Days of Summer--1
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The Weather is bringing with it so many beautiful Memories--despite the sweltering,humid heat that is making it's presence felt!!I admit that one cannot run away or close the door on unbidden thoughts and Memories---but because the associations are fewer it does become easier to function.Last year I missed all this--because I was in London with Sayali and and the associations were far away.Also the fact that Kartik and she had shifted to Central London and were not in their earlier Flat also made it that wee bit easier---since the new place held no memories of Sudhir for me.Besides I still was partly under shock and numbness about his death so things did not really penetrate that deep down into my conciousness.This year I'm wide awake and very much in Mumbai--and all those associations with my Past!!
April always was a favourite month with us--as a family.The Girls and their father both would begin their Summer Vacations a week or so from each other--specially when the Girls were in School.The last week of April would be spent booking our Rail tickets for our annual Vacations North---- and while both Sudhir and i truly loved the Railway journeys the girls just put up with these!!We'd reserve our Compartment well in advance---and because Food was always one of the main parts of the journey we'd make arrangements for that as well.Luckily in India we've always been lucky with Railway food.During our childhood Food would be freshly cooked on the Trains and delivered to our Compartments at the different Stations that the Trains stopped at.The First Class had all the etiquette that it's status demanded---we'd be served by liveried Staff--with Cream coloured Stoneware Crockery and heavy Silver plated Cutlery--both embossed with the Logo of the Indian Railways.Later when they came up with through Trains we had a choice--either of eating in the Dining Car or in our own Compartment.The orders would be taken down by the Stewarts in advance.How I loved the Food then--the Kitchens were fired by Coal and the Food was cooked to perfection--my favourites were the Omelettes,the Railway Mutton curry and Roast Chicken Dinners--and of course the creamy Soups and crisp Toasts!!
Later it became hazardous to cook on Gas Cylinders on the running Trains and this was when we began getting our orders picked up from Caterers at certain Stations--and this is where our daughters came in--this is the Era they remember.However the comfort and style of the Trains was still very much a part of the Railways.Specially when one took the Rajdhani running between Bombay and Delhi.As always Sudhir and i would bag the lower berths--both of us sitting glued to the windows looking out--watching the Countryside pass by!!Lotta and Sayali would arm themselves with their books--clambering up to the upper berths to read their books in peace.The AC comfort kept the outside heat at bay but we really waited for our favourite Stations to catch our favourite Eats.Palghar was the last stop in Maharashtra before we crossed into the State of Gujarat at Billimora--and it was at Palghar that we picked up the fresh,sweet and juicy Palmyra fruit called "Taad Golas" in Marathi--Ice Apples in English.Of course to get these one had to take The Deluxe or the Paschim Express--The Rajdhani would cruise straight through without stopping there!!Surat,Baroda and Godhra were favourite stops for the wonderful Surati crisp Biscuits known as "Butter" as well as the sweet called "Ghaari" made with a Milk Solids stuffed Pastry.The other two for thick sweet,Dry Fruit and Spice flavoured Masala Milk,thick,creamy Ice Creams and of course Yoghurt----those days we never looked askance at many things which today I would do--and stuffed ourselves like greedy Pigs with the Goodies.Besides this there were Savouries galore at each Station the Train halted--and by the time the Food we'd ordered came around we'd already be stuffed to the gills with other Stuff!!
The changing landscape was actually imprinted on our minds but still Sudhir and I would gaze out at it rapturously.Some of the best sunrises and Sunsets have been glimpsed through the Train windows--not to forget the bewitching beauty of Moonlit nights that we've gazed at spellbound.Both of us loved those nights---the Trees standing like dark,mysterious Sentinels dotting the Landscape and the tiny twinkling lights of the isolated Homesteads near the track.The Moonlight would create deep, dark shadows in small recesses and below some boulders--as well as in the "Bihads" or the Sandy Ravines on the banks of the River Chambal---an area famous for armed Dacoits.My purse always held tiny screw topped bottles of Red Chilli powder and a sharp pair of Gardening Shears--just in case we were attacked!!It was an unwritten Code--one never opened the door to one's Compartment without being fore armed!!