Mindboggling Excursions of Body, Mind and Tongue…Simla in the Sixties

Mindboggling Excursions of Body, Mind and Tongue…Simla in the Sixties

Whenever Amma would ask us to go to the office of Bauji for some errand…I would be the one to jump with excitement, like a student who raises his hand in the class when he opts to answer a question. And straight would I run up the stairs which were steepest at the uppermost end. Perhaps it had an anology for all of us to learn from that the last flight to the success is the steepest, but such ideas would never come to my mind at that point in time. There was a green wooden divider in the middle of this upper portion of the stairs but having strong and sturdy legs who would need it, at least not I. Crossing the breadth of the Mall, definitely, would be a challenging task but once accomplished, I would be the queen of my own magic world, weaving dreams on the next flight of stairs, watching people and show-windows from the stairs. After enjoying a short spin in my dream world, I would turn right to the Post office, the magnificent Royal green colored Post office, which was once a second home to me. Everyone knew me there. I had an identity. I didn’t even know at that time what it is to have an identity, but whatever it was, I had it. I was Rana Ji’s daughter…or perhaps they might say behind my back, a vagabound child, always on a move! But who cared if you never came across such a comment!

I would be let in, through the huge door with big glass panes…the glass panes had a watermark of British Empire, inbuilt in it. I would watch it with disdain!! I hated that watermark and my mind would think of the story where the slaves bought in a market would be marked by hot iron rods to ensure who they belonged to. I would have the same feeling. Why do we have this glass pane with a watermark of the British Empire? Then shrugging off my frail shoulders, I would move ahead where Bauji would be busy in his work. I would convey the message of Amma and would wait till my customary bakhsheesh was not handed over to me. It would be 5 paise usually or 10 paise when I would be luckier and Bauji in his better mood. The strong-room of the Post office where sometimes Bauji would be working, had big sturdy iron rods around it making it look like a jail. My little mind would weave stories about it that perhaps this was a dungeon in the era of the British where they kept the bravest Indians, who raised a voice against them. I would be afraid of the entire place. It would seem so suffocating to me.  My little palm would be exerting pressure to hold the coin tightly and the lower limbs would be in ready-steady-go mode to run out of the imposing interior arrangement. Even the Khaki uniform of the postmen would remind me of the policemen on duty! And I would literally run out as soon as possible to the fresh air of the outside world…and fresher dreams!

Would jump down the stairs like a hill goat, taking two steps at a time…The flight down the stiars would be a breeze..sometimes, I would glide down from the green wooden railing much to the amusement of the onlookers but who cared as long as they would not report it to Amma.  Once I reached the stairs that led to our home, looking stealthily towards the window, I would straightway head still downwards to Nathu Halwai shop if I had 10 paise in my coin.  Else to the Bhujju, a short combination for Bhaiyya and ji,  the nearby shop of aam-papad, candies and groundnuts etc. . Five paisa would get me anything in a paper pudia and 10 paisa would get me a piece of Burfi from the Nathu Halwai!!! I learnt financial management based on the resources much early in my life!! The paper used to wrap burfi piece or the aam-papad would come as a bonus as I would read it word by word till it would go to the drain or the angitthee!

And feeding both my mind and tummy, I would be back to my cocoon, in the safe haven of my home…till another excursion of both body and mind!!!

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