Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Holi reminds me of many different passages of Time in my life--Childhood mostly because I guess one loves looking back at a time that was carefree in every sense of the word.As I've said often my first tryst with my beloved Mountains took place after we shifted to Sector 7--near the Rajbhavan.I was just five years old and I still remember the Dusk falling on that first night--in mid April.The entire day had been spent in putting things away---and as I stood at the window facing North the Mountains began weaving their Spell on me.As the streaks of a darkening Rose into Orange banners of Colour appeared and disappeared on the background of an Azure Sky a strange thing happened.The setting Sun's Rays caught and glinted on the Glass panes of those tiny houses and cottages crowning the peaks--and these sent forth a glorious blaze of Light beaming right down at us in the Plains.
It was this beautiful sight that caught my attention and held me spell bound--watching rivetted to the window as the Sky darkened from shades of a gloriously riotous Orange into a darker Violet and then as Dusk cloaked the Slopes, tiny twinkling Stars appeared----and soon the entire slopes and their heights were covered in a blanket of twinkling Stars--the million lights shining out through the darkness as homes and streets were lit by Electric Bulbs.Add to this the haunting strains of the Bugle as it sounded the Retreat when the Indian Flag was taken down for the day at the Raj Bhavan--the Governor's residence.There was something so completely magical about the whole thing--the Sunset,the multi coloured Streamers streaking across the Sky and finally the haunting strains of the Bugle coupled with the starry twinkling on the Hillsides in the distance!!I was a fanciful child--the kind that believed in Fairies,Elves,Gnomes and Imps and would faithfully hunt diligently in every Clover patch for the four leaved one.Not that I ever found one--but the search gave me a sense of adventure.Not just that I was a loner too--for despite my friendly nature and plenty of friends there was a private core which was never revealed to anybody.Hence first the Mountains and then Sudhir became my Best Friends and Confidants.The beautiful Mountain Hamlets with their lyrical names had a mystical ring to them.Kasauli the largest one of these was a Hamlet that was transformed by the British into an Army Cantonment and in my childhood retained it's colonial charm.A wonderful shop called "Daily Needs" was the first halt for us when in Kasauli--for till today I've never tasted better Ham,Salami or Bacon to compare with--forget rival--their product.They bred and cured their own Pork, having started in the late 1920s to supply the Army Garrison posted there.
At the time of our engagement Sudhir had never tasted Pork--or any of it's products.It was "Daily Needs" Pork products that converted him---and we became regular visitors to the Cafe Galleries at Breach Candy in Mumbai after we married.Besides Kasauli there was Badog and even before that Dagshai.Dagshai was where we'd drive to to play in the Snow whenever it snowed in the Hills.I still remember Sudhir's first visit to me in mid January 1970.He'd come to the Supreme Court and had just caught a Bus to Chandigarh from Delhi on an impulse.That i was delirious with Joy to find him at our doorstep unexpectedly is another story--but he reached just in time to see the Sunset.I literally dragged him willy nilly to my bedroom window to introduce him to my beautiful Mountains--and to get their approval.Just as we reached the window the entire Picture came alive--the blazing windows,the darkening shadows and the sparkling Lights--for the Snow had heightened their shine!!Both of us stood in rapt wonder looking out at the wonder laid out before us--his arms around my waist and his chin resting on the top of my head--his breath stirring the tendrils at the top of my head.I don't know how long we gazed enraptured at the Hills in the distance but it was a moment of mystical Magic--a feeling of rightness about the both of us paying homage to "Prakriti" or the power of Nature.
During the week he spent with us we drove up to Dagshai and then ahead to Kasauli and back.The look of wonder on his face at the sight of Snow was a pleasure to watch for me--actually everything about him was a pleasure--we'd just discovered that we were in love--and young with our entire life together spread out ahead of us!!Sudhir kept coming back to see me in Chandigarh--deciding on the spur of the moment--just flying in from Delhi whenever he got the chance.The Summer of 1970 in particular is perhaps the longest period of our courtship that we spent together.My bedroom had very little to recommend it apart from the fabulous view.It was sparsely furnished with a Bed that Daddy and I had made together,also a Study table similarly got along with a straight backed Cane chair which I used while studying.One corner held my Apron,Easel,Palette and my jumble of Oil Paint tubes.An old Glass Jug held a large assortment of my Pig's hair flat brushes and often my room smelt of Turpentine.My various Charcoals and Sketching Pencils were housed in my father's old Pencil Box--which I still have and the Bookshelves were overflowing with books--and my drawer of the Study Table held my numerous poems as well as my Diary---the latter I destroyed just before my marriage.Besides my room adjoined the Terrace and would turn into a furnace in the Summer when the bricks on the Terrace caught the full heat of the mid-day Sun.Add to that I did not have a Fan--neither a Table Fan nor a Ceiling Fan--but having one wouldn't have worked due to the massive Power cuts in the North for we mostly didn't have Electricity in the afternoons in Summer!!Today I wonder how I could stay in that room despite the terrible heat--but I guess Sudhir as well as me were too engrossed in each other to notice mundane things like our surroundings!!My bedroom however became our haven and I have to appreciate my father's broadmindedness in just letting the two of us enjoy our privacy in peace--much to my mother's chagrin.Later when I was pregnant with Lotta Sudhir just commended my father's trust--to which my father just turned around and said that he was sure we wouldn't embarass our families--we'd both been too well raised!!