Black bag….my constant companion during evening walks to the Mall

Black bag….my constant companion during evening walks to the Mall

IIAS with its green verdant lawns, excuisite flowers, opening up shyly would welcome me in the morning. The morning Sun would shine on the majestic building….I would silently bow down to the Indian Tricolour flying high on the top of it and would think of how freedom from the Raj made us all equal before the Law….under the watchful and protective eyes of the Constitution. And thinking proudly of “Where the mind is without fear and head is held high…” I would be grateful to God for everything.

I would immerse myself in books during the day and in the evening would start for my lonely sojourns to the Mall…. How lonely I felt at that time…occasionally, to break the long monotony of solitary walks, I would think of my morning sojourns in the Lower Bazaar when I would gallop around, besides my Bauji holding his hand, so full of welcoming an exciting day ahead!

But my long walks in the evenings to the Mall were, invariably, full of anxiety. “Ekla Chalo” could never have been more true during this phase of my life.
“If there is no-one responding to your call – then go on all alone…”

The black bag, the bag full of those papers topped by the “Office Order” became my constant companion during these evening sojourns to the Mall. Everyone would suggest the name of a lawyer to consult…it was as one tries to find the best physician if one suffers from some body ailments. I would meet some or talk to some others on phone and what an experience it was.

I would have loved to pour out my heart, my bleeding heart, and the pain therein before the lawyers but all they wanted, each one of them, were PAPERS!!
” The Charge sheet?”
“The Show cause notice?”
“The enquiry report?”
“The Punishment Order?”
The all-knowing saviour would scan the documents in seconds and fire another salvo of questions.
And as I moved my head up and down signifying assent…..he would proclaim finally, “inquiry is conducted properly!” That meant in other words that I was dealt by giving fair opportunity and was guilty

Another one would say, “abusive language?”…Termination as per latest Supreme court judgement so and so!!!!
When I would say, ” No, I never abused anyone!,” I would be asked about my witnesses!!!
And when I would counter by showing how witnesses and documents were falsely fabricated,
another one, looking pitingly at me, would say, “leave the law to us….Google has made everyone a Know-all!”
Another one asked me, I had none, no witnesses. I asked him, “How would I produce witnesses if some imbroglio takes place in your office….wherefrom I would get a witness to speak for me?” And thought he would have many of would generate some, for sure!

I would show them the false document signed by “them”, my colleagues, claiming, ” On hearing noise we ran to the office and saw….”
And would show another one signed by the same persons acknowledging, “I was at my home, but signed the document when someone brought it to me…” Was that not enough? Had these people not acted against law? These responsible and highly professional colleagues signed a false document knowing well that it was being made to implicate me…. But all they wanted were witnesses!

One brazenly told me in a friendly manner, “Had you pleaded and wept like a woman…..no harm would have come to you!”

Most of the advocates that I met would look at me, giving me a second glance, I would be a little bit startled…. But then a Fifty-three year old woman a accused of catching hold of her superior from the collor of his shirt and that, too, in the office of the official? You don’t come across such women everyday….rarest of the rate breed so their curiosity was genuine. I understood. And I salute all of them for saving the innocents from the false allegations….

And I would think of Janet Reno’s words, “Being a lawyer is not merely a vocation. It is a public trust, and each of us has an obligation to give back to our communities.”
I met a few and was really tired. The advocates, considered the best bet gor winning a case, were on the panel of my workplace…. What could we, the affected ones, do?

And finally I handed over my case to one….signed the Vakalatnama…signing without even reading the terms and conditions as it meant handing over the contents of the black bag to my saviour -to-be. The black bag had become my burden…I wanted to get rid of the papers therein as soon as posdible. The case was listed for admisdion and was admitted and thereon my name became a number, a mere number!!

My entire identity zeroed in to a CWP number….

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A house of my own and a Study of my own….in Shimla of 2009

A house of my own and a Study of my own….in Shimla of 2009

While living in Lower Bazaar Simla….I always thought that the children of the lesser mortals live towards the down side of the slopes running from the prestigious Mall…. And life in houses on the Mall or around the Mall would be so different.
When we shifted to the Chhotta Shimla house on the eastern end of the Mall…or to the Chaura Maidan on the western side of the Mall I realised nothing at all had changed… Life was same though a little bland it was!

But no joy in the world could be compared with the bliss I felt when on joining the Indian Institute of Advanced Study….I was allotted a house on the premises of the Institute and in my own name!!! I felt like a flower that had got a small holding to grow and bloom!!

I was allotted a Study in the famous building which I had, before this day, seen only from the outside, and that, too, by purchasing an entrance ticket! Not only this, the vast and cavernous library with a collection of rarest of rare books was open for me…..

I was like a glutton, famished for a long period, deprived of food, who would devour everything!! Books, books and more books….lively academic discussions and more of it…would make me realise how I had been living in a fool’s paradise…all in the name of sham inllectualism.

More than anything else the Institute gave me the much needed succour, support and strength that my hard-hit bruized soul and body so much needed. It was like Amma’s gentle touch.

Though the black bag with all those nefarious papers would remind me of a different times, of different people…but I started feeling as it was another person to whom all this maltreatment was meted out. I looked at myself from a distance. It could not have happened to me. They could not do it to me. It was not me….it could not be me!!!

The person about whom such I was a different entity…I had my own life. I felt I was amongst my own people…my very own who empathised with my struggle and the fight. Who understood my stand and my un-waivering spirit.

On top of that since I had a “home of my own” furnished with antique Victorian furniture as well as modern cooking range….what more could I ask for. I would gaze and gaze at the enigmatic furniture surrounding me…the ambience of the silent Studies of the Fellows, and the energized academic discussions in Thursday’s Seminars! I was, at last, HOME.

But the black bag and the “Office Order therein” would un-settle and un-nerve me at times making me get awake of the “Stopgap” placidity that I was getting used to.

Once I was settled down I would go in the evening to consult lawyers in their offices but surprisingly their offices didn’t seem cold and shady to me any more.

I thought hard as to why I was finding it all so very routine and I found the answer….when a doctor might pronounce you to be affected with some malignant growth…you deny, blame and curse everything but gradually you accept it and try to fight it out in any way that you can.

I had accepted and was ready to fight but the only time I would be pained was when some fellow Fellows, especially from Delhi, would ask me, ,”How could your colleagues let this happen?” And incredulously would ask me, “What was your Teachers’ Association doing, don’t you have one?” How could I tell them that the Teachers’ Association at my workplace was looking after its own selfish interest…. the representatives elected to safeguard interests of the teachers, had signed a false document against me….for their own petty selfish interests!!!

Hadn’t Dr. Faustus entered into a deal with Lucifer….in lieu of knowledge or magic….selling his soul?

But our very own Dr. Faustus got into a deal, not for an iota of knowledge, but, perhaps, for an easy promotion!!!!

What a small price you got to sell your soul at….Dr. Faustus!!!

And what a price you are paying for it today? My heartfelt pity! Not fair….but life is never fair…..Karma at play!!

A house of my own and a Study of my own….in Shimla of 2009

A house of my own and a Study of my own….in Shimla of 2009

While living in Lower Bazaar Simla….I always thought that the children of the lesser mortals live towards the down side of the slopes running from the prestigious Mall…. When we shifted to the Chhotta Shimla house on the eastern end of the Mall…or to the Chaura Maidan on the western side of the Mall I realised nothing at all had changed…

But no joy in the world could be compared with the bliss I felt when on joining the Indian Institute of Advanced Study….I was allotted a house on the premises of the Institute and in my own name!!!

I was allotted a Study in the famous building which I had, hereforthe, seen only from the outside, and that, too, by purchasing an entrance ticket! Not only this the vast and cavernous library with a collection of rarest of rare books was open for me…..

I was like a glutton, famished for a long period, deprived of food, who would devour everything!! Books, books and more books….lively academic discussions and more of it…would make me realize how I had been living in a fool’s paradise…all in the name of sham inllectualusm.

More than anything else the Institute gave me the much needed succour, support and strength that my hard-hit bruized soul and body so much needed. It was like Amma’s gentle touch. Though the black bag with all those nefarious papers would remind me of a different time…but I started feeling as it was another person to whom all this maltreatment was meted out. It was not me….it could not be me!!!

I was different entity…I had my own life. I felt I was amongst my own people…my very own who empathized with my struggle and the fight. Who understood mey stand and my unwaivering spirit.

On top of that since I had a “home of my own” furnished with antique Victorian furniture as well as modern cooking range….what more could I ask for. I would gaze and gaze at the enigmatic furniture surrounding me…the ambience of the silent Studies of the Fellows, and the energized academic discussions in Thursday’s Seminars! I was, at last, HOME.

But the black bag and the “Office Order therein” would unsettle and unnerve me at times making me get awake of the “Stopgap” placidity that I was getting used to. Once I was settled down I would go in the evening to consult lawyers in their offices but surprisingly their offices didn’t seem cold and shady to me any more.

I thought hard as to why I was finding it all so very routine and I found the answer….when a doctor might pronounce you to be affected with some malignant growth…you deny, blame and curse everything but gradually you accept it and try to fight it out in any way that you can.

I had accepted and was ready to fight but the only time I would be pained was when some fellow Fellows, especially from Delhi, would ask me, ,”How could your colleagues let this happen?” And incredulously would ask me, “What was your Teachers’ Association doing, don’t you have one?” How could I tell them that the Teachers’ Association at my workplace was looking after its own selfish interest…. the representatives elected to safeguard interests of the teachers, had signed a false document against me….for their own petty selfish intertests!!!

Hadn’t Dr. Faustus entered into a deal with Lucifer….in lieu of knowledge or magic….selling his soul?

But our very own Dr. Faustus got into a deal, not for an iota of knowledge, but, perhaps, for an easy promotion!!!!

What a small price you got to sell your soul at….Dr. Faustus!!!

And what a price you are paying for it today? My heartfelt pity! Not fair….but life is never fair…..Karma at play!!

A Bigger and Brighter space opens its welcoming door for me in Shimla

I was having dinner sitting on the double bed in a room….surrounded by all happily beaming faces around me! Such a sumptuous meal it was prepared with love and offered with much affection and without any affectation. . It was the home of one of my acquaintence in Boileaugunj. She was pleasantly surprised me to find me at her home and in the true Simla spirit had welcomed me with open arms and loving heart.

The house, small though it was, beamed of warmth…..and I thought of the cold and shady office room that left me literally shivering in those corridors of officers of thd court!
The family wanted to serve me dinner in the small drawing room but I wanted to have it with them,….sitting cross-legged on the double bed…with a plastic spread to act as dedicated dining space….and how homely it felt. The warmth of pure love permeated every pore of my being. I slept with occasional dreams of hiding myself from black coats flying in the air all around me.

The morning was Sunny and bright. I thought of the onerous task awaiting me….walking uphill from Boileaguegunj to IIAS both literally and metaphorically!!! A great ascent indeed. I had to plead my case and submit my jointing if permitted as it was much beyond the permissible limit of delay. Another crusade!
IIAS looked splendid in the morning Sun…do.ineering but not daunting. Once again I thought of the contrast between the sunny bright, open, green verdant IIAS and the dark and shady small impersonal rooms that I had visited the previous day. Clearing my mind of all negativity, I sat before Mr. Ashok Sharma, the PRO who was empathetic to the core to listen to my predicament. I told him everything. He was quiet for a moment and then said, “Please meet the Director ad he alone can decide on your joining the Institute” and then, after a little hesitation, said, “please don’t tell tbe details of the Disciplinary case to him.”
I was shocked to hear it but then it slowly dawned upon me…..the gravity of the allegations I was charged with!! CATCHING THE DIRECTOR FROM COLLAR…how could a sane person be not afraid of such a woman….who knows when she eiukd catch him from the collar??
Oh….what they had done to my honour? Back at my eorkplace I never had felt the enormity of the allegation as everyone knew about the falsehood of the charge but outside my workplace….Iwas not any less dreadful a creature than Phoolan Devi!!
Shrugging off these obnoxious thoughts I went to meet the Director IIAS in his office! The open wide smile, the warm assuring hand shake….holding my hand for a few more seconds…. transmitting positive vibration to my body and soul….I found myself unburdening myself of every detail to Prof. Peter D’Souza, Director IIAS.
“Don’t give up…fight your battle.” His words made me go weak….all my resolve to be indifferent was shaken. Such kindness after such a long time and especially the impersonal interactions the previous day was too much for me to take….I was on verge of crying but wisely left the room before tears would run down my cheeks, uncontrolled and unbridled!
And on First of July 2009 I joined IIAS as a Fellow….barely 05 days after I had received that “Office Order” saying I was not fit to be a teacher!!
Strange are the ways of God….if someone closes a door for you ..He opens another one for you….better and bigger!!!

A rare experience of impersonal corridors of Shimla….cold and shady

A rare experience of impersonal corridors of Shimla….cold and shady

“Where would I go?”
“What would I do?”
I was tormented with this question. Simla had been a home to me….the small house was like Amma’s womb providing me much needed shelter. But there was no home to welcome me in Simla…the three houses I had stayed in, during my 21 years of life in Simla, were occupied by people I had no reckoning with. Similarly I had no answer to the question what would I do at Simla? I didn’t know a soul who could help me. It was like falling seriously sick and desperatly wanting someone, some doctor, to cure you but you don’t know where or how to begin with. I was mostly silent throughout the ride to Shimla from Hamirpur, deeply immersed in thoughts…. My colleague did most of the tslking.

When we reached Ghannahatti, I was tormented by the thought, once again, “where would I go?”

I was travelling to Simla in car of one of my colleagues who was magnanimous to offer me a ride to Shimla and take me to his lawyer. He, too, was going to consult his lawyer for some advice. So I trudged along with my colleague to a part of Shimla where I had never ever set my foot…

The Simla I remembered, the Simla I carried in my memory, was warm cozy and endearing… It would be cold, only, during the long winters when we would search for some sunny patch to have warmth and light! But we walked to comparatively cold area.The entire patch was shady and cold. The big building with small office rooms opening to narrow corridors seemed so impersonal. And in one such room was the office of an advocate that my colleague was going to consult.
It was a Sunday we waited for some time and then he walked in. There was no black coat….he was looking smart and happy.

He opened his office room and we all entered it. My colleague started discussing his case….and my head started to spin when I listened to all that. Nothing made sense to me. After some time when he was done and about to call it a day my friend said, “She also wants to discuss her case with you.”
He looked at me with interest as hitherto he had been thinking of me as not a client. Could I detect a spark in his eye? Perhaps teaching non-verbal communication had given me extra sensory perception. I shrugged myself off of the feeling.
” What has happened?”
“What was the charge?”
A tirade of questions were shot at me…all in a mechanical manner.
“I was alleged to have abused the Director and to catch him from the collor!” I mumbled. I was not comfortable speaking about it.
There, if I was right, I could see something on his face ..perhaps I was imagining it. He was a lawyer and many people must be having a privrleged conversation with him.
“Abused?”
“Caught from collar?”
Nowvavwiman subordinate catching hold of the Director from collor and abusing him made an interesting case. Whenever I would talk about it to anyone….people would gaze at me as if I was a creature from another planet. These kind of *women” earned a second gaze for sure.
“No..no…I never caught him from the collor or abused him..” I blurted out in self defence…”they made up this false accusation against me!”
Perhaps he had some plans for an exciting Sunday with friends or family so he asked me to come the next day in the evening. My black bag…carrying all those papers….was my only companion. I was feeling lije a naked woman….pleading innocence when the papers in the black bag said it otherwise!
We got up…my colleague had to drive back to Hamirpur…he asked me solemnly, “Where would you go, now?”

And this was the question that I, too, was haunted with…”Where would I go? and “What whould I do?”

Preparing to go to Shimla to wage a WAR

Preparing to go to Shimla to wage a WAR

Amma was happy in her own little world. My husband, K. S. was in his own universe of post recovery from traumatic head injury….my daughter was busy admiring the little bundle of joy in her life and I was oscillating between all these trying to find my own little space thinking of that “Office Order”!

I could not talk to Amma, would not share anything with K.S. …what was I to do. I thought of Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the wind fame and her utter dismay in the last few lines of the novel … “Where should I go?” “What should I do?”

I had to go to Shimla. I had to, for sure! I had to find a lawyer. I thought hard of any advocate that I might happened to know but I didn’t know any. The closest I had been to a lawyer’s office was in our neighbourhood Advocate R. N. Sahay, Pinku Shambhu’ Bauji whose brass name plate, with in/out, we were in so much awe of, once upon a time…. And another was the name of Advocate Chhabil Dass that I would read every single day while passing through the Middle Bazaar. I thought of so many of my classfellows who joined Law classes at HP University and many others whom I watched walking from Ava lodge having attended the evening classes for a degree in law. Sadly I could not find a known countenance amongst all those dimmed memories. But all those faces blurred up in a shapeless entity and all I could see was the black coat…. That looked horrendous sending shivers down my spine!!!

What would I do? I was torn, shaken and devastated! Amma was immersed, happily, in her own world! She would ask me, ” Why are women of the colony not coming to meet us?” And would rue, “I knew it…you have not distributed Laddoos…arre your Bauji with his meagre income distributed Laddoos in the entire mohalla when Bittu was born!”
I would not say anything as I, too, was observing that very few of my “friends” had come to bless my grandson and I had to wink at them to ensure that they didn’t ask me about that “office order”! A few would come only to gather information as to what was I doing? What would be my next step? My next step….even I didn’t know anything about it.

One of the friends told me that there is a time limit to file a case in the court so I just could not sleep over it.
But what would I tell Amma that where was I going to? I had to tell her as I had told my husband about that “Office Order”! I was trying to find an opportune moment for that.

But Amma was able to see through my pretension of normal behaviour and asked me point-blank when she could get some free time, “What is bothering you?” And I broke down…my first crying….tears rolling down my cheeks, I told her, “They have shown me the door….naukri se nikaal diya mujhe”!
Amma was quiet, very quiet….as she knew about some problems going in my workplace since last two years but perhaps even she was not prepared for this. She asked me stoically, “What next?”
” I have to go to Shimla but with Nidhu still recovering…how can I?”
Amma decided the matter in one single sentence, “you go to Shimla today itself, I would take care of Nidhu.”
I was full of relief….I had unburdened myself. There was no need for that “Office Order” to remain hidden under the folds of my bed….it was open as was my dilemma… I felt so light hearted. Amma opened her purse and got out some money out of it and putting that in my hands said, “Keep this, you will need it.” It was huge for me. 10,000 Rs. Amma always would give me Rs. 500/ everytime I visited her. I knew she had brought this money to get a hold chain and a gold “stairs” for her great-grandson believing that it would be her staircase to heaven!! How can I snatch from her her passport to heaven? But she was adamant.. “I would put those “stairs” in a black thread. gold chain can wait.”
My eyes welled up again as now there was no need to hide my emotions…and my tears!!
With the file of papers in my black bag and Amma’s money in the back pocket of that bag…. her blessings in my heart, K.S.’s strength in my mind, Nidhu’s hope in my face and little Aarush”s gentle touch in my soul….I was all prepared to go to war….to go to Shimla!!!

From loving Simla of the Sixties to Impersonal Shimla of 2009

From loving Simla of the Sixties to Impersonal Shimla of 2009

It was the year 2009. The institute had handed me a paper saying that I was “compulsorily retired” as I was not fit to be retained as a teacher!!!!
I looked at the paper in my hands, incredulously, shaken to my core but maintaing a poise outwardly. I could not let myself break down…. Taking the paper inside the home and hiding it swiftly under the folds of my pillow, I walked to my daughter who had given birth to a small bundle of joy, our grandson, just 11 days ago. Amma had come to take care of her great grandson and was singing a lullaby to soothe him. I forgot about all my worries while listening to her voice and thought whether she had sung the same songs to me when she held me in her hands in that small house in the lanes of Lower Bazaar? But how did it matter…she was singing those “Ran Jhunanes” the songs specifically sung on the birth of a baby boy in the house. Looking at me she said, “Have you ordered laddoos to be distributed in the neighbourhood?” And finding a blank expression on my face she said in a stern and mocking voice, “What a miser you are…. can’t you spend a little amount to celebrate being a Nani?” I could not say anything as I was thinking if the paper that I had hidden under the pillow….the paper called “Office Order”! How could I distribute laddoos in the colony when by now everyone must have known that I was shunted out of the job! How would people pretend to sympathise with me, the same people who had colluded to implicate me.
Amma said finally, “Order Ladoos…I would pay for them…Kanjoos Nani”! And immersed herself in singing another geet, in her soulful voice, with a smile on her wrinkled face!

I tried hard to supress my emotions, hide my unshed tears, thinking of the “office order” lying comfortably tucked under the folds of my bed.
Amma shouted from the other room, “Soak black grams in lukewarm water so that they sprout properly” and added disdainfully, “How careless have you grown!”
Amma was planning for a ceremony of “punjaap” for my grandson and I was thinking of going to Shimla to consult a lawyer….and my journey to ” impersonal Shimla”….

St. Andrew’s Church…our evening  playing spot in Simla of the Sixties

St. Andrew’s Church…our evening playing spot in Simla of the Sixties

I never thought back in the Sixties the privileges that we enjoyed, though by default, during our childhood. This was all because like all kids of any age and period or place we, too, created ones when there were a few in Lower Bazaar mohalla. As Bauji worked in the Head Post-office and we had our home very near to it, a few flights of dtsirs down the Mall…all this open area around the Post office was virtually our playing space.
Thete was a small dark passage on the western side of the Post-office building connecting it to the postal colony adjacent to it. This passage which we called a tunnel was our playing spot as well. Ajust near to the entry of this passage there was a rough steep kutchha area wherefrom we woukd go up catching holld of the roots of a tree to the St. Andrew’s Church which we called Chhota Govrnment School as this is what it was in early Sixties!!!

The Chhota givernment school was the primary wing of the Lakkad Bazaar Girls’ school, if my memory serves me right. Therefore the whole building must be abuzz of chattering of the small girls during the day. I would confirm more about this from my friend Kiran who lived in the Postal colony at that time.
So we would reach the peaceful and cavernous church building in the evening and play under the trees, around the vast open space around it and beside the wooden jangla on the path…..you name a place around it and it surely would have been our plaing spot. The solid stone parapets around the church building were our favourite spots for marble playing. We would enact dances and plays under the arches and recesses of the beautiful window panes of the building seving as backdrop. So near to the much happening Mall yet enjoying our peace and freedom like a unbound soul. And we enjoyed this freedom because Indu Kiran lived in the adjascent building overlooking the Church and this space was for us an extended neighbourhood, enjoying all benefits that come in the extended neighbourhoods.

Above on the top of the small hill was a beautiful house occupied by, what we knew, the headmistress of the Lakkad Bazaar school. Her name, what comes to my recollection, was Mrs. Anand. She lived in that beautiful house, with beds of excuisite delicate flowers, just like out of a fairy book for my imagination. And a very small daughter of the house, seemed like a small fairy to me, living in her castkeurtou ded with flowers, facing the church and overlooking the Mall and below. Perhaps it was because she lived in that wonderful house and having a “room of her own” even at that age that made me look at her with such feeling of awe. And rightfully so as we slept crammed together close to Amma while she slept in her own room. Once we went to her house and saw a small sunny room called “nursery”….a term I learnt for the first time to be usd for a room though for me nursery was always a classroom dedicated in schools for small kids!!! Sometimes, but very few times, this angle would come out to play with us but we are rather crude for her taste and inclination. But who bothered for it. As long as the chowkidar belived that being friends to the “baby” as all little girls are called in sophisticated homes, we could access the Church building as our playing space.

Later, perhaps in late Sixties, the school shifted to Lakkad Bazaar perhaps and young boys of Arts college came to occupy this building.it was so very exciting for us, the kids. As in the evenings when we would go to lay there we would collect all the pieces of papers stewn anywhere around the classes as these eoukd be scribbled with dressings and paintings. How we would treasure those pieces!! The small one-room accomodation lining just below the beautiful house were the servant quarters, perhaps, once upon a time but now they were occupied by the students of the Arts college as their living quarters. We made friends with a few…one that I remember was Waheed, a Muslim boy who gave us small colourful paintings made on handmade paper. Very small which I would keep in pages of my book, to show sometimes, to impress my friends at school.
But our playing time got reduced as by that time we, the growing up adolescent girls, had become a little self conscious and now we would not go to the Church building as there would be boys of the Arts college all the time.
And soon after the Arts college, too, got shifted to some other place and after that I don’t remember visiting the beautiful building which happened to be our playing spot in Simla of the Sixties!!

also was the dear h for a playing spot But today I am deeply touched by the unique experiences that came our way…playing innocuous games at incredible places in Simla. And one such 0 was St. Andrew’s Church on the Mall, near to the Head Post-office building.

अम्मा की लाल चूड़ियां

अम्मा की लाल चूड़ियां

रात को सोते वक्त ही सोच कर सोइ थी कि सुबह जरूर उठ जाउंगी.. अम्मा की आवाज मन के किसी कोने से आ रही थी, “अरे जरूर खा लिया कर , चाहे थोड़ा सा ही, मुहं तो जूठा जरूर करना चाहिए, शगुन होता है”, और मेरे कुछ न कहने पे गुस्सा करती कि “पता नहीं क्या हो गया है आजकल की लड़कियों को, सारा दिन बिना खाये पिए रहने से पेट सूख जाता है” . सरगी खाने का मन तो कभी भी बही होता है पर अब जब अम्मा नहीं रही है तो मन करता है कि उतने प्यार और अधिकार से कोई मुझे सरगी खाने को कहे ! आज अम्मा की बड़ी याद आ रही है, करवाचौथ है न तो अम्मा की तस्वीर बार बार आखों के सामने आ जा रही है..
करवाचैथ का बड़ा इन्तजार रहता था हम सब बच्चो को. अम्मा शाम को हम सबको बाजार ले जाती और हमारी पसंद की चूड़ियां दिलवा देती थी। पता नहीं कितने दिनो से मैं रोज बाजार में दुकानों में सजी हुई रंग बिरंगी चूडिया देखती रहती और सोचती की इस बार जब अम्मा बाजार लाएंगी तो मैं ये वाली चूड़ियाँ लूँगी,. कितनी ही चूड़ियां मेरे मन के कोने में जगह बना के बैठ गई होती थी पर मलती तो एक ही थी न.. मन भी अजीब होता है रोज ही कभी किसी चूड़ियों को ऊपर रख देता कभी किसी और को नीचे. बचपन में ही समझ आ गया था की जरूरी नहीं है कि जो पसंद हो वो सारा का सारा ही मिल जाये.और अगर मिल भी जाये तो पहन तो नहीं पते न सारा का सारा।
अम्मा हमें हमारी पसंद की चूड़ियाँ दिलवा देती और खुद खरीदती थी लाल रंग की चूड़ियां जिन पर सुनहरे रंग के डिज़ाइन बने होते, और तब मैं उसकी पतली-पतली कलाइयों देखती जिनमे पिछले साल से पहनी हुई चूड़ियाँ होती थी.. अम्मा एकदम से टाइट चूड़ियां पहनती थी, केटी थी कि टाइट चूड़ी पक्की चलती है। चूड़ी वाला पतली सी रस्सी में बंधी चूड़ियों को निकलता और अम्मा बैठ जाती चूड़ी पहनने। चूड़ी वाला रस्सी चूड़ी में फंसा के घुमा-घुमा के अम्मा के हाथ से चूड़ियों को चढ़ाता जाता. कई बार तो अम्मा के हाथों से खून के बुँदे भी निकल जाती पर वो चूड़ी पहनी रहती। टाइट चूड़ियां पक्की होती है न , पूरा साल चलती थी. जब भी लाल चूड़ियां देखती हूं तो अम्मा की याद आ जाती है।

A son is born in Simla of the Sixties

Bauji wanted a son to continue his lineage to the posterity. Amma wanted a son to become a fulfilled woman and we both sisters wanted to have a brother by the next Rakshabandhan to tie the sacred Rakhee on his tiny wrists and get a ten rupee note! Could God deny so many ardent prayers of the seekers!
Bauji, at the advice of Pandit Ganga Sagar, had started the practice of going to Shiv Mandir in the Middle Bazaar with a brass lota in his hand in which Amma would put half a glass of milk as soon as the milkman would put milk in the steel pateela, early morning everyday. She was very liberal in pouring milk in the lota and why should she not be as it would result in the blessings of Bhola Shankar to make her mother to a son!!! But these weird ideas never crossed my mind as I would have been so eager to accompany Bauji every morning. I would follow Bauji to the Shiv Mandir with many objectives in mind. The foremost would be ti peep through as many open windows and doors as possible! As it would be early morning so all houses in the neighborhood would be at their busiest self….people, voices, sounds of clattering utensils, holy bells in the puja alcoves…all would merge to privide my naughty mind so much of input. Perhaps no Ekta Kapoor could compensate for the entertainment and weaving of stories as this morning excursion provided me. Nothing better than visiting the neighborhood during the morning hours as everyone is in hurry and everyone is full of energy to hurry. Action and more action, and more entertainment.
I would make it a point to follow Bauji and never to walk along with him. One because the stairs and alleies would be narrow for two persons to walk hand in hand and second because Bauji would be holding the auspicious lota in one hand and a small thali with flower; doob grass; a little of rice grains, balanced on the lota!! It was a mutually agreeable arrangement…Bauji had the freedom to carry the lota and I enjoyed my freedom to make a stopover at any interesting point and then hurriedly catch over with Bauji.

We would pass through the stairs past Subodh and Probodh’s house where his mother and sisters would be busy cleaning the house and aroma of food filling the air from the small kitchen but the boys would be sitting, cross legged, on the bed with books wide open in their hands.
Another stairs and the Guru ji would be sitting with sitar in his hands, again, on the Diwaan, covered in white bedcover. There would be white bedsheets spread on the floor where his deciples would sit diring the day. I always wondered whether he had a family or not and who cooked his food as I always would watch him with a sitaar in his hands. For me he remained very enigmatic and my Sherlock Holmes’ mind could not detect much about him. That entire gulley was of Bhatt family and Dobriyal family. Another set of stairs and here I would cling near to Bauji as here was the dwelling place of the Haatos. Here, too, food aroma would be waffing through the air and the Haatos, speaking in their language, would be sitting with a big white Fauzi cup in hand, sipping tea. I was told by Pundit ji that they never put sugar or milk in their tea but rather had salt in it. Could never ascertain the truth of it as I would not talk to them as thet, too, didn’t have any family with them. Again Pandit ji told me that their family lived long away in Kashmir!!! When I watched Kabuliwala movie I developed do much affection and love for those Haatos…..
Would run after Bauji and further there would be a public tap from where many persons would be filling buckets of water. I would look with interest and awe at the Chinese aunty who, dressed in a pyjama suit, would balance two buckets in both the hands and carry it to her home. I found her to be very strong as compared to all the women of my neighborhood who could never, rather would not, carry such buckets of water. No doubt, I would think, that Chinese are much stronger than us!!!!
Would run after my Bauji and another stairs would bring us to the basement of the Baljees…..the doors black with soot would give out warm air from the exhaust fans above them and the workers would be busy preparing the delicacies that the fashionable people would devour during the day, served by neatly uniformed waiters in the restaurant!!
The Fire brigade people would be busy in the basement where, perhaps, they lived. And here was another tap wherefrom Bauji would, everyday, fill his lota with water. The milk in the lota would mix with the water when the water, with pressure, would mingle diluting the milk.
We would carry it to the Shiv temple and the Mahant ji, dressed in his big woolen overall, would smile at me….. I am sure lord Shiva, too, smiled at us ..Bauji and me….and happily granted the boon…..and Bauji and Amma got a son…..and we both got a brother by March 1965.