details of everything that happened between our leaving in January 2011 and arrival in October 2011-----bringing him up to date with her crushes and daily routine----because he'd tease her about her American accent each time she called---and would ask her to speak in Marathi instead because he could catch half the words she uttered---for according to him she spoke too fast in English!!!In Marathi it took her time to choose her words--and was much slower hence he managed to hear her properly he'd say!!However it was just a ploy to polish up her Marathi--for she already spoke fluent Gujarati---thanks to her mother who does too----right down to the Swear Words!!!
My relationship with my daughters was more casual---for after they turned 18 years old I began giving them their freedom--bit by bit.After they married they established their own homes and whenever I'd visit with Sudhir I'd abide by their set of Rules---for that was the way it should be!!!They were never as attached to me as they were with their father and their feeling protective about me after his death while normal is a bit of a problem for me---for basically I'm an independent person--who can survive by herself very well--Thank You.This time it will be different---for circumstances are different!!!Today it is just the two of them and me--and I'm not too sure about the way I should behave under the circumstances.They have assumed the role of my protectors---and that is what is making me apprehensive---for I hate anyone(except Sudhir) breathing down my neck---for since he's left me to live alone---I plan to make myself self sufficient---I just hope all my Girls realise that and abide by it too--or the sparks will surely fly!!!
After the the onrush of the "Vaaghri" Womenfolk I decided to play safe--and hire only those Art Galleries that came along with Security Staff.Not just that I bought huge Trunks to store the Saries in--and Kamal began leaving whatever Stock he'd have left with me---I'd sell these from home to my friends and acquaintances---ensuring a steady flow of Company that kept me profitably employed.By 1995 my sister Mikki too joined me--and we ventured into the field of stitched Range of Designer Shalwar Suits-due to a decline in the demand for Saries.Hiring a Designer to design and stitch these for us,we ambitiously decided to stitch about a 100 suits---some with Embroidery work on it.Being new to this field we miscalculated---and as a result the Designer--a young girl named Preeti----- took us for a long,royal ride!!!I will not blame her for this---for we were both extremely naive trusting idiots who jumped into this field without first doing our Home Work on the subject.Me---I always was a trusting Fool--but Mikki despite being a Working woman was as bad as me---and this time our joint venture failed completely---and we were stuck with about 60 suits hanging around our necks--literally strangling us!!!Finally,Sayali found the way out of our predicament---she held a marked down Sale at one of our regular Venues---and got rid of our White Elephants at a loss---and though we did not make any Profit that was a relief---for that cleared the house of all the extra Junk!!!
After this I entered into the field of Tupperware---where I made a very good impact---but again my acquisitive Nature overtook my better intentions and I spent all my Profits and much much more in buying Tupperware---the result of which is that today I can literally make a Will of my Tupperware---my entire Kitchen is Tupperised besides I've gifted so much of it to both my daughters that their Kitchen Cabinets too are swamped with various Containers--of all shapes and sizes!!It doesn't stop there---I also have a Closet full of brand new Tupperware---which I'm now using for gifting away since both my daughters have threatened me with dire consequences if I carry anymore of it for them--both chorus"Ma STOP!!!We don't have any more space to store any more of it!!!"My entire Family appreciates the Tupperware I gift them on various Occasions----but sometimes I get the feeling that maybe they'd like to get some thing else instead!!!
Since 2002 Sudhir put an end to my venturing out after I suffered a very serious bout of Dengue Fever--that in fact was the first time I thumbed my nose at Death!!!This bout left me pretty badly affected and I was advised six months of rest---and that's when my Business Ventures came to an end---unfortunately I managed to keep buying plenty of Tupper Ware via my huge number of Friends--and till about six months back was still buying more!!!
Somewhere in the mid 1980s I was bitten with the Business Bug----and along with my friend Kirti---whom I called Vahini--launched a Business Venture without much Capital---selling Garlic Chutney!!!One day it just struck the two of us that we were just idling away our time and decided to venture into the home made Food Items Market--and so we started making Garlic Chutney!!!The day we made this Sudhir's Uncle Manu Kaka--Baba's youngest brother---visited me for Tea.On hearing about our Project he offered to help us market it--for he'd retired as a Sales Manager from a Paints Firm.Thus our small budget Venture began rolling!!!
Thanks to Manu Kaka we began getting orders for our Chutney--for we made it fresh on order and it was a really tasty Condiment--very handy to keep around for Sandwiches and as an accompaniment for many other Snacks as well.Besides it had a shelf life of about 15-20 days depending on the Weather--so it became popular very quickly.By now Sudhir had come to know about my activity--and he came home one day laden with a Plastic Bag sealing Machine,Labels with the name of our Brand and a professional weighing Machine--to ensure that we did not make any mistakes while packing the stuff!!!He also encouraged me to widen our Horizons--and with added vigour we began venturing into making various Pickles and Snacks as well--mainly "Chakli","Shev" and two types of "Chivdaa"----very popular Tea time Snacks at the time.Thanks to Manu Kaka we got a steady demand from certain Offices and Banks--so much so that we needed to employ a Staff of 6 women to help out!!!My Chicken,Mutton and Prawn Pickles were great hits--and we added another delicacy--"Pooran Poli" to our list as well as the Winter Special--Sesame(Til) Laddus--a seasonal treat--to our growing list!!!
Sudhir was a great help for this--on his own he met certain Shop Keepers--people with whom we had a great rapport as regular Customers and got us orders from them.Mummy was an expert at making soft, melt in the mouth "Pooran Polies" a Marathi delicacy----and we dragged her too into our net as well----and we really began rolling!!Here I must mention that Sudhir was my biggest supporter--even acting as Delivery boy on his way to Court!!!Unlike Dada(Vahini's husband) he had no Ego hassles in delivering our Stuff and collecting the previous payment for Items sold!!Unfortunately within six months we began facing Labour problems and were forced to close down--for by then we'd become reasonably big and it would be extremely difficult to carry on just by ourselves!!!This however was the only Venture where we made a really good profit--for we kept recycling our Profits into the buying of Raw Material and paying our Staff--therefore when we closed down we'd made around Rs.10,000/- each--that to on a basic investment of Rs.100/-each within six months!!!
The next Venture Sudhir encouraged me to do was holding Exhibitions of Bengali Saries.While buying Saries for Lotta's Wedding we came into contact with Kamal--a Bengali Saree seller who made 4-5 regular trips every year to Bombay to sell his Stuff.He used to carry truly beautiful and exclusive pieces--and I bought more than a 100 Saries from him for the Wedding.He became a regular visitor to our home---and one day Sudhir passed an Art Gallery on his way home from Court displaying Designer Clothes--and it struck him that I could do something similar as well to keep myself busy.So we both spoke to Kamal and my Exhibitions in Breach Candy area and Worli began.The deal was that Kamal would supply me with a number of Saries and would advise me on how to price these.I'd place a 10% raise per Saree--to cover my Profit and the overhead costs of the rent for the Gallery and hold a 3-4 day Exhibition.Whatever did not get sold would be returned to Kamal along with the money for Items sold.I loved this--for I loved Saries and this gave me an opportunity to learn more about the Bengali Saries---a type that's always fascinated me!!!I learnt to read the thread counts by learning to read the numbers written in Bengali---and thoroughly enjoyed acquainting the People visiting the Exhibition about the intricacies of the way these hand woven Textures were made.Initially it was a highly successful venture--it's only drawback being my acquisitive nature--for I'd over price the ones I liked to ensure that no one bought these--and as a result today have a large number of extremely exclusive and beautiful Saries I no longer wear!!My profits paid for my buys--and as long as I was happy Sudhir was too!!!
This venture ended due to one incident that made us realise the danger in doing this without proper security.One day at around 12.30 p.m. three of us--Mummy,Vahini and me were in the Gallery when a throng of these women from the "Vaagharee" Clan entered it.By the time we realised what had happened these women were all over the place and were handling my Stock----pushing and pulling.It took us 5 minutes to shoo them out----and by the time they left we were exhausted!!Looking at the disarray we started putting everything back in order--realising that we'd been robbed--and some of the stuff taken was the high end one!!Mummy rushed out to the Police Station opposite the Gallery--to no avail because by then that entire gang of women had vanished into thin Air!!They'd pulled my Diamond Ear Studs so hard in the scuffle that the shoulders of my white Saree Blouse were spattered with Blood!!Luckily my Profits paid for the loss--but after this incident my enthusiasm dimmed considerably!!!