Revolving around memories of Rivoli…Growing up in Simla of the Sixties

Revolving around memories of Rivoli…Growing up in Simla of the Sixties

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I was never ever a movie buff … perhaps watched only a few movies, counted on finger tips, in theaters of Simla of my times…and after leaving Simla none at all!
But curious as a cat or “Rakaat” as Amma would call me….I would go to almost all movie theaters and watch the coloured snapshots of the movies which would be displayed behind a wire gauzes notice board. These pictures would give me a chance to imagine all kinds of stories. Rivoli was the nearest to Lower Bazaar, rather all were! Whenever we would go to Sood Junj ghar, we the kids, would run to the Rivoli theater to look at the colourd pictures pinned  on the display board. Once we tiptoed the stairs up the hall and sneaked in to see the room wherefrom the movie was run! How excited we were as if we had become privy to something precious!
Many a times I would stand reclining at the wooden railing towards the skating rink side and watch downwards. It was mostly when the skating rink was used as a mela cum exhibition site with a big merry-go-round….the biggest and the highest we had seen in Simla! Bauji took us for a ride on that merry-go-round but how afraid I was …my little heart literally ticking so loudly…. The merry-go-round would go up and I would wait whether it would be parallel to the Rivoli building or go higher …but it was much lower than the Rivoli building.
And how can I forget about the tragic fall of so many people who had stood watching the annual carnival from the Rivoli side. The  wooden railing gave in and people fell down…tumbling down the hillside! I never went near to the Rivoli building for so many days.
I watched a few movies at Rivoli but what comes to my mind is Sangam with Amma and Bauji and my elder sister. And later when I was in college Chalti ka naam Gaadi with my friends and classmates!
With Rivoli going down….a part of my growing up years in Simla of the Sixties has gone down. Down but not done away with as it would be always a part of our shared memories! Long live Rivoli!   

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Karwachauth suhagi covered under “Kroshiye da Rumal”… Growing up in Simla of the Sixties

Karwachauth suhagi covered under “Kroshiye da Rumal”… Growing up in Simla of the Sixties

What Rudyard Kipling referred to as “rabbits-warren at an angle of forty-five” would bubble with life in the festive  month of October! And  what more was needed to belie this epithet for the lower Bazaar than the love and gaiety that marked the simple life of simple people of Simla in the Sixties!
Amma and all other women of the mohalla would brighten up the white Crocheted round shaped covers with ample “neel” as this “Kroshiye da rumal” would travel whole of the neighbourhood from karwachauth to Diwali.
The “Kroshiye da rumal” would demurely cover the plate, invariably, of brass or Kansa as steel was not much in use those days. Steel plates were a rarity, a privileged item… The same way as Brass and Kaansa plates are a rage today!
This thaali would have a little of Phenian, some three four pieces. of sweets,  a few home made mathiaan, six bangles tied in a red ribbon, a small pudia of mehndi, a liquid bindi, and not to miss a few strands of Akhrot ki daatun, the Dandaasa!  Sometimes an apple or two would also be put but not very commonly.
We would watch Amma put the above items in the thaali and would cover it with the shining bright “Kroshiye da rumal” and we would run to take this Suhagi to different homes.
Others would also send a Suhagii of same nature. Only the Mithai pieces would be different and our interest would be only on those pieces! Whether it would be Karachi halwa or a rasgulla or gulab jamun or barfi or Pateesa or even imarati!
Those were the days when the life, too, was like “Kroshiye da rumal” which made us peep what lay behind “rumal ke peechhe kya hai” but still maintaining a little secrecy until the “Rumal”  was upturned! Now when I look at designer Suhagi plates and boxes of sweets packed tightly and covered under a plastic layer…I feel sorry for the generation Z kids who would never know what lay inside those sweet boxes which are presented at their doorsteps. How would they know as one box coming from family A would be gifted to family B….and so on! One never gets a chance to peep inside the sealed boxes as to what they hold inside, howsoever one may wish to!

Our growing up years were so full of excitement during these simple activities when we would earmark a particular piece of mithai in a thaali and exhort Amma to keep that aside. We would be so happy and grateful for that. When simple red bangles tied with red ribbon would be admired with whole heartedness by the giver and the taker alike!  Bangles came loose those days, held together with a thin rope. Bangles in boxes had just been introduced to the market and were comparatively delicate and costlier.  And if some Massi would gift a box of bangles in the thaali….her status in the neighbourhood would rise manifold! “Dabbe wali bangles” wali maasi!!

When stingyeer the “Dandaasa” ( Akhrot ki Datun) would be the better it would be! The loving women of the humble narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties, unknowingly, have imported a great lesson to the kids of the Sixties. We learnt to live our life like the “Kroshiye da Rumal” where a part of our innerself is revealed to others…the arena in terms of modern psychology and there remains the other closets which open only when comes close enough!!! Thank you Simla of the Sixties for teaching great life lessons! Life in the “rabbit barrens” was sure ecstatic!! Happy Karwachauth!!
(Pic credit Nanda ji)

Colours of festivity in mehndi and bangles…Karwachauth in Simla of the Sixties

Colours of festivity in mehndi and bangles…Karwachauth in Simla of the Sixties
Amma would always say, “symbol of a ‘suhaag’ is a bindi on the forehead and glass red bangles in wrists!” We would exhort her to get a new suit for karwachauth but she would smilingly say, “what’s the need?” And would prepare to stitch gota patti on a new dupatta which she would don with an old suit. I would, invariably, volunteer to bring gota from Fancy general store. This would br my “me” time to explore Lower Bazaar in all its colours of festivity.

Those days ,”gota kinari” called “kiran” was much in vogue. I would have my fill of excitement at the glass cabinet having gotas and kinaris in numerous design though the colours were only two…golden and silver!

How excitedly we would watch her stitching gota on her dupatta and it looked beautiful. When this dupatta was folded all the golden ends of Kinari would feel like silken brush, soft like Amma’s face!

While of the mohalla maasis would be full of excitement and when someone would inform about arrival of new mehndi powder, with very fast colour, was available at Sundru Pansari shop, every woman in the mohalla would be excited about it. Mehndi came in big jute sacks those days and he would put the sack at the entrance of the shop and would measure small portions, as required, wrapped in paper cones. No plastic readymade wrappers with different brand names for Mehndi. It was called either Sundru pansari’s mehndi or some other pansari’s mehndi! I am not just able to recollect name of another Pansari shop near to Kangra hotel…!
All households would soak mehndi in a small katori adding a little of mango powder, lemon drops or tamarind or even a little jaggery to brighten and darken the colour of mehndi!
But it was our dearest Bhainji, Leela Bhenji, who would hold a court in her baithak. With a big pan full of soaked mehndi she would very lovingly put henna designs on all the palms waiting for their turn. Her own hands would be smeared in mehndi paste, leaving faint marks of orangish color on her fair skin. She would make designs using matchstick and sometimes “jhadoo Tillii” would be used for finer lines! We had not seen henna cones wherefrom thin henna would ooze out to put fine designs!
When all the girls would have had mehndi designs put on their palms, Bhenjii would make s cery simple design on one of her palms, smearing the fingers with mehndi, even covering her nails. Then one of us was asked to put a little thick mehndi paste on her other palm and she would fold her palm. That was it.
We would apply mehndi in the late evenings and would snuggle in bed with palms outside the quilt. Everyone believed, “mehndi raat ko rang chhodti hai!”
Mornings would be so excitedly looked up to…..to sed thd dark shades of mehndi on our palms. It was sheer joy to unpeel dried mehndi and watch the orangish brown shades of mehndi peeping underneath. Amma would look at our palms…the dark mehndi colour and say, “Darker the shade of mehndi….your ‘laaduu’ (husband) will love you a lot!” All other women in the mohalla would have a fun time during the day …looking at the mendi patterns and cracking jokes bout the significance of mehndi colour. And shy laughter would fill the small houses of the lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties! Pure and simple joys of life!

When daughters belonged to the entire mohalla…Growing up in Simla of the Sixties!

When daughters belonged to the entire mohalla…Growing up in Simla of the Sixties!
“Saadhi kudi aaiyyo!” was the reply Leela Bhenjji would give to anyone inquiring about me when I would be staying in their home. Such was my Simla and my humble neighbourhood in the lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties!
It was late Seventies when I had to  visit Simla ….I was married and had started a new life….a new life in my academics as well. I was taking Himachal Administrative Services examination. The examination center was at Shimla. I was very excited to revisit Simla…. the place I loved so much but I had mixed feelings… of happiness as well as of anxiety. A heaviness weighed on my heart…. it was about where would I walk to when I get down from the bus at Simla bus-stand? Where would I stay at Simla….we had left Simla in 1977 as we had no place to call home. We were planning for booking a Guesthouse at Simla. It was weighing so heavily on my heart that there is no place which I can call my own in Simla!

I went to Simla with Bauji and we paid a visit to our old neighborhood to meet our old friends and neighbours. We had booked a guest house and Bauji was to return after seeing me settled as girls staying alone in any guesthouse was something which Bauji was not very comfortable with. But Bhenjii as she was lovingly called by everyone put all worries to rest and told Bauji, “Kalo will stay with us .. why should she stay in a guesthouse when she has our home to stay at!” And I stayed at their home….the house next to our in my old neighbourhood in Lower Bazaar of Simla.
The house which always seemed so big to me now seemed small. Where is the space in Simla houses in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar to accommodate guests? But there is so much love in hearts that some space is squeezed to fit in guests. I am ashamed of using the word *guest” as we were a big family….all together a big loving family!
As I had my HAS examination so I was accommodated in the attic where I would not be disturbed at all. It had all kind of paraphernalia and my bedding was arranged in that space. That room became my second home and whenever anyone would inquire about me, “Kun aaya?” Leela Bhenjii would lovingly say, ” Our daughter has come visiting us!” And I was a daughter to her!!!
Today when I read so many posts about Daughter’s Day…
I travelled back to those wonderful days when daughters belonged to the entire mohalla.  And I thought of the beauty of this relationship which had no name! No one in my entire mohalla of lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties has heard of Daughter’s Day but everyone loved every daughter of the mohalla like one of their own! Happy Daughter’s Day!!

Band baaja and baraat….Marriages in Simla of the Sixties

Band baaja and baraat….Marriages in Simla of the Sixties
A faint sound of Band Bajaa playing “Baharon phool Barsao…Mera mehboob aaya hai….”  from a distant corner of the Lower Bazaar would energize every ear that could hear it. Could not say how the elderly women felt about the band playing this song but we, the kids of the mohalla, leaving whatever we were doing would run to the tin rooftop, shouting “baraat aa rahi hai!” Whole of the tin roof, the common arena for  the entire neighbourhood, would be full and all of us would  wait for the baraat to pass through the bazaar.What an excitement we would feel .. all of us! And what a spectacle it would be…the gas bearers preceding the procession the Band Baje wale dressed in white/black pants with a golden stripe,  red liveries with golden embellishments…playing the most popular song of the time on their shining bright brass instruments!
Whose baraat it was or who the people were was immaterial to us, we welcomed them  all with thumping  feet and beating hearts. That was so romantic for all of us..the song, the baraat and the bridegroom on a decorated white mate!
Such was the connotative impact of the song ” Baharo phool Barsao…” that all young damsels would start dreaming of a prince charming coming their way and all young boys would relate to the white decorated mare on which sat the bridegroom, with back ramrod straight and a sword dangling from the side. The bridegroom those days would be dressed impeccably in finely stitched three piece suits….sherwanis were no where ever heard of! And ironically the pants were tight as narrow pipes so it was most grotesque for the young man in such tight pants sit astride the white bejeweled mare! But we loved him…the bridegroom!
Some of us, the most daring ones, would run to the Lower Bazaar to have a closer look of the dulha whose face would be covered with Sehra.
I preferred to watch from the tin roof or sometimes from the big windows of Leela Bhenji”s house from where I could see more clearly the dance which the Baraatis would resort to. As from the tin roof all we could see was the pink pagris and two drainpipelike legs of the Baraatis but from the window a closer view was possible. How interesting it is to think  that pink colour was always called “Pyaaji” by all of us! Pyaaji pagrees!!!
Just a few steps ahead from the Nathu Halwai shop….in front of Shaan sewing Machine shop the road was much broader giving a perfect place for the Baraatis to dance. We would watch the most animated dance steps and the icing on the cake was that all the Baraatis fitted jn drainpipe tight pants would resort to unbelievable dance steps. How entertaining it was for us the spectators!All Baraats would make it a point to take a round of whole the lower Bazaar before moving to the marrage venue. As the most favourite and much sought after would be Sood Janj Ghar at the other end of Lower Bazaar tunnel so most of the Baraats would pass through our part of the Lower Bazaar.
The one which I saw more closely was when a Baraat came to Kashyap Niwas sometimes in the Sixties, a few stairs away from our home and how they danced! We watched from the Beekay’s stairs going down to the Middle Bazaar!
Watching these marriage processions would be the most awaited events in our life…so much so that when we would see the white mare with Henna colored spots being taken during the day…we would know that a baraat would take a round of Lower Bazaar that evening.These were small joys of our simple life that filled our life with excitement. Such was the long lasting impression of these events that even today I listen to the tune of ” Baharon phool Barsao…” I go back to those dance steps of drainpipelike legs dancing in most ludicrous manner around a white mare on which the Dulha would be sitting with ramrod straight back supported by two legs in tightest of tight pants !! The tighter the better!
And we, the spectators, would have entertainment to fill our life with while growing up in Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties!!! ReplyForward

Lower BazaarTunnel…. Running towards the light at the other end…Growing up in Simla of the Sixties

Lower BazaarTunnel…. Running towards the light at the other end…Growing up in Simla of the Sixties
Surang was a much-in-use word, in common parlance amongst all Simla inhabitants, to refer to a landmark for all of us growing up in lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties. Surang was a landmark for the lower bazaar people and for us, the kids of the Sixties, it was an enigma.  Whenever I would pass through the bazaar I had to stop a while near Surang….sometimes I would squeeze myself through the crowd around the man who had panacea for sealing all holes in all kind of metals! To my little mind he was a magician. How I wish to have that magic “Tikki” melting like pour liquify silver and closing all holes….all imperfections! Perhaps deep in our heart, even during those simple days, we all were searching for a panacea for all that troubles our lufe….sadly we still are running in search of a shortcut…at least I am!!

Then, there would be a Pathan displaying all sort of the herbs very neatly on a cloth spread on the road. Never could understand what was he selling but it sure was something from distant lands of Kabuliwallahs…perhaps! Sometimes the word “Mardana Taquaat” would baffle me as our generation of kids were pretty ignorant of all kinds of power plays …pure simpletons we were!
But the colourful and fancy world of filmy posters would attract me more than anything else.
There were the latest filmi posters…the biggest ones possible, payed one over the other, on the entrance of the Surang….so colourful and of a world which was un-approachable for us!
I would watch those big hoardings for some time but carefully avoiding the opposite side of the Bazaar where a man sold women innerwear hanging in most atrocious manner for all eyes  to ravish!
How funny it seems today to think of secret “Mardana Taqaat” herbs being sold on one hand, out-of-reach filmy damsels in most scintillating poses watching from above and the poor seller sending women inner wears hanging from nails on a big pole…… That was the mesmerizing entrance to the surang!

I would go through the tunnel but only with other kids….it was a strange place to be in. Water drops seeping in from the roof of the tunnel, water running from the sides, mules loaded with big sacks vying with human beings for space. The sound of tinkling of brass bells, adorning their necks,  would herald their proximity to the pedestrians when the yellowish bulbs caged in wire mesh would hardly provide enough light to see. The whole Surang would be littered with mule littering. The stench of mule excreta mixed with human perspiration emitting from coolies carrying loads on their back and the humid smell of seeping water from the top would make the tunnel a world much different from the lively lower Bazaar. Not to forget the echoing sounds of some boys who made queer sounds to see how would it echo in the Surang!
The only light at the end of the Surang would make my fluttering heart stabilize and the bigger this light would become more at ease would I be! 
The other end of the Surang near the Sood Junj Ghar would be much colder. But the Sood junj Ghar would always  be full of band-bazaa and baraat ..an event we all so excitedly looked for!! The event for which we would traverse the dingy, seepy and moisty surang of the lower Bazaar!!
Something about the band-bazaa and baraat in my next post!! Growing up in Simla of the Sixties and roaming the length and breadth of the most happening  lower bazaar is a treasury house of memories….just like crossing over the Surang….to the Sood Janj ghar!  

Reading… The best gift Bauji bestowed upon me in Simla of the Sixties

Reading… The best gift Bauji bestowed upon me in Simla of the Sixties
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” How right Steve Jobs has been as I, too, can connect the tiny dots of my growing up years, today, while looking backwards!  The times were simple
Perhaps getting my pelvic girdle fractured resulting in immobilized leg for a long time…with no screen to ogle at…the long winter evenings and my restless soul was the best to happen to me. To top it up Bauji would read to me stories from the Puranas; especially the Mahabharata, the Kalyaan and the all time favourite blue colored hard bound the Arabian Nights! How would I wait for him to read to me. Sitting close to Bauji, watching his lips move while reading aloud the stories,  and I would be transported to a world which only a child’s brain is capable of creating uniquely for her!! Today I can literally imagine so many neural pathways developing while imagining all those outlandish scenes that I had never believed to exist anywhere in the world!

As Bauji could not be there all the time reading stories to me….I learnt to read at a very young age. Perhaps starting with small story books and gradually moving to bigger ones. And once I learnt to read there was nothing to stop me. Any piece of paper with a written word on it would enchant me! I was hooked for life….life of reading!
And now Bauji’s job was to make us read read from the books….he would just listen. When I would read from books in English he would translate the stories into Hindi, giving us the meanings of difficult words in Hindi. And it led him to give us his dictionary and making us look for the meanings ourself!
We were supposed to memorize spellings of difficult words underlined in the page that we would read. Amma would take dictation of this difficult spellings. It makes me laugh today to remember how difficult I would find the spellings of the word “obediently”!! 

This was not specefic to me as we, the kids raised in Simla of the Sixties, had little to do during long winter months except reading and sharing stories, learning new words, memorizing spellings and taking dictations!  There was no television and no spellcheck…. luckily for us….a blessing in disguise though we learner all this in a hard way!

Looking back I wonder had there been tele-screens to hold me to….. would we have waited and cared for someone reading stories to us? Above all during the long cold evenings sitting around Angithee reading and sharing stories was a beautiful way to pass time in those cozy little homes of Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties.

Looking back all dots are falling in line…one dot connecting to another and another and I can see Bauji smiling in his most affectionate way at his daughter who still loves to read!!! Bauji’s best gift to his daughter raised in  Simla of the Sixties!   

C for car and D for dream…growing up in Simla of the Sixties

C for car and D for dream…growing up in Simla of the Sixties
We didn’t see much of vehicles especially cars, during our childhood, plying on the roads which were our playing arena. Though there were plenty if one could watch movement on the cart road!  Never ever in the Lower Bazaar and s numbered ones on the Mall.

As the Mall road was restricted to only the dreaded ambulance with red cross on both the sides and at the rear…. We would be filled with empathy for some very sick person being carried to the hospital. The red coloured fire brigade vehicle with fierce big brass bell tolling and the firemen standing in the vehicle would send a chill down our spine. Though we had never heard of Hemingway’s ” For whom the Bell tolls?” Yet my heart would be filled with fear and dread at where the fire must have engulfed a home! On the contrary the postal Dak carrying vehicle would regularly, without fail,  make a friendly appearance at fixed timings carrying tidings good or bad to connect near and dear ones. I loved this one as it was very close to my very being …my very own!

Though once in a while the Governor’s entourage would pass the Mall road, much admired by us, the kids, as it hadl national  insignia in place of a number plate. We were much in awe of this long and big car symbolising power and authority.
It was a blessing, indeed, for the kids raised in Simla of the Sixties that the very few people who must have owned personal or official cars could not drive those to be anywhere near the Mall. This provided the much sought after equity to all people irrespective of their station in life, at least some equality and equity in appearance!  Everyone strolling on the Mall, more or less, seemed at the same horizontal level of stratification in social hierarchy at least on this account.

So, under these circumstances I never nurtured a dream of being in a car…or to go on a long drive, leave alone owning  one!

It must have been early Sixties when the film “Dil Ek Mandir” was shown by the Sound and Drama Division. One particular scene that vividly stayed in my memory was of the beautiful car with open roof wherein Rajender Kumar and Meena Kumari drive to a point and dance around trees singing the song “Yahan koi nahi tera mere siwa…”! I  loved that car!!! Perhaps I enjoyed vicariously what I could not otherwise!

The year must have been 1974 or 75 when my Bauji was taken to the hospital in an ambulance while I accompanied him. My very first experience of sitting in the dreaded vehicle though it was such a relief to  get him admitted in the Snowdon hospital with very high blood pressure. As many of my class-fellows, both boys and girls, had got admitted to Medical college Shimla so they would drop in to inquire of his welfare. Honestly, I would be ashamed, embarrassed and angry in their presence when they acted like real doctors, flaunting their white overalls.  Bauji lay in the bed as a patient and I stood at his bedside as his caretaker!  My frustration was as I had not been anywhere near the list of candidates and continued going to Sanjauli college.
One evening, one of my class-fellows came and sat for a long time with us. It was time for me to go to Chhotta Shimla where we lived those days.
We walked towards the kuchha road leading towards Lakkar Bazaar when this boy  suddenly opened the door of a white Premier Padmini car and offered to drop me at Chhota Shimla! A student owning or druving a car was very rare  those days. I was really taken aback. That was my first car drive in Simla. Though I was happy but also afraid that someone may not see me sitting in a car with a boy!!!

The second that I remembered was when Kaka, Sulakshna Arya, who was a councillor,  offered to drop us , my daughter and I who were walking towards IIAS. When my daughter showed a little hesitation, Kaka said in her unique style, ‘ You don’t know bachha what a privilege it is to drive through these restricted roads of Simla!” It really was! Then few more car rides followed…alongwith my younger brother who was Dy. S. P. City and once or twice I accompanied him in his official car.
But to be honest during all these car drives on the restricted roads of the Mall, numbered though they were, I felt guilty….extremely guilty of polluting the sanctity of Simla roads and the tradition of non- plying of vehicles on these roads. I had, in a way, disturbed the culture of equality and equity which to me is the hallmark of pedestrians strolling on the roads of Simla! It felt like going to the Puja room with your shoes on! Blasphemous!

Growing up in Simla of the Sixties made our generation value and uphold the traditions that made Simla a unique place but sadly it is no more so!!! Though how I wish it were so!
( The post surfaced out of my latent memories because of the pic of the multi-storey car parking posted by Nanda ji) 

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From Face on the wall to Buddha on the wall….growing up in Simla of the Sixties

From Face on the wall to Buddha on the wall….growing up in Simla of the Sixties


The small little houses, in narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar, invariably had at least one wall that would be damp with plastering peeling off the wall resulting in shapes and figures open to countless interpretations!  The white lime on the wall would discolor, the underneath material would result in various shapes on the wall….filling the fertile little minds with imaginative characters weaving around those shapes. That was a game for us…the kids…  raised in the Simla of the Sixties as fortunately we didn’t have any tele-screens to ogle at!!!


I think this happened after we read the story “The face on the Wall” which, if I am not mistaken was in one of our course books…. though don’t recollect exactly…which class it was!  But after reading that story all the damp impressions on the wall would make me think of clouds, elephants and whatnot on the not-so-plane   surface of the damp wall with bits of upper crust of plaster coming off at places! So when I say sitting with a book in my hand and pretending to do my school work I would be watching for new imaginative faces or objects coming out on the wall and perhaps weaving a story!


It is so strange that this memory raised its head when I was planning, in my new house, to use the space under the stairs. I didn’t want this space to be used as a small bar or a display rack for knic- knacks or worse a shoe rack hidden under the stairs.

The reason was more for practical reasons. I  had carried to Palampur, despite protests from my kids to dispose it off, the big iron sheet box storing some ten big quilts… And I wanted this big “peti” to be put somewhere but not to mar the looks of the mouse, it had to be hidden away from the common view and common space. I was on “Peti Bachao” mission as I knew that if I don’t find an appropriate place for it….the poor thing would find a way out as the quilts had a better place to be stored in…the box beds!!

I thought hard and Lo I got the solution. What a better place it could be then to fit it under the stairs and cover up the front part with plyboard planks in the style of folding doors of old style shops of Simla of the Sixties!
Next was what to do on the plyboard …to cover it with Mica or some other veneer or plain paint or polish?


It was then that I thought of the images on the wall which I loved so much during my childhood. All thanks to Simla memories churning out because of this lovely group interactions.
So it was a big Buddha face which I wanted to adorn my under-the-stairs area with!!!
I started with sketching, drawing on big sheets, cutting those sheets and pasting on the folding door of this area till I was somehow satisfied of the right size and shape.


The project is still going on…I still devote some two hours to it but it has filled my house and my very being with peace and tranquility. The umpteen times when I go up and down these stairs the Buddha face fills me with a feeling which I cannot explain in words … the feeling of being at peace with myself! Is it not what we all crave and live for!


Having come a long way from the face on the damp wall in the small house of Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties….to the serene and peaceful Buddha…is a long journey full of struggles, dreams, failures and intrigues of friends but nothing in vain! Learning my lessons from my life journey I wish you all Happy Buddh Purnima …may Buddha enlighten our life with peace and love!

Missing Mixed Namkeen….and the mixed lovely neighbourhood of Simla of the Sixties

The Mixed Namkeen….the mixed lovely neighbourhood of Simla of the Sixties
Sometimes, Amma would send me to get Daal-seviyaan from a shop between lower bazaar tunnel and the stairs to Nai Factory. It would be, invariably,  when some guests would come and Amma wanted to serve chatpati Daal seviyaan in the small white china clay plate. We always called it Daal seviyaan and never Daal bhujia!!

I would be so happy. How excitedly I would reach the shop, in a jiffy, with a few coins in my hand, perhaps four chawannis or two athaanis or a two-rupee note!!

This shop, with big thaals placed in an ascending order so that one could watch all the different types of fried channa daal, seviyaan, fried moongfali daana, fried moong, was a universe of its own kind. It had everything! The pride of place would be ” kooje wali mishri” perched atop all the displayed varieties of mixed Namkeen. There were different varieties of Gachhaks as well…. So many….of them!
That shopkeeper would sit on a small space surrounded with all these items kept in front and to his left. The one big thaal would have all these items in different peace meal segments….elongated and triangular in shape  ….converging at the top. And when I would give him the money….the magic would start. He would scoop a little of channa daal, a little of seviyaan, very little of fried moongfali daana and some other tit-bits. How would I  pray and wish, in my small little heart, fir him to be liberal whole scooping moongfali daana!! He had a very small taraaju with him and the weights, too, were very delicate….. Perhaps in the denomination 50 gms. or 100 gms. and if I remember correctly he had few stone to be used as weights as well for 25 gms. ….   He would weigh the mixture on that small tarajoo and very deftly would transfer the mixture to a paper cone. Now making of this paper cone was such a tricky thing but he mad it do deftly…. He would make a cone out of a paper taken fron an old copy, role it with putting one hand inside it, and folding the tiny point neatly. Putti g all the mixture in that cone….he would add all those spices, one by one, just a small pinch of each.  These spices would be which would occupy the wonderful place of pride in his shop… neatly displayed near his seating space. The last touch of the magical mixture would be squeezing a few drops of lemon juice from a half cut lemon waiting to be squeezed!!
He would very lovingly fold the protruded corners of the cone, securing it tightly and hand it over in my small hand. … I would run back with that precious bundle of magic in my hands.

And before I forget let me share how greedily but patiently we would wait….eying, from behind the curtain, the white plate with colorful spread of those beauties….and watching with horror the guests picking up the best of the pieces. We would be wishing for them to leave and would pounce upon the plate even when the visitors had put only one foot out of the door! We were really bhukkhad but what a joy it was. I pity my grandkids for missing this joy when each one of them would have their own Haldiram’s Bhujia packet in the hands. How would they learn all those beautiful lessons of life that we learnt in the alleys of Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties!!! I wish I could let them experience the joy of watching the magic of real Daal seviyaans in that little shop.

I would admire each and everything in his shop… I couldn’t understand how did he prepare all those things all by himself …how could he manage to display all those items in such beautiful manner where each item, even when being part of the whole, would maintain it’s individual identity… And how did he know that the real taste of Daal seviyaan would be when each of the ingredient would be mixed properly! 
That was just like our Simla of the yore …Simla of the Sixties where all people lived together but at the same time maintained their individual identity….so many alleys, so many neighbourhoods but for the real savouring of the soul of Simla we amalgamated like the mixed namkeen to relish magic of real Simla…in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties!!