Saturday, March 09, 2013
Where ever I may travel--far or wide--- to me India is synonymous with "Home".Guess you can take me out of India--but never India out of me!!I have had a charmed life--growing up in the erstwhile Indian Punjab and then moving on to Bombay--the Financial hub of India.It took me a very long time to come to terms with the hurried pace of Bombay life--and I missed my surroundings--specially my beautiful Mountains terribly to begin with--but insidously the sylvan surroundings of our new flat wound their tendrils round my heart--and my soul attained a certain peace!!Today I've lived here for the past 38 years this May 23rd.--and this is where my roots reach deep down below to anchor me to this 700 sq.ft. carpet flat I call home!!
As a child I grew up in the dusty Plains of North India---excruciatingly cold in the Winters and blisteringly hot in the Summers.Much to my mother's chagrin I was Nature's child--shinning up the "Neem" and numerous Mango trees that populated our Garden.As a result i had scraped knees and shins--not to mention innumerable scratches and small wounds that would sometimes develope into slightly larger issues.My interaction with the long,sharp Thorns of the hardy "Keekar" tree was a constant pain for both Mummy and Amma---for sometimes the white,slender inch long thorn would break inside my bare heels as I drew it out---and would within a week escalate into a visit to the Doctor's--for neither Mummy nor Amma could reach that deep inside with a cauterized Needle to remove it!!The Doctor would administer a local Anaesthetic and draw it out--tut-tutting all the while and remonstrating with me--educating me on the evils of such thorns turning into septic wounds!!All this was Water off my back--for I was a dreamy child--constantly day dreaming and living in a World populated with the characters from the books I read.Early years in School were my favourite ones--later Mathematics and I agreed to disagree and I could never really understand the benefits of studying Arithmetic--I mean how did doing Sums about Fractions,Stocks and Shares and Percentage affect my existence???Today I realise fully well how they do.I adored Algebra and Geometry---but I'm not a very logical person--my arguments tend to meander away from the subjects at hand!!
For me Heaven meant lying on my back under a Mango tree in the Summer,gazing up into it's thick foliage and trying to count the number of unripe,Green Mangoes hanging on it's branches.My favourite perch high up in the "Neem" Tree was lined with an old "Durrie" a thick,woven Cotton Carpet and an irregularly shaped Cushion much the worse for wear that used to cushion my spine.A nearby fork of it's branches acted as a Book shelf--and contained an assortment of Books as well as my Diary--that contained my most private thoughts.There also was a Diary in which my Poems were written---and this was my secret World--the World I loved!!Daddy had made a leafy Arbor of Grape Vines by training these over Aluminium wires over the roof of our Garage--another favourite retreat during the hot Summers----the cool dark recesses were a sublimely secret place--only had one very big drawback--one could expect Snakes--the poisonous varieties right next to you!!I have danced in wild abandon in early childhood with the Peacocks--loving the wild fury of Nature when it brought about the sudden,torrential Summer Showers-----and had fun catching wild Parrots as they swooped down to peck at the Green Chillie I held out invitingly to them!!One of these became my pet named "Mithu" and became pretty tame till one day my pet cat named "Kitty" caught him and killed him.Daddy was fond of Hunting and the surrounding Himalayan Foothills were full of Game. Quail,Partridge and Hare were the preferred Game and also the Rivers teemed with Fish.The Trout,Malli and Singhada were the common varieties--the Rohu however was the delicacy!!Till today no visit to the North is complete without a sampling of the delicious Fish Fry and Fish Tikka--the former fried in sharp tasting Mustard Oil and the latter broiled over hot coals!!
Most of all I loved and still love the "Scent of India".It is really intriguing how this changes with every Season in every region.Chandigarh smelt of the Village---Dust,Cement,Grass,Co
w Dung and of the bloom on the Mango trees in the Summer during my early childhood as it was in the very throes of being built.Later the Winter scent of Roses,Narcissi and Tube Roses would change the entire atmosphere into a flowery Arbor.I still remember the scent of various types of Jasmine scenting the ambience just before and during the Monsoon months--the Air redolent with the scent of these various Varieties and wet Earth--a perfume I would love to bottle and hoard!!Summer Air every evening smelt of the smoke of the Tandoors--and the warm smell of Bread--Tandoori Breads--Naans,Parathas and Rotis along with the scent of succulent Chicken and Meat delicacies.For me these were an indivisible part of my childhood--the scent of the Coal and Cow Dung fired stoves,freshly cooked Summer Vegetables--Okra,tiny Round Gourds,Ivy Gourds,Eggplants/Aubergines and various varieties of the Gourd family were daily regulars at our table.The simply cooked Dals were redolent with the taste of Butter or Ghee and an endless supply of various Squashes made by Mummy during the Winters--bottles of Orange,Lime and Mulberry would be gulped down copiously in huge quantities.There would be huge quantities of Indian Buttermilk we call "Chhaas" and "Lassi" to help us combat the heat during the day.My most favourite smell is however of "Khus".This aromatic Grass would be woven into thick sheets--and these woven sheets would be placed outside our open windows---acting like external curtains.A rubber pipe would then be strategically placed to water these and keep these wet and a Table Fan would rotate some distance away from behind the woven curtain----blowing in cool Air through the woven Grass.The room would turn into a dark,cool,scented Paradise and emerging from it into the Light would be like coming out of a very dark,deep Tunnel!!An idyllic childhood made me into a dreamer--naive,trusting and looking at the World through rose coloured Glasses!!