Bong Influence while growing up in Simla of the Sixties
Chandra, my best friend, my “Pucci saheli”, in school, college and even thereafter, is a Bengali girl.
A petite, dusky complexioned beautiful girl, both inside and outside. The girl with black wavy hair on her, flattened from behind head as compared to the longish heads of the Pahari girls, made her intriguing to begin with. Whenever she would dress her hair in two ponytails, we, the girls of the class, would touch her head from behind to feel how flattened it was, much to her embarrassment and to our admiration. She started keeping her hair loose to avoid it. And what waves she had in her tresses….like old film heroines of the Fifties!!!
But above all it was the gray matter inside her head that I would wonder at!!!
Both of us would vie with each other for the first position in the class but despite that we were the best of the friends. As for me I was certain it was because if the Rohu fish that she ate…especially the head of Rohu fish. And frying any fish in our house in Lower Bazaar was well neigh impossible.
Then I would think that perhaps it is something to do with her flattened head at the back side which makes her do intelligent. I asked Amma why my head not flattened from the back and her logic was to that she made her infants lie sideways, moving sides always, which made the heads round but never flat.
But I wanted a flat head!!!
Or perhaps it was something to do with her spectacles which not only gave her studious looks but made her studious s well… I wanted so much to have spectacles….would stand outside the show-window of D.K. Vohra medical store or sometimes the Bhatt opticians or even Manchanda’s to imagine myself in diverse spectacle frames. Bt Amma would not hear of my falling eyesight, though I created so much fuss!!!
Not to be corrected, ubdetteted, I kept my spirits high and thought of getting my eye sight checked. But as Amma would not hear of it, without telling anyone at home, I went to Snowdon hospital, all alone, in my “ghar wale kapde” to get my eyes tested. I was determined that once I would show the doctor’s slip to Amma, she would get me the spectacles!!! I imagined myself in glasses and how studious I would look….
But all my excitement sitting on the stool before the testing post, came shattering down when the opthalmogist asked me, “Do you know reading?”
My plain looks and still plainer clothes, and above all unescorted by any elderly person, must have made him think that some vagabond had come for getting her eyesight checked.
I nodded my head with tears in my eyes blurring my eyes and could not read the alphabets clearly.
Though I walked home with a prescription with some number mention therein for my weak eyesight but I didn’t tell anyone that paper. And I am thankful to that Opthalmogist as today when I am about to turn Sixty-five years young…I still don’t use any glasses!!!
I remained without glasses but we still would aspire for he first position in the class. In class eighth Chandra toped the class and I was having the second position but in class tenth I topped and she was second in the class.
Thise were the days when competitions were healthy and we still would be the best of the friends sharing everything and revelling in each other’s achievements.
As she lived very near to the Lady Irwin School…many of us would walk to her home during recess. Her father was priest at Kali Bari temple so Chandra’s home was just above St. Mark’s Church and below the Kali Bari temple. And our classes were held in the St. Mark’s Church so walking a few steps above we would go to her home during recess. The hidden agenda would be to get some story book which she had in abundance and some piece of sweets, which, too, was invariable served to us….
And we would run back to the class of Mrs. Bhaskar with our head full of some story and the tongue still snacking the taste of Bong sweets!!!
So it was but natural that during my growing up years Bong culture, traditions and practices became a part of my life without any conscious effort and all credit goes to my friend Chandra!!!
I hope she reads it….