Morning Sojourn of a small girl in Simla of 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.

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