Saturday, September 29, 2012
In Indian families the concept of Privacy is very limited---and though we have large Flats the rooms are large but the number is limited.So our earlier home in South Bombay consisted of 4 huge Bedrooms,a Living Room,a Dining Room and a huge Kitchen as well as two huge Bathrooms.This flat had 3 main doors as it was spread over the entire first (USA second) floor.The central door opened into the Passage way connecting the various rooms and was used mainly by the domestic Staff and the regular Vendors who came hawking their wares at our doorstep.The central door would opened each morning--and was rarely locked during the day as the staff was constantly in and out of the house.Our joint Family consisted of my MIL Atya (Baba passed away in 1966),my brother-in-law Milind, his wife Nina and their 2 children--daughter Shilpa and son Babu/Nikhil. Our unit consisted of Sudhir, Lotta and me and in 1974 October, Sayali--- but she lived there for a very short period because we shifted here when she was just 6 months old.Our children slept with us and the concept of letting them sleep on their own was frowned upon in our conventional and conservative family.This was a bit uncomfortable for me for I grew up in a much different environment.I had my own room and as such would close the door for privacy--something which sent Mummy's hackles up-- for her own conservative mind set perhaps conjured up God alone knows what images!!
However it did strengthen the Family ties and strong deep bonds were forged between the Parents and children.My sisters-in-law Kunda and Suhas would visit often with their children--raising the number of children from 4 to 9--and besides that too the house would be overflowing with people----our common Uncles and Aunts from out station--resulting in Mattresses being spread out on the Living Room floor!!What I loved about this was the warm sense of belonging---and most of our activities were just reminiscing about our childhood or listening to our elders recounting theirs---the entire family sitting together ranging from the oldest to the youngest!!My own childhood had been equally warm and loving--with one exception.It was an unspoken rule that after Daddy came home from the Office we were to let both of them have an hour or two with each other--drinking Tea and a light Snack--exchanging the major News of their Day with each other.
In our home things were different. Firstly both Milind and Sudhir were Advocates/Lawyers by Profession. They'd sit in the Office after Court and reach home by 9 p.m. each night.After which they'd freshen up and then the Family would sit for Dinner.After Dinner there used to be Briefs to discuss and Stuff to read so whatever conversation needed to be done had to wait till lights out--by which time I'd be half asleep!!This left very little time to ourselves on the Week nights so we'd look forward to the Weekends when we'd just drive out together.Most weekends though too held Family activity--like a Picnic or a Drama --this was when we four couples would leave the Kids at home supervised by Atya and head out for the latest Plays.The Venues had a lot of tasty,cholestrol laden Snacks--the most popular of these were the Bombay Burger--Vadaa Paav!!These are mashed Potato Balls seasoned with Salt, Ginger-Garlic and Green Chilli Chutney and dipped in a seasoned, thick Chick Pea Flour Batter and then deep fried.These are served either on their own with hot,spicy Green Chutney or tucked into a tiny Loaf of Bread called "Paao/Paav" in Mumbai.A spoonful of the Chutney is smeared on both sides of the Bread and the Vadaa is tucked in--a yummy Cholestrol laden Feast for one's taste buds!!!
Batata Vadaa and Chutney
The Full cache of Laadi Paao/Paav--- these are broken off to eat individually
and taste just yummy by themselves---soft and meltingly warm fresh from the Local Bakery!!
After we shifted here Sudhir and I made a pact--while the Week days were chockful with very little free time--Weekends we'd hold long conversations and talk about everything.Actually this worked out this way--I'd talk and he'd listen sometimes absentmindedly--and I'd suddenly ask him to repeat my last sentence just to check whether he'd been attentive or not!!He soon became a pro at answering my question correctly--but whether he actually listened to me or not was another matter altogether!!
Friday, September 28, 2012
Sudhir and I in many aspects were as similar as Chalk and Cheese---and despite being first cousins were brought up in completely different ways culturally.I grew up in Chandigarh--my childhood taking British overtones--thanks to my father's Oxford Education and residence in England for 5 years.Mummy on the other hand came from a typically Konkani GSB background---for though she was born and brought up in Bombay, my Grandparents were broadminded enough to ensure that she and my aunts got a good education--- but conservatively old fashioned in other ways.Mummy was an Economics Graduate---- but was Aaji was traditional enough to ensure that the moment she turned sixteen, the dresses and skirts were replaced by six yard Saries!!Mummy was known as the "Beauty" in her College and was pretty popular as well.Aaji,my grandmother kept an eagle eye on her brood--for both Mummy and her sisters were acknowledged Beauties of our Community---to the extent that they had plenty of Proposals of Marriage for them----and this in a community where those days Men were elevated in status while women grovelled underfoot!!
Daddy returned to India after Independence--- and as a result my paternal Aunt Atya--Sudhir's mother---proposed Daddy for Mummy and they got married.It is a bit confusing for people to understand our relationships---Sudhir's father Baba was Mummy's maternal Uncle----my Aaji's younger brother and Mummy was their favourite niece.It was this relationship that prompted Atya to arrange the marriage---and as a result her favourite neice became her sister-in-law!!By now Daddy was working on the Chandigarh Project with Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew and later with Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeaneret .I grew up in an extremely Anglocized Society where Formal Dress was a part of our daily life--as was using the right Cutlery.I was raised to follow the correct etiquette,mind my p's and q's and learnt at an early age that children should be seen and not heard!!I had my own room,a Nanny and possessed a stubborn nature--as well as being blessed with a very short fuse!!Definitely not an easy child to live with----as a result of all this Mummy and I were always at loggerheads--and the result of this was the number of thrashings I'd recieved while growing up!!!
Sudhir on the other hand was the youngest of his siblings---and was brought up in a Joint family system till he turned 10 years old. So he was also extremely pampered by both his siblings and his older cousins while being pretty sought after among his peers at home thanks to his sunny nature.The atmosphere at their home was traditional but very broadminded---Baba and Atya were very liberal in their way of thinking.The credit here goes to Sudhir's Grandma--Aaji. She encouraged her daughters and her daughters -in-law to study further and as a result Atya did her Graduation after her marriage.Both Baba and Atya were very fond of attending Dramas and Plays--specially the Musical Plays known as "Sangeet Naataks".In fact it was Atya who was the member of "Sahitya Sangh" as the Literary Club was called--and this Club included well known Marathi writers like Anant Kanekar,P.L. Deshpande,Vasant Kanitkar to name a few.The twist here was that while Baba was very liberal and broadminded in his approach to Life both his sons were not the same--though they belonged to a later generation!!!Where Baba encouraged Atya to wear a six yards Sari instead of a 9 yards one during the early 1940s---Milind (Sudhir's older brother)not only dictated the way his wife Nina should dress--- but also how she should style her hair in the 1960s--twenty years later!!!Sudhir too was equally bad---and he insisted on my wearing only Saries after our marriage--with high necked blouses which had elbow length sleeves!!Here both he and I made a pact--the part below my neck belonged to him and as such he could dictate his terms.The one above the neck however was mine to do with as I wished---so if he didn't like my using Make-Up---all he could do was lump it!!!This of course was in the very early stages of our marriage---and of course his extreme possessiveness too was very flattering for my Ego!!
Our marriage actually began when we shifted here in 1975--five years and two daughters later.Till then we had always been in a Joint family where decisions were made by everyone present---and now for the first time we were handling everything on our own---making our own decisions in not just the minor issues but the major ones as well!!Sudhir was very firm about not keeping our daughters with either his mother or mine.As a result I've seen most of the Movies with first Lotta in my arms---and later leading Lotta by her hand while I carried Sayali .We had these special all purpose Bags--one contained everything--from Diapers and Nappy Rash Cream to a portable Potty---the other Bag contained the Milk Bottles,a Feeding Cup,a Spoon and a Farex Tin.These two bags were Sudhir's responsibilty---and he carried both wherever we went!!
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Venting here does help me cope---for it is very difficult to adjust to a new pattern in my life.Sometimes I feel that I was lucky that Sudhir and I got some years just by ourselves---for we really got to spend time together---as both our daughters lived abroad.Our daughters used to get offended to be told that we did not miss them----it was an insult they couldn't stomach!!We had our children very early in our marriage--and between the two of us it was Sudhir to whom they were more attached.He also was the biggest bone of Contention between them---each vying to be his favourite child!!!Sudhir on the other hand never played favourites with either---and it used to be so amusing to see each one try to wheedle him into committing himself to them!!And they were no Spring Chickens then either--their ages being in the over 35 years old category!!!
I was looking forward to having him to myself---because we never kept our daughters away from us.Sudhir didn't believe in shunting responsibility to either his mother or mine--so every where we went it was always the 4 of us together.Later after Lotta got married,Sayali began College and got busy with her friends.One basic rule was fixed--she had to be home by 8 p.m.---and this rule could not be broken.However it was during the Weekends when Sayali had Plans with her friends that Sudhir and I began moving around on our own.Those days Sayali had learnt how to drive and since she loved it Sudhir encouraged her to drive us around Town---specially for late night drives to get some after Dinner Fresh Juices and or just "Paan".Besides by then our grand daughter Meha too had made an appearance so these were Fun times for all 5 of us.Specially the Full Moon nights ---with Meha squealing "Moon--Moon" at the top of her 1 year old voice!!!
Life changed it's rhythm--since Sayali would be busy with her own Plans, and on the Weekends the two of us began going on long drives together--specially during the Monsoons.There is a "Hill Station" called Lonavla on a rugged Hilltop of the Western Ghats. There also is a beautiful Dam out there called the "Bhushi" Dam situated on the Bhushi River and that entire area belongs to the Indian Navy.Each year during the Rains small Waterfalls dance exuberantly down the craggy Hillsides---cascading onto the narrow road below.The Dam too overflows and attracts huge crowds of people from nearby Mumbai.
It used to really beautiful to look around--the fresh,new minted Green in various shades spread out as a feast for our eyes---the usually dry, brown slopes carpeted with a lush Green cover of tender Grass--the dancing waterfalls cascading and bounding down from the heights lining the Road,Clouds descending on us--their soft wispy fingers sending shivers down our spines---and the cool,gusty Breezes---whispering in the nooks and crevices around us.Add to that the heavy ,pelting Rain---pouring down from a Grey,leaden Sky--the drums of Thunder adding rhythm to the dance of the Lightning flashing Silver through dark,heavy Clouds---it used to be an enchantingly mesmerising and magical experience.It was as if it was just Sudhir and me alone together---cut off from the rest of the World--on an unending,exhiliarating Journey through Nature's Bounty!!!
That was when a new period in our lives began--one which we both were still young enough to enjoy!!A new Bond was built diring those years--we came closer because we spent quality time together---and needed no other company except each other's!!Unfortunately this ended suddenly in October last year--and though it left me a heart broken,emotionally bereft Widow it also left me with a lot of beautiful Memories--which definitely help when it becomes too lonely--for a relationship like ours is hard to find--it was so complete in itself!!
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