Saturday, March 09, 2013
I guess it is our childhood that shapes us--and while Mummy liked to laugh,Daddy was the Family Joker!!his antics had us in splits.Unfortunately he was also a workaholic---so I or rather we had very little interaction with him for 4-5 years in between when he was really busy--leaving before we woke up and returning long after we'd gone to bed.Being a highly qualified Architect and one of the select Team assisting Le Corbusier, he had plenty of Projects to fulfill for Chandigarh was growing and expanding fast. So from 1959 till 1965 he was someone whom we met rarely--on some Sundays if we were lucky--and except on the rare Treks Jeanneret Uncle and he took into the Hills I too saw very little of him.
These Treks are some of my most prized Memories--frozen in Time and vividly crystal clear in my mind--I can still feel the cool Breeze on my face as I drink in the sparkling Mountain Air.The scent of the Conifers,the feel of those slippery needles underfoot,the elusive but haunting aroma of the Wildflowers I crushed under my feet and the sparkling tiny Streams tinkling in a musical Rhythm on their way down the Mountain slopes---everything is still very,very real and sharp.The Mountains were our favourite Summer haunt--and I loved going there.We'd drive there in Jeanneret Uncle's Beige Hillman--parking it at the side of the Road randomly take off up the steep mountainside.These Treks brought me closer to Nature as the two men taught me about bits of History,Geography and mainly broadened my mental horizons.The gentle Hill Folk with whom we'd interact were simple people--hard working but extremely hospitable--willing to share whatever they had with strangers like us--and without expecting a price!!I still remember the time when one old man sitting outside his cottage told my father "Sahib hum Roti aur Paani key paisey nahin letey!!" which translated means that Sir we do not sell Food and Water!!While I enjoyed these rare interludes,Daddy was changing into a brusque and impatient man and the distance between us was growing wider.Finally in early 1965 the axe fell--he was advised a Medical break because he had developed a severe bout of Low Blood Pressure and needed to rest.His yearly leave was pending---the period of it had stretched to as much as 2 whole years and while he couldn't utilise all of it,he did take 6 months off.Being unsure of Daddy's mood while he was stressed out had made the three of us view him as an Ogre----for despite disciplining us pretty severely herself, Mummy would still run to him and get him to bark ferociously at us each time we misbehaved!!Thus the thought of this irascible man being in the house all 24 hours each day was a truly daunting experience---one neither of us wanted!!
That we rediscovered Daddy once more was the unexpected Joy we all reaped--for he became a child to reach his children and connect with them once more.We just couldn't wait to rush back home--and all of us--but specially me as I was the oldest---bonded beautifully with him!!Daddy was an overgrown child--a man of unbending principles which caused him a lot of heartache---but it is something he has passed on to each one us in varying degrees--of all 3 sisters I am the worst hit.As Sudhir used to say,I view the situation as either Black or White--the shades of Grey are something that I have trouble accepting!!Not just that both he and Mummy were perfectionists and that is another thing that I've inherited in a large measure---I get extremely frustrated with my own mediocrity at times!!Daddy however thought I was a genius--he was extremely proud of my so called Intelligence--and liked to show me off to all our extended Family and his friends.As a result everyone holds my intellect in exaggerated esteem--and while I agree that I do have a good Intellect I'm definitely not a Genius!!Yes I have been blessed with an exceptionally great Memory--and in my childhood I retained entire Books that I read.Daddy would show my Memory off by flinging random sentences out of the books I'd read--and ask me to give References to the Context--which I did accurately 95% of the time.That I was and still am a voracious reader was something he was inordinately proud of--and would get me Books from the Library to read.He encouraged me to read about Archeaology and Astronomy besides great Literature--in English,Hindi,Marathi and Punjabi.History became my favourite Subject and the only subject he couldn't get me interested in was Arithmetic--the very bane of my existence!!However,1965 was one year when Daddy spent our Summer Vacation completely with us--and we travelled to Bombay together as a family once more after a gap of 5 long years!!