Diwali Celebrations with green “Whitewashing” in Simla of the Sixties
The “home” we are constructing at Palampur is at the stage of painting…and the contractors come with budget estimates and plans running wildly to figures making my old sunken eyes widen out of their sockets!
And I thought of the simplicity and joy of colouring the walls of our Simla home with green distemper….the first ever colour that must have turned our neighbours green with envy as it was white lime which adorned our walls so proudly till them. And how happy we were with these simple colours of life!!!
Before Diwali all homes in the neighbourhood would get a facelift in the form of whitewashings…how the whole neighbourhood will run amuck with lime mixture, the desi, ingeniously made paint brush, the Kuchee, and the indomitable spirit to paint the town…oops…home red….oh… green!!!
We had had white walls at our home which started looking so dull and drab to us the moment we became conscious of the home we lived in. by we I mean my sister and I. The Lohe wali shop, the first one on the Nathu Halwai stairs, had kept in big sacks lime powder, yellow clay , a few kuchees and something called “shalesh” which was a bonding agent! So every household when it would decide to give a facelift to their home, would buy these very basic things from the nearest shop. Amma would dissolve lime in a bucket which was specifically used for such a purpose….I would watch mesmerized as the bubbles would rise up the bucket when the lime would come in contact with water. The Kutchee, too, would be put in water with its bristles submerged to soften them. Then Bauji would, with the big stone battu of the sil, hammer the bristles to soften them so that it would smear the walls without leaving any marks of scratches! And on a bright October Sunday, the project whitewashing would give our walls a facelift, Bauji would have arranged for just one single person to help in whitewashing as we all would be putting our best in the project whitewashing. Amma would add “neel” the same that she used to whiten Bauji’s white shirts, to make our walls whiter than the neighbour’s walls!!!
But somewhere in the Sixties, the market was abuzz with Distembers…one kg packing of miraculous colors which would make any walls colourful and neighbour green with envy! It was a light shade of green which was a popular colour at that time and how we clamoured to have green distempered walls!!!
Before that it was white for the main walls and yellow for the kitchen walls where Amma would use the leftover material to give a new coating whenever she wanted…but no green in our home! On our consistent persistence Bauji agreed for the green distempered walls….what excitement it was to buy the 1 Kg packs of distemper than to get the white lime by weight! The green distemper was immersed in water…some adhesive agent,,,shalesh, too, was added to provide more bonding strength to the distemper and Lo the walls were painted green!!! How excited we were….whole of the neighbourhood was excited!!!
LIttle did I know at that time how dark shades make interiors look smaller and our small house must have given a smaller look but who cared for these colouring rules so long as the walls had distemper on them. Everything changed…the forty watt bulb seemed like a 25 watt bulb and the 100 watt bulb would emit light like a 60 watts bulb but the walls were green. Amma would proudly answer the queries of the neighbours on the intricacies of “whitewashing” a distemper when asked “Chuna ya distemper”!!!!
And green distemper made us experience “neighbours’ envy, owners’ pride” feeling even before Onieda came up with the catchy phrase to storm the market!