Friday, May 04, 2012
Growing up with my father was hilarious!!!After late 1964 he was forced to take a long Vacation on account of his health---and since he had his Vacation for 5 years accumulated---that was no problem.He'd been working hard getting the College of Architecture in Chandigarh established and on it's feet as it's Founder Principal and this consumed most of his time and we saw him rarely those days.This long Vacation turned out to be a blessing in disguise---we were re-introduced to our father once more!!!It was during those days that we became friends and not just father and daughter.
The first month of his Vacation was taken up with Tests and Doctors' Visits and the diagnoses was that he had Low Blood Pressure.Because of this he was prescribed a high Protein Diet---and Daddy took it to mean--a rich Diet!!!His Breakfast consisted of a bowl of Porridge(Oats or Bulghur), 3 Eggs--either fried sunny side up or scrambled with lashings of Butter and Cheese,Sausages or Bacon--on Weekends there would be both----along with a rack of crisp Toast and Butter as well as Marmalade.All this would be washed down with a "Punjabi" (Tall)Glass of hot Milk to which 1 tbsp. of "Chyavanprash" had been added.This "Chyavanprash" is an Ayurvedic Health Vitaliser---made with "Aamlaa"----the Indian Gooseberry and many other Herbs added in specific Proportions to improve it's efficacy.The taste of it is something that you either love or hate---he loved it but I hated it--leading to a tussle every morning and night for it was ingested twice each day!!Since I was a scrawny scrap(impossible now to even comprehend--it was in another life!!) he felt this would help build up my stamina and strength.While I loved Milk--"Chyanprash" was a definite no no!!!
Since we'd be in School for Lunch(in Winter School began at 9 a.m. and went on till 4.30 p.m.)we weren't there to see how much he ate--but the Afternoon Tea was a real filling Meal!!Sandwiches and Cakes with Indian Snacks like Pakoras/Bhajias, Samosas and Kachories as well made it a pretty heavy one.Dinner would be at sharp 9 p.m.--on the dot.Daddy would begin with his bowl of Soup--he had this large glazed Earthernware Bowl he'd carried from Tuscany---and this would be filled to the brim with Mummy's yummy Soups---she was a wizard at cooking everything but her forte was Continental (British Raj) style Food.The Soup would be served with Fresh Cream and Bread Sticks.Chandigarh was built on fertile loamy Soil---and our Vegetable Garden yielded plenty of Fresh Produce all organically grown back then---and till today the taste of those Vegetables lingers on my tongue!!!An Indian Dinner usually consists of 3-4 Side dishes along with one main dish,a Salad as well as Rice,Roti and Dal(Lentils) and ours was no exception!!!After a hearty Dinner the Dessert would appear and after that the Dry Fruits and once more---the Punjabi Glass of Milk with Chyavannprash!!Today I marvel at all our appetites back then---but those days my stomach was a bottomless Pit--always empty no matter the amounts I gorged!!For us eating this way was routine---and we saw nothing wrong with it.
One day however a few friends of my father dropped in for a visit.The Conversation was in full swing when Dinner was announced and as was his wont Daddy asked them to join us for Dinner.Halfway through the Meal Daddy noticed one of these friends looking at him in awe---but being busy eating he ignored it and continued.At the end of the Meal the poor man just couldn't contain himself he burst out vocally---"Sir how much can you put away?Will there ever be a full stop?"To this Daddy calmly replied "My friend look at the Structure (Imaarat) and then tell me does it not need to be maintained in prime condition?"Daddy was 6 feet tall with a solid wide set frame to match---hence the quip!!!This silenced the man but it also made us take a second look at his Diet---needless to say the Doctor warned him about his weight increasing too much and chopped off most of the things Daddy loved--Bacon.Sausages,Butter,Ghee,Fresh Cream and the Fried Snacks were the first to go!!!While Mummy got a reprieve Daddy blamed that man for casting an Evil Eye on his Food!!!
Those days we used get Supplies for Diwaali--the Annual Festival of Lights.Grocers would hoard up some Supplies to sell later in the Black Market and Mummy would begin buying stuff like Ghee,Oil and Dalda (Hydrogenised Oil) months in advance to avoid getting caught short of these things.In 1967 somehow she miscalculated and was at her wit's end about the remedy.This was when a friend named Sriram stepped in.Sriram worked for the Company that manufactured these Products and so offered to use his influence to get us the Products directly from the source.Mummy quickly handed over her List and the wait began.Our home was the point where all our Family friends congregated daily--and since Sriram had a funny sounding last name Daddy had composed a Ditty on it-----and would sing and dance to it at the drop of a hat--one just had to ask!!!!That fateful day too on popular demand was clowning around in the Living Room with the Ditty---having everyone in splits.The Main Door was open and only the Screen Door was closed---letting out all the sounds of the revelry taking place inside.No one knows how long Sriram stood there before calling out to Mummy to open the door----and Mummy did so with trepidation--expecting Sriram to plonk the Metal containers fair and square on Daddy's balding pate!!!However he didn't and stayed instead to Tea and later Dinner----and his family joined him too after Daddy issued the Invitation as usual.Till today we ponder over this point---did he hear The Ditty---or didn't he???