Tatta pani….what splendid childhood I have had in Simla of the Sixties
“We are all connected to everyone and everything in the
Therefore, everything one does as an individual affects
All thoughts, words, images, prayers, blessings, and deeds
are listened to by all that is.”
– Serge Kahili King
Looking back I am so grateful to Life for being so good to me… and whatever I experienced, it seems, looking back, could never have been any any better!! Though at that point of time, I rued it…felt miserable and much less privileged than many others I, foolishly, compared my life with! But looking back with nostalgia…..nothing could have been any better.
Amma was exasperated। We would pester her to take us anywhere during winter holidays but she had my kid brothers to take care of and wanted us to stay st Simla only. And I wanted to fly away only of I could. But where to go?
One of Amma’s distant cousin was manger at Oldage home at Basantpur. This Mama ji used to come to our home whenever he had any official work at Simla and stay with us. He had no kids of his own and lived at the old-age home along with his wife. It was, by chance, at this time when he visited Simla and I cried, wIlef, beseeching him to take me to Basantpur with him. To cut the story short we were packed and sent with Mama ji to Basantpur. As he lived in the accommodation on one side of the old-age home and had his office in the same building….it was a treasure house of information collection for me. All oldies were having separate rooms, a common kitchen with a cook and come caretakers….I would roam from one oldie to another talking to them all the time. In the office of Mama ji was small copies, each having detailed description about all available information about the old men and women. I devoured all those written accounts about each and every old person residing therein. It was the first time that this old-age home had started and the concept that old people are left amongst strangers was something very new to me. But life was not bad there.
Mama ji was extremely religious and a staunch follower of Radhasoami sect of Beas….so mornings and evenings would have Bhajan sessions with all the inmates participating. I, too, would sit patiently waiting for the prasad which would be distributed at the end!
I was waiting for him to take us to Tatta pani as he had promised us. So one fine day we started for Tatta pani. On way we stopped at Gumma where Mama ji had a friend. And as his friend, like him, was more interested in philosophical talks, I would find little interest in it. But to compensate for it we were taken around the big pumphouse where I saw huge solid pipes…and when I was told that these carry water to Simla…I felt like getting inside one and go to my Amma!! But the magic of Tatta Pani with its hot water springs was a deterant.
We relished a cup of tea at Gumma and started for Tatta Pani. What I remember is that we walked all the way to Tatta Pani because the only memory which is deeply etched in my mind is Mama ji showing across the road towards the bank of Sutlej river and exhorting us to walk a little more. But where was the choice than to follow him. So we just went on!
Radhasoami Mama ji, as we called him, was a deeply religious and spiritual man. Perhaps being childless had made him more connected to higher realms of life than the mundane ones that ordinarily followed by most of us. He had friends amongst ascetics, gurus and anyone who would indulge in any spiritual talk. Walking on a road parallel to the river and crossing over a bridge we reached at the bank of Sutlej river. There were small tents and Mama ji escorted us to one. I was so curious to go inside the dwelling place of a Sadhu. I had never seen a Sadhu’s abode from inside….suddenly all my tiredness was gone and curiosity took over me. We sat quietly alongwith Mama ji and my eyes scrutinized every nook and corner of the small space inside. There was fire burning in the middle keeping the small but warm. While both the elders immersed in talks we went outside to explore. There were small holes dug in the sand and hit water sprang out from them. We washed our hands and feet in hot water which smelt like eggs to me. It had sulphur in it, I was told later on, something very good for skin problems.
When we went back to the small hut….we were offered another glass of tea. That Sadhu had just one bowl which served him for cooking, making tea or khichidi or dalia etc… an all purpose utensil!!!!
While the baba and Mama ji were having their own little talk we were collecting beautiful round stones in the sand….the very next stone I would get ….would outsmart the earlier ones!!! Each was a small Shivalingam for me….some with two or three stripes like the holy thread around them!!
But by this time we were tired and wanted to have a round of the small market of Tatta Pani and then to get a bus to Basantpur. So finally walked to Tattapani market….and Mama ji bought us deep fried Pakoras for having walked so much…
And then back to Basantpur in a bus….amongst all the oldies who wanted to hear about what excitement we experienced in the small town.
As if this was not enough… Mama ji made us walk to Durgapur orphanage where we stayed for the night on our return journey to Simla. As he had some official work there…and the sweet pea pulao made by some young girls was the best that I ever had.
In the morning we got a bus for Simla getting off at Sanjauli and walking through Lakkad Bazaar to home! I remember buying a small blue coloured wooden toy truck for Bittu, my kid brother, paying five rupees….the five rupees that Mammi had put in my small palm when we took leave if her!! Though I was expecting ten rupees but Mami, very wisely, put five each in our hands…both my sister and I.
What a beautiful stay it had been….
In the year 2010, Sanjeev Sharma, one of my students, working as Director UNDP, India, during his visit to Simla, asked me to come with him to Tattapani. That was my last visit tothe town. Much had changed. I tried finding the small rounded stones in the sand but there were not any, anymore! While driving back we passed through that old age home while returning from Tattapani and in an impulse asked my friend to stop as I wanted to revisit my childhood. The rooms were good…the old people residing therein and when I entered a room, an old old woman folded her hands in Namaste…mistakenly taking me for some welfare department officer on inspection…. I hugged her as she started saying, “Sab achha hai!!!”
I wished ” Sab achha” and “Tagre Raho” for everyone as I, too, was approaching the age when one needs support and love…..but “Dil to bachha hai” especially in the group memories of Simla!!!