“Rango ki dukaan”….Filling life with colours in Simla of the Sixties

“Rango ki dukaan”….Filling life with colours in Simla of the Sixties

Our humble neighbourhood, in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar, resonated with colours of life… And how wonderful it was to have the Jain family living a flight of stairs above….the family that filled colours in the life of entire Simla wallahs! I believe it was the only shop in Simla that catered to dyes for cotton, silk or woollen clothes. The Dyers and Dry cleaner shops must be getting their supply from this shop for all their use. But for the humble residents of Lower Bazaar mohallas it was getting any colour for as less as ten paisa, neatly wrapped in a paper pudia. For me it was just like a “Jadoo ki pudia”!

The shop is still there but some years ago when I visited….there were no colours and dyes,! Jain uncle was not there anymore and neither were those colours…the magic colours!
Jain uncle was a fair, slim and bespectacled man who would man his shop so religiously. The shop was next to the famous panwallah shop near the Lower Bazaar tunnel….exactly at the road bifurcating towards Ram Bazaar.

When Amma would send me to fetch a dye…red, green or orange….I would hand over 10 paisa coin in his hands and he would fetch a box out of myriad coloured boxes kept on the racks lining the entire wall of his shop.  I would wonder how does he remember which colour is kept in which box… All looked similar to me!
With a small spoon he would put a bit of colour on a small piece of paper and wrap it up very deftly.

With the dye in my small palm…I would run back and wait for Amma to start the “operation dye”!! Sometimes it would be for dying a matching dupatta, sometimes to colour a faded cotton salwar suit or a pure wool cardigan, still strong but having list its shine! Dying of woollen goods was very tricky as Jain uncle would give a little of “Tejaab”, which I later learnt to be sulphuric acid, in a small glass bottle. It had to be added to the water wherein colour had been added! Amma would never trust me with carrying acid and would go herself to the shop for this special requirement.

Although at personal level dying a dupatta or a suit was not much of an issue except the excitement it generated when dipped in coloured hot water…. stirring vigorously with a wooden stick, all the time!  But we all, sitting around the Angithee, on which the pot of boiling water would be simmering, would wait with hope…hope of a colour to fill the dull and drab cloth simmering inside! Hope sustained our curiosity and wait of a brighter dupatta!

But whenever there would be a marriage in the neighbourhood…. this process would attain community involvement. Malmal Pagrees would be dyed in rose pink colours….no readymade head gears for the baratees!

Maulis, the red auspicious threads,  would be brought from Sunder Pansari….plain white…and coloured red…bright red….as an auspicious beginning of the ritual of coloring… Kuchha yellow would be the colour of dhoti for the bridegroom!!

I would wait for women to finish with the “Operation Dying” and would soak my doll’s dresses in still lukewarm water… Marriage of dolls also had to follow these rituals!

All the women would ding geets while indulging in ritual of “Rangpass” ….  which loosely translated would mean “permeated in colour”….the first auspicious ceremony for a marriage ritual. The beginning of a new life….the beginning was not easy….one had to go through boiling water to get the best hues of colours… Just like the real life!

The Jain’s had a small store in the mohalla and whenever it would be unlocked…I would sneak around to have a peep inside the dark windowless store.  This store always intrigued me….I would wonder how big it must be but it was smsllery small but full of cartons! Big…very big wooden cartons, all full of colours, would be lying around, one over the other…cartons full of big packs of colours…in vibrant hues and shades! Cartons having so much of colour that it would be sufficient for whole of Simla to bathe in happy colours of life.

Is it not just like our life these days…dark and gloomy on the surface but colours of life hidden inside the hard exteriors… the big boxes, we call homes!
The colours of life have to be searched for, opened…stirred in our life…..to add vibrancy and energy…. much needed at this hour of life! Let’s colour the world in colours of love, happiness and above all hope!
Hope for a better tomorrow!

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