My dear friend Janet is so right--Memories can be hard to handle sometimes--specially because of the people these are attached to!!In my case Sudhir's death was so sudden that it froze my senses instantly--I mean how could he just die in a moment--leaving me without any intimation at all??Actually my father died the same way too and my mother who was just 42 years old then, aged overnight from the shock!!It is today that I'm finding comfort in my memories of our life together and that is what is helping me to deal with the huge vacuum and emptiness his passing has left behind in my life.
There are moments when I just feel the need to have a physical remembrance of him--my Computer has many short Video clips taken by Sayali on her Cell phone stored in it.All I do is just play these or the Songs he has recorded and put the volume on high.I then continue to carry out my chores--just listening to the sound of his voice drifting out of the children's bedroom--for that's where the Computer is--reassures me and comforts me that he is still around.I need to do this at least once everyday--it helps to keep me emotionally on an even keel--guess it might sound a bit odd but there it is!!Of course there are countless Memories stored in my mind and these suffice to run me through the entire range of emotions---specially Love and Laughter!!
I learnt to drive at a very young age---that too Daddy's car--an Ambassador.This car was like an elephant--large and awkward to handle!!The breed actually was an Indian adaptation of the Land Master--and because it was a really rugged Car it was the most preferred of all the Indian Brands.The roads in Chandigarh were huge and empty of much Traffic--a few Cycles,Cycle Rickshaws,some local transport Buses and even fewer Cars---for the most preferred transport was to walk!!Daddy taught me to drive--and anyway since I had been blessed with a lot of strength and energy despite my thin wiry appearance--I picked it up quite well too!!Things went well for about almost a year till one day while returning from a Shopping spree I took too wide a turn and ended up the Embankment outside a neighbour's home at the end of our Lane!!We had to be dragged out of the Car carefully--for the front wheels were pointing at the Sky--and that put an end to my days behind the wheel!!Sudhir tried umpteen number of times to make me drive in Bombay--but each time something or the other spooked me and I'd give up!!
The first time I got a Learner's Licence we had a reasonably good run for a month at the Worli Sea Face--the quietest stretch of road those days in this hustling and bustling City.However one fine day as we were cruising along a BEST Bus overtook me--forcing me to side track a little.That did it---I threw up my hands and dissolved into tears--I just couldn't drive any more!!!The second time the process was repeated,a Cabbie shouted at me for blocking his way while he was trundling along cruising for a Fare--and I threw up my hands once more!!The third and final time I just couldn't gather up the courage to venture onto the roads--and Sudhir had to accept that I was not cut out for Bombay roads!!Funny thing is that I'd drive without a qualm in the chaotic streets of the Hill Stations of Lonavla and Mahabaleshwar and towns like Poona (now Pune) and Kolhapur---- despite these being packed with a combination of Cyclists,People and Animals--- without batting an eyelid!!Maybe mentally I was more relaxed there--I don't know!!
While we spent many of our Vacations in the North,a large amount were spent in Kolhapur--my hometown.Travelling to this sleepy little Principality was something that excited me--despite the fact that I'd never really lived there--only visited during a few Vacations.However the sense of belonging is very strong--and Sudhir used to tease me about the way I'd be hard pressed to contain my excitement as we drew nearer to the place.I'd be like a dog--sniffing the Air to catch the familiar smells which for me spelt relaxed,peaceful tranquility---days of just lying back,doing nothing and getting refreshed completely!!Our common uncle Shyam Kaka was a partner in this residential Hotel that he and his friends had opened in a sprawling old Mansion.The girls loved to stay there--the Food was finger licking delicious and we took either of the two rooms with attached Terraces---where we'd sleep out under the Stars in the cool,Summer nights.After 1982 our pair of miniature Lhasa Apsos joined our family--and Milind began teasing us about being "You two,two girls and two dogs--nicely balanced"!
This was the place where we spent time eating wholesome traditional Marathi cooking--spicy and fiery.Since Shyam Kaka married pretty late in life his children were nearer our girls' ages than ours.This created a perfect balance for us--all three of our cousins would spirit the Girls away for the day to our old ancestral home in the old Town and Sudhir and I would join them in the evenings.For both of us the old part of Town,the River and our trips to both the Panhala Fort in the higher reaches of the Sahyadris and visits to Daak Bungalow in Khanapur on the Deccan Plateau near Belgaum would be highlights that we all looked forward to.
The entire routine never changed--my Shashi Kaki--Shyam Kaka's wife would cook us a tasty Lunch consisting of a Mutton Curry,Boiled stuffed Masala Eggs, an Onion Raita,Sorghum Bread called Bhakris and a huge pot of Curd Rice.This last item would be freshly prepared early in the morning.Rice would be cooked and when still warm fresh Milk to which the Yoghurt Culture had been mixed well in would be added with a little Salt.This would then be allowed to set in a warm corner of the Kitchen.Just before leaving she'd season it with a generous Seasoning of hot Ghee to which Black Mustard,Fenugreek and Cumin Seeds were added with a generous pinch of Hing or Asafoetida.She'd then throw in Fresh Curry Leaves and Dried Red Chillies just before pouring the sizzling concoction over the beautifuly set Curd Rice.The container would be capped instantly to shut in all the aroma--and later seated under a capacious Banyan Tree in Panhala we'd literally gorge ourselves silly before stretching out under the thick foliage on Grass mats for our afternoon Siestas!!
An amusing incident occurred at Panhala once.We were being troubled by a few Monkeys who wanted the Bread we had with us.Initially we ignored them but as they grew bolder and started coming too close to us for comfort Shyam Kaka started scolding them in Marathi--making angry gestures as well while asking them to back off.To our surprise and hilarious amusement the biggest Monkey--must have been about 10 kgs. at least in weight--began giving back as good as he got--chattering away excitedly in his language and waving his arms around in almost an identical copy of Shyam Kaka's antics!!!Till today we all recall poor Shyam Kaka's initially outraged expression and later his sheepish look which gave way to uncontrollable mirth eventually with a lot of fondness!!Those were some days and great Memories!!