Thursday, May 17, 2012
Certain associations are sometimes buried under other Memories but something unexpected just jogs them and the rise to they fore front with a refreshing clarity that really is surprising.Just yesterday I was watching a Program on T.V. that I love watching even back home---and one that Sudhir and I were fond of.It's on an Indian Channel called NDTV and titled "The Foodie on The Road.This features a couple of beefy Bikers who roam the Highways running the length and breadth of India--fereting out tiny little places to eat---and these can literally even be a tiny Stall at the Roadside!!!Now since these feature Food---my favourite weakness coupled with another favourite Travel----this is one Program that I just have to watch!!!
Yesterday these two Guys took off from Chandigarh towards Kasauli---and as I watched the old familiar winding Road so many Memories came flooding back!!!The best was the first place they stopped called "Daily Needs"---that did it---my mind went back by 45 years!!!I had tears in my eyes and couldn't watch any further and had to switch the T.V. off.As I sat back with my head thrown back on the Sofa spools of Memories unfurled in my mind with crystal clear clarity---I could smell, sense and taste them!!!My father was very fond of Hiking and his favourite partner to hike with was Pierre Jeanneret--Le Corbusier's younger cousin.Both Daddy and Jeanneret Uncle liked taking me along because I loved Hiking too.The mountainous tracks were pretty steep at times and we had many favourite Trails---one of these being Kasauli.Kasauli even today is a sleepy little Cantonment Town in the Shivalik Hills---the foothills of the Himalayas.Those days Kasauli was sleepy and peaceful and had many residential Boarding Schools in the nearby areas---one of the being Sanaawar.The was Tara Hall too---and these were accessible through the tiny Toy Train---it still operates today!!Having so many Boarding Schools in the vicinity created the need for a "Tuck Shop" as such places were called---and this place "Daily Needs" came into being in the late 1920s---the brainchild of an enterprising Englishman .
We would drive up here early in the morning by 9 a.m. from Chandigarh in Jeanneret Uncle's old Hillman Car having left at Dawn----and would buy our Breakfast of piping hot Bacon and Eggs with racks of crispy Toast,Butter and home made Jam.That done we'd order fresh made Sandwiches stuffed with Ham and Salami from them for a packed Lunch.The best part about this place then and even today is that their Ham,Bacon,Salami and Kababs were all home grown.They farmed and cured their own Pork and till today it is one of the best I have tasted any where in the World!!They also bake their own Bread fresh daily and stock bottles of wonderful Plum,Cherry,Apricot,Peach and Pear Jams---all made by them.Leaving after a satisfying meal we'd drive on to a new path leading to a trail that looked interesting---park the Car by the Roadside and just begin climbing with our packed Lunches in a Rucksack slung across on Daddy's back.There were innumerable Sheep Trails criss crossing the Hillsides and we'd follow those---the Paths worn out by the treads of the Shepherds who herded the Sheep.
For me the early morning Summer Sunshine would look like new minted Gold---sprinkled liberally over the pristine newness of the Day.The faint scent of Pines,Firs and Spruce would invigorating as would be the deep high dome of the Azure Sky that looked like a deep upside Bowl---dotted with small white Clouds----looking like fluffy little balls of Cotton Wool.The Breeze would just whisper past---teasingly playing with my Pony Tail.The elusive perfume of the Wildflowers would waft up to tease my nose---for many times we'd trample on the carpet these had spread underfoot---and I'd stop and try to find out exactly which one had released the wonderful scent!!As we'd climb higher sometimes the strains of Melody would float down to us----for Shepherds would play their Flutes while herding their Sheep---and the Flute is a popular Musical Instrument with the Hill folk.
Even today I can smell the crisp,clear Summer Air--redolent with the mixed scents of Wild Flowers,the Evergreens and Hay as we'd climb up to the higher reaches of the Slopes.The buzzing of the Bees and Dragon Flies and the incessant chatter of the Birds-----flashes of Jewel bright coloured wings were fascinating to watch---there was joyous abandon of just being alive permeating the ambience---and the whole scene was like being a celebration of Life-----and I was a privileged part of it!!We'd climb up steadily stopping on the way each time Daddy or Jeanerret Uncle felt that I need to be shown something---in Daddy's case it was pointing out the various shapes the Clouds took on in the Sky or it could be a strange shaped Rock---or a tiny Flower that Jeanneret Uncle would point out---or a Bird that was a species I'd not seen before---I can still hear Jeanneret Uncle's accented musical tone in my head asking me "Mignonne can you see this?This is ...."We'd eat our Sandwiches under the shadow of the Evergreens next to a tiny Brook---and while we lay stretched out on our backs on the soft Grass Daddy would tell me about the Legends and History surrounding the area---and because I was a Ghoul--Ghost Stories too!!!Those two hours we'd spend up in the Hills became a haven for me---a very precious Memory to be hoarded jealously and savoured at leisure because Daddy and Jeanneret Uncle became increasingly busier with the growing "Planned City" and these jaunts became rarer before they petered out altogether!!!
How clearly they still live on was brought home to me yesterday-----and it made me feel better to reach out to a period of such pure innocent Pleasure in my Life---when materialistic thoughts didn't exist and yet the simplest things could bring Joy to one's heart and a smile to one's face!!!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
A comment from my friend Ann on my previous Blog had me pondering over the life I live back home----and the facilities I enjoy---and always have done.So here is an account of all the facilities that we DO have---and which have been brought into sharp focus after my recent bout of not being well.Under similar circumstances I'm now recounting the course my not being well would have taken had I been back home.
The first attack of Chills and Shivering would have resulted in a 'phone call to our Pathology Lab which operates 24 hours---which would have sent round one of their Technicians to take Blood and Urine samples and as I did here I'd have dosed myself with Crocin till the reports came.I'd have called the Family Doctor who would've made a house call to check in on me in the morning as it was a Sunday.In India our GP Doctors are situated locally in most areas and there fore makes for faster communication.We generally have local "Family Doctors" as we call our GPs and they're up to date with the Family's Medical History.In some cases these are further away so one has to travel to get there.Once that was done the rest would have proceeded the same way with one minor change---the Blood Tests would be handed in within 12 hours and for some Tests like Dengue after 24 hours-----here I'm still waiting!!!
The other facilities are very accessible too.The Milk Man,The Bread Man,The Fruit and Vegetable Vendors----all come to the Door everyday---therefore a fresh supply of Produce is possible even if one does not step out of the home.Here Lotta, Mehul and Meha were playing Musical Chairs to manage most of the Chores while ensuring that I was not left alone at home unattended and the worst affected was Lotta---for she had to bear the brunt of it.There it would have been Chhaaya Bai and Vanita who would've looked after me---definitely not with the love and attention and eye to detail that I received here but passably well.One thing though is undeniable----it was a huge strain on Lotta for which I truly feel very sorry and guilty!!!
Marrying young and living with my MIL for the first 5 years of my marriage taught me to take my duties both as a wife and a mother seriously.That I was a better wife than a mother is besides the point---but those years conditioned and formed the way I did things.It was the basic routine to finish one's chores as early as possible so as to leave some time open to indulge in one's favourite activities---in my case Painting,Writing and Reading.During the first year we shifted into our new home was spent inviting people over for Lunches and Dinners.We belonged to a large extended Family and these would be invited in batches of 20-30 people for Lunch----and the entire day would be spent in the Family Bon Homie----with me stuck in the kitchen dishing out first Lunch then Tea and Snacks before the entire brood left.I had plenty of help but it was still my home and the success of each such gathering depended on me and my expertise to provide really good Food that really mattered.In India it is the extended Family that marks you with it's Eagle Eye---and is perhaps the biggest Acid Test to pass!!Luckily I managed pretty well on 1 Gas Cylinder with two burners and 3 Kerosene Stoves------and in having these implements I was definitely luckier than most for owning Cooking Gas Stoves was a very big Plus back then---in 1975!!Unfortunately our trusted retainer's wife fell sick with Cancer and he had to return to his Village----leaving me completely at the mercy of part time employees called "Bai"s.These people would come at specific hours to wash the clothes and utensils and sweep and swab the floors---as against Vithoba who lived in and was available all 24 hours if need be!!This meant that the Flat which usually would be swept,swabbed and dusted by 7.30 a.m. now had to wait till 11 a.m. for that was the time that the "Bai" would make an appearance.So I restructured my routine.Sudhir and the Girls would be out of the house by 8.30 a.m. with their Tiffins packed.I would then take a 15 minute "Power" break---having been up since 5.30 a.m. cooking,preparing Tea for Sudhir and a light Breakfast for all 3,bathing the Girls and getting them ready for the School Bus---those 3 hours were like a whirlwind time for me!!!Thanks to my immense stamina---I revelled in the physical exhiliaration it gave me for it proved to me how efficient and invincible I was!!!After the "Power" break I'd wait for the Fruit,Vegetable,Fish and Flower Vendors to make their appearance---my Menus would be planned in advance so once the daily Ration was bought I'd get down to preparing the Ingredients and keeping these ready----for one of these was grinding the Spices and Fresh shredded Raw Coconut for the daily Curry into a fine paste---a very tiring and pretty sweaty job---given the heat!!!Bathing was accomplished after the Bai came---for then she'd be there to answer the Door!!
As the years passed my days continued to be the same-----with very slight variations.As the girls grew up their personalities emerged---Lotta a strange mixture of extrovertism with introvert shades----she knew everyone in School and mingled well with the children in the Condominium but to date has never had a single "Best" Friend!!!The only time her friends came home was just before she left High School---and then too she had a problem picking just 20 of them!!!Sayali on the other hand was extremely gregarious and prone to having her Friends over----at times without notice!!!I have lost count the number of times I've cooked for them---for they loved my Cooking---and ofcourse I just HAD to show off!!!The last really big "Get-Together" she had was when her entire Group from her Master's Class came over for Lunch-----there were 35 of them and I cooked the entire Meal---both Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian where the Indian Bread,Rice,Salads and Sweets were the only common Courses!!!
Today many things have changed----mostly for the better.Women today are more in the forefront and finding one who like me is just a "Home Maker" is becoming rarer as both Education and Progress take hold.Almost 80% of the women hold pretty top Jobs and all the working wives and mothers have access to the latest modern Appliances----we have piped Gas which can cook as well as heat our Water in the Kitchens and Bathrooms in the form of Gas Geysers.The Washing Machine,Dishwashers,various types of sophisticated Kitchen Equipments----we have them all and some of the best selling Brands are Indian. The reason I'm sharing this?Yes it is difficult to find Domestic Help---but not impossible--- the real secret is how to retain them once you do!!!So you see Folks----India is a great place to live in for me---even today.Despite being alone I can never really live anywhere else----for that's where I guess my Umbilical Cord lies buried!!!
Get An Email Alert Each Time KOMAL53 Posts