Words and Myths opening up a new world in Simla in the Sixties
Bauji introduced me to “words”….and how grateful I am to him for teaching me to dream and be a part of an imaginative world, beyond the boundaries of the small house in the Lower bazaar. It started with stories he would tell us in his own inmitable way…while my sister and I would listen to him with rapt attention. I don’t remember Bauji having much social life so he would devote quality time with us. Every evening, all of us, would go for long evening walks when he would tell us stories about Simla. He had a story related to every single building. A pity that I can’t recollect much of it.
I remember touching the stones on the high walls of Oakover. The chilly and cold, tunnel like, stretch of the Mall, the Khyber Pass, would make me hold Bauji’s hand closely. I would imagine how Maharaja of Patiala would live there with his retinue of queens and imagine all kind stories about his misadventures. Romantic and deadly all those stories were for me.
The highest point at the wall would make me think of the story of the princess, Rapunzel, with long red hair who would let her hair down to make the prince climb up. And I would think of someone up there who would use that charm to let her dream prince come in as had not the King forcibly kept some beauties there?
Now these stories of Cindrella, Snow-white and Rapunzel were introduced to me by Chandra… She had beautiful fairy tale books… When you opened the page..whole of the castle with the princess would come out of the two card like thick pages having colourful pictorial depiction of the story. It was nothing less than a magic to me. How greedily would I glance at and touch those projected pictures. I don’t know whether the generation Z kids have all this pleasure.
And while walking past Bindra studio with images of fair mem-sahibs fresh in my mind, we would reach Oakover, the princesses would turn into forcibly held captives over the high walls lining the Khyber Pass. And I would weave all those stories in my mind.
Then thete were the beautiful, full figured, damsels of the Chandamama stories whose conduct and moral values I would so appreciate. Be it a Tillotma or a Vaijayanti or a plain houseeife!!!
And then the stories of the valour of Rajput princesses would crop in my mind….stories from the “Rajput Veerangnaaye” published by Geetapress Gorakhpur that Bauji had bought for us to read. The Rsjput princesses who would sacrifice their life but would not compromise on their honour. This was a hindi story book with black and white sketches of Rajput princesses in dupattas and ghagras and with a small sword at their waists. This sword would be used for self-protection when their honour was in danger.
But those women who were forcibly or otherwise taken to that royal palace, perhaps, might not have the small swords as well.
The walk from my home in Lower Bazaar to the Oakover in Simla east, while tightly holding hand of Bauji would be the most engrossing experience for me…making me weave more and more stories while watching at the damp patches, which were in abundance, on the walls of my small, cozy and safe home in Lower. Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties.
Introduction to “word” written or spoken, by Amma and Bauji, Chandamamas or Gorakhpur publications or the myths of Simla opened up to me a big open “world” that I would be a part of!!!