My little one is a big one now…

Happy Birthday my child!

When I look at this picture, I find that you are a big girl now but whenever I think of you, I think of you as a small girl, still vulnerable and  needing my protective hug. It is my emotional side that wants to see you as a small girl who would come to me for small favours and I would be happy playing a mother who was capable of providing you all that support. Remember the Big Banyan episode when you were angry for I being overprotective for you and thus hampering your growth? I could not understand even at that time that your wings were strong and you were capable of flying up in the sky, only the horizon was your limit. But does horizon has any limit?

I look around at the scattered papers and from somewhere I find your name written in bold prominent letters and BTW written underneath, everywhere you wrote your name. I could never understand your ardent wish to fly and spread your wings to their fullest. I was afraid, afraid that you may not get yourself hurt in the process, you may not know of the hurdles in the dark waiting to stop you.

I look at all those pictures that you display on FB, perhaps when you need to say something to me, but you want me to decipher the meaning through pictures. The same old way when you would hide little notes in your small hand in different places and you would watch when would I find them. Old habits die hard, now you do the same with the pictures, bring them out from some forgotten folder of your computer and display on FB tagging me to them!

I watch them and a surge of emotions overwhelms my entire being, how I wish to hold you close to my bosom at that time. But harsh reality strikes me when I realize that you are miles away and are a big girl now. Perhaps you may feel awkward if I hug you so close to my bosom now!

Watching this picture that you put on FB, I thought of the Diwali day when you made me prepare this saree. I remember how excited I was when both of us prepared these sarees and in the evening put these on. You made me feel like a small girl! But the picture shows you as a big girl that you are. I can see in the picture that you are so sure of yourself, your wings are strong, your eyes have dreams of soaring in the sky!

I am happy watching you soar the sky as I know, have always known, but never confessed it to myself that you are, surely, born to win! BTW, the signature line of your name which became as prominent as you are!

Love you little one and wish you a very happy Birthday!

Amen

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Nani ki Kahani for my dear Aarush…..!

Dear Aarush,

Today when you start your school, today when you, for the first time in your life, go to school, your Nani sitting thousands of miles away from you, prays to Maa Saraswati to bestow her blessings to you. Today when in school your teacher would talk to you, or ask you to do certain acts, I am afraid how you would react. I am a little worried. And rightly so as I am told that the school you would be going to has French as the only language of instruction. Had it been English, I would have been less worried but French! I don’t know how would you react or worse you may keep quiet and look around bewildered with your black button like eyes. Your mind would have a lots to say but your tongue would not be able to put all your thought to words. One reason, I am told, is that you still don’t speak very clearly and the second and the most obvious is that how would be communicate in French? Your mind would be at its best tomorrow at your school whereas your speech would be withheld as you would not be able to communicate, at least in French! J

Had I been there with you, I would have caught hold of you and lovingly hold you closer in my arms, make you sit in my lap and shared a story with you. I am not near you but would still love to share with you from Hindu mythology. I am writing this story for you with a hope in heart that your Maa would read it to you.

The story is the tussle between who is stronger of the two—speech or mind? Speech that we call Vac felt proud of the fact that she is all powerful as it is she who can communicate thoughts to anyone. On the other hand Mind said that unless it thought and had ideas what the tongue would have to communicate. Both of them had lots of arguments but could not come to any conclusion. At last both of them decided to go to Prajapat that is Brahma. After listening to both of them Brahma decided that Mind was much superior to speech and said to speech, ”Mind is no doubt superior to you as you are merely an imitator and a follower of the deeds of Mind.” Speech was so dismayed at Brahma that she decided that never would she be felicitator when oblations to God Brahma would be uttered. And this is the reason that while offerings are made to Brahma, they are never voiced aloud!

So my dear Aarush, you have to strike a balance between Mind and speech. And I am sure that after some time when you learn to use French language, your thoughts ideas would be communicated through speech. But by that time, I am very sure, you would learn to watch critically the body language and the facial expressions of the people around you and this will teach you lot more that speech! You would learn to peep inside the mind of people around you which they cannot hide, even if they want to, as their body and face give all out. You would learn a great lesson of life my dear!

May goddess Saraswati be merciful to you and may my child your mind learns to think positively for the good of everyone around. May you, like the first ray of Sun that your name is, be Aarush in the real sense.

May you enlighten our lives and that of the people around you with your Mind and speech!

Shrikhand Mahadev Kailash Yatra——–Part I

The Prologue: A call to ShrikhandYear 2011

It was the year 2011 when I saw a poster of Shrikhand Mahadev. I had gone to the market and somewhere at a prominently visible landmark, I saw it. I was hooked. All that I had read in the book Blink worked for me. I knew this was the place I wanted to go. Where this place was, what all this place was all about seemed irrelevant to me at that point in time. So novice I was that I was stupid enough to think that you have to scale this mountain and reach the top! I had fallen in love with the place!

Subsequent inquiries and search on the NET made me aware of the rugged and difficult level of the terrain that you have to traverse to reach at the foot of the rock which signifies the all powerful Shiva!

This was a time when I was restless on account of so many not-so-good things taking place in my life and perhaps running away to a secluded place, even if for some days, was the driving force behind my stubborn decision to go visiting Shrikhand Mahadev.

My brother, ten years younger to me, reacted with disbelief when I shared my dream with him, I had thought that he would help me plan the visit but all that he said was, “Are you mad?” and further added, “one of my friends told me how someone fell before his eyes and he could do nothing to save him.” He dissuaded me and my resolve to go to Shrikhand in the year 2011 met with an opposition from all quarters! In fact, I was relying on my brother to help me plan the visit but no such luck. By the time the scheduled yatra time was over and I was left with mo option but to drop the idea.

But Shrikhand never got off my mind and I would often think of the magnificent rock that stood like a crown in the great Himalayan ranges.

Year 2012

Once again I saw the same poster and read about the details of the pilgrimage. This year I had done my home work quietly! I knew that I had to be in good physical shape to take this arduous trekking so I had taken to getting up at 5 a.m. and going to the sports ground and jog for 3 kms.! In the evening I would, once again, go to the ground and again take five rounds of the field without break. I was trying to develop stamina which I needed badly during the ensuing trip. When others would inquire why had I taken to this strenuous regimen, I would laugh away their comments saying, “I am preparing myself for Shrikhand trek!” And soon, very soon, it became the talk of the campus that I was planning to trek to Shrikhand though at home no one had any idea about what I had in mind.

As soon as the date for the trek was announced, I made my announcement at home to my dear KS, “I would be going to Shrikhand!” Knowing well how smitten I was with Shrikhand, KS started planning the trip. We both complement each other. I go by heart and he goes by mind. I am emotional but he is rational. He thought about all that this trip would entail and started thinking and planning rationally. The toughest part was to keep it a secret from our kids who would be acting like “parents” to stop me from taking this trip!:) I would act very normal while chatting with my kids and would hide all my paraphernalia if it was a web-chat so that none of my kids could notice the raincoat, jacket, torch etc. haphazardly lying in a heap behind me. I would not have been in a position to answer their poking questions. God what eagle-eyed they were so I would hide everything before I would start web-chat! But my Little one could sense something and was very inquisitive, Somehow we kept it all a well hidden secret.

I wanted to surprise everyone. I wanted to prove my mettle and let them know only when the desired was done. I was mad, totally mad. It was adrenalin rushing in my body that made me so excited. But the good part was that instead of hopping in a bus for Rampur, I had my husband with me to plan the trip!

I started preparing on my own about the essential paraphernalia that I would be needing for the trip whereas KS started preparing for how to reach the destination! We were at Hamirpur. We had to reach Rampur. There were two ways to reach Rampur–one was via Shimla and the other was via Mandi Karsog! We decided to take the Karsog route.

I was excited, rather it would be an understatement to say that I was excited. I was euphoric!

But during all this excitement I had taken special care not to reveal a word about it to my brothers as  I knew that both of them would dissuade me, once again, from taking the trip, With all the preparation finalized both of us one fine day left for Sundernagar en-route to Shrikhand!

…..to be continued.

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Shrikhand Mahadev: The countdown begins…

Saturday, 14July, 2012

It ia rightly said that only those who are ordained can pay a visit to Shrikhand Mahadev!  16,900ft altitude and some 35 Kms from the last motorable point. This year my plans are almost ready. Today by afternoon we would be off to Sundernagar where we plan to stay for the night. In the morning we plan to get a bus at 5 a.m. for Jeori.

I am still dazzled and a bit bewildered by all that I am going to experience  in the next week. But right now I am digging into cupboards, trunks and what not to find all that I need. I have some woolens, cap, shawl, raincoat, hand-stick, torch, some medicines, matchbox, dhoop, kumkum, roli, readily heaped on my bed. Now is the time for a judicious selection. What is very essential and what I can live without as I am told that it is one such trek where just one gram of luggage seems like a Quirinal!

My raincoat is bit very long. Though it covers whole of the body but the question would it not be an hinderance when i would be climbing a rocky trek inclined at 70-80Degree inclinations haunts me.  I want to travel very light but in that would I be leaving behind some very essential things. I am not carrying a change of clothes for the trek but what if it rains heavily and I am drenched in rain?

Should I carry a jacket. a quilted one to drive away biting chill or would it hamper my walking during the day? Questions, questions and more questions assail me and I keep heaping everything that comes to my mind on the bed. I would shortlist the final packing material at the last moment keeping it view how much of the weight can  I carry.

Then there is a packet containing eatables. Chocolates, dry fruits, peanuts, glucose packets that are utmost in my to-carry list. I know there would be some bhandaras on the way but some eatables to sustain you during the walking period are a must.

This is one trek where you have to depend upon your own strength.  So I am waiting for two things–one is to test my physical stamina and the other which is more important is to experience a blissful peace and solitude when  i would be on my own, really much away from the maddening crowds.

I had a good laugh yesterday while suddenly I was plagued with a weird thought–would there be any other women around? And immediately I had a thought why and since when had I started to think like a woman? Another thought which came to my mind–would there be people of my age? I would be 56 in August and by any standard, I am an old woman and at an age where my movement must be restricted because of frailty and age! And the fact that there is no male to chaperon me is another fact that came to my mind. I laughed away my worries and it seems as if I have started having all that introspection with the self that I am looking forward to during this trip.

I am looking forward to a dialogue with the self which, if at all it can take place,  can take place when I would be alone with myself. Perhaps these four days would rejuvenate my spiritual and mental being more than my physical self. Perhaps this, perhaps that–I am bewildered, confused, excited and a bit worried as well.

On my return I would write everything about this wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience and till then adieu!

Rain retrieves remembrances….

It rained today. A much awaited rain it was. The fragrance emitting from the parched earth when rain drops touched it refreshed not only our soul but also refreshed many memories. Surprisingly all these memories take me back to my childhood. And the smell of frying pakoras emanating from the kitchen of my Amma still fills my nostrils with a never-ending desire to have more and more of crispy golden pakoras with chutney! Electric Mixers and grinders were unheard of during those days and it was the ever faithful Kundi-danda that did the trick of transforming green mint and coriander leaves, along with other spices,  into  smooth  chatni.

Perhaps Amma wanted to restrict us to our small little home by alluring us to lip smacking eatables. With a life bereft of TV, video games, computers or in short all those screens that keep modern kids immersed in their own little world, outside world held greater charm to us. And we would run out of our safe home to explore the outside world. I learnt to enjoy and appreciate little joys of life that didn’t cost a penny but have become a source of happiness to me even today.

Today when I came out in the verandah to enjoy the rains, I was hooked to the sight of raindrops glistening like pearls on the green leaves. Watching the dazzling water drops I was transported to the world of my childhood when we would see the same magical diamonds on green leaves wandering around Shimla green areas.

The Sanp ki Buti would fascinate and terrorize us at the same time. Its proud green hood like a serpent would make us shiver but the water droplets shining on its bright green surface would dazzle us. We would go near it with a trembling heart. afraid that a snake may not be lying hidden nearby, but there would be no snake around. And the child who would go and touch those deadly beautiful saanp-ki-buti would be acclaimed a brave-heart!

I moved close to the ornamental plant whose leaves had retained the dazzling water droplets on it and lovingly touched the water! Instinctively, I moved away, watching around for a snake lying hidden nearby and realized I was much away, in time and space,  from my childhood.

The fist splash of rain in Hamirpur had retrieved many remembrances of my childhood which belong to a period of golden past!

It is great to be a Nani…

Three years ago, almost at the same time early in the morning, as the first rays of Sun lightened up the small hospital room in Hamirpur,  you arrived to brighten our life! You are rightly named Aarush—the first ray of the Sun!

I became a Nani. Before this day the word Nani would connote to me the feeling of warmth, protection, story-telling and love. And when I became a Nani myself I could feel a great responsibility on my shoulders as you, too, would expect the same from me,  I wanted to prepare myself for being a Nani to you, the real Nani.

You made me feel old. Suddenly, I became what a Nani has to be–old and wrinkled. Rather it was not that you made me feel old, it were the people around me that made me feel old. “Oh, now you are a Nani!” they would say and give a second appraising look which said  what they would not otherwise say. The words that they left unsaid, and the words that I made myself to believe that they never intended to say, were spoken by my own daughter. “Why do you still color your hair?” and would add emphatically, “now that you are a Nani!”

I started feeling old! I would watch critically at my clothes, and would ask myself, “Is it the right dress for a Nani?” I would not walk briskly as was my brand style but would walk slowly the way a Nani must walk as Nanis are supposed to be old and frail not young and strong! 🙂

But whatever changes I thought of bringing in my personality, I would be asking myself what kind of Nani would you have loved? Young and strong or old and weak, You are not having any clear cut ideas on your choice of a Nani and you have got a Nani that you are bound to love and accept and this Nani is young and strong.

I feel great to be a Nani. I love it to be a great looking Nani. One who walks briskly, one who jogs 3-4 Kms every morning, one who wears what she loves to put on. You cannot tell me whether you like to have this Nani or the stereotyped Nani but I am sure if you could tell me you would have love your Nani the way she is,

You have made me a different person. I love your antics, your moods and your twinkling eyes that speak volumes about your feelings. Your non-stop blabbers humor me!

I want to tell you stories–stories of my life, my times and even much old times!

I would leave behind stories for you that you might read one day and say, “I love you Nani!”

Happy Birthday dear Aarush!

Lady Irwin School Shimla: Today’s Dayanand Public School

Whenever I pass through the Mall near State Bank of India and look fondly at Hotel Dalziel, I am transported to a different era, the days of my childhood, when I was admitted to Lady Irwin Girls Higher Secondary School known these days as Dayanand Public School. I stand a while and relive many of the glorious and not-so-glorious moments of my school days. I remember my teachers and owe them a silent thanks for making me what I am today–a non conformist and a rebel for a cause! I need to pay my homage to all those people and places that helped me develop a character and an attitude!

Simla, March, 1961                 My School Days

I was perhaps four years  old when my Amma decided that it was time for me to go to school. I had recouped from leg fracture and had a strong hind limbs courtesy the oil massage that Bauji would do to my legs in the evening, Perhaps Amma’s recipe of giving a little of mixed in milk also had done wonders to give strength to my bones. Two months stay in the Snowdown hospital known today as IGMC Shimla had given enough rest to my body, especially legs! Whatever the curative treatment may have been but when I was able to walk properly, after my plaster was removed and the doctor pronounced me hale and hearty,  Amma and Bauji wanted to send me to school , and why won’t they decide to send me to a school where my elder sister was already studying.

Looking back I can see that  perhaps  Amma was overtired by my incessant demand for stories and an urge to know more a la, “keh maa ek Kahani..Raja tha ya Rani…” Perhaps exasperated with my curiosity to know more and more about anything and everything tired the lady more than the household work would do and it was a wise decision on their part to send me to a school. Stories kept me hooked to the house otherwise, as Amma would tell me later on, I was more of a vagabond child, always on a look out for more adventurous expeditions in and around our neighbourhood.

Story telling which started as way to hook me to the periphery of my small house became a addiction for me and pain in the head for my Amma! Thankfully I had become considerably notorious for my adventure of taking a jump from the second storey of the house, landing straight down in front of a shop that everybody knew me for good or bad reasons. This made my Amma carefree that I would lost myself in and around my house. I was a known figure, the girl who jumped to fame! Looking back I can see clearly that my jumping from a window, a feat that no other child could undertake in my mohalla, had given me advantage over other children for whom I was courage and bravery personified, a girl like Jhansi ki Rani in valour! Those were the days when if you were good you were compared to great National figures and if you were bad you were derided and compared to the Angrez Saabs, cruel and manipulative. Luckily for me I had come to share dias with the known Indian figures and that, for a while, made me a heroine, though dark in complexion. I was truly an Indian heroin!

It was in the month of March when admissions in schools take place in Simla and I was taken to Lady Irwin Girls’ High School where my elder sister would give me company or competition. But this time I was the one who came with added qualification tagged to her name. “This is girl who jumped from the window!” Teachers familiar with my Amma would ask her, eying me with a bewildered look. I thought them to be admiring my courage and would give them a broad smile whereas my Amma thought them to be sneering at my foolish act. My Amma was afraid that I may not be denied admission on the ground that who would handle a girl who had bad precedents attached to her name! Amma displayed my saleability by telling the teacher, “she knows all the alphabets A, B, C …. and one, two, three till hundred,” and added gleefully, “she can even add and subtract and knows tables also!” The teacher was a wise one and after asking me some questions about what my Amma had claimed my knowledge base to be, she talked to my Amma in a friendly manner, “Why you want to get her admitted to nursery class when she already knows so much.” Amma felt bewildered and thought that it must be an intelligent way to decline admission ot her truant daughter whose anecdotes had already made rounds of the school! But the teacher was genuine in her concerns and suggested, “Why don’t you admit her in K.G  class straight way, she will save a year.” Amma was happy, very happy and in her happiness she never noticed that I was, once again, deprived of the pleasure of being in nursery class of Lady Irwin School. My sister had talked so much about that room which housed the nursery class that I wanted so much to be inside that room. It was a spacious room, just opposite to the Principal’s room. The room had a big window or perhaps it was a big door with big window panes opening to a small area where the other door opened to the main part of the building. The window panes to the nursery area had white net curtains and inside was a dream world that any child of my age would love to enter. Groups of four small wooden colourful chairs around a small table, kept at some distance would made the class of nursery stand apart from all other classes. For a child like me who had come from a tiny small house in Lower bazaar, where we didn’t have one single chair in our small holding, sitting on such chairs was nothing less than occupying Viceregal chair! It was a life that I had dreamt about all the while, perhaps it was the only temptation that school life held for me. And what to say of toys that lay scattered on the carpet covered floor of the nursery class—they were just wonderful! Toys the like of whom I had seen displayed in the show window of Janki Dass and Company’s shop.

Amma was so biased towards me, so prejudiced that she would do anything to deprive me of what I had dreamed of all the time ever since my sister had described this new world to me! “She doesn’t love me,” I rued! I was angry, almost in tears that I would not be able to sit and enjoy a world that signified to me the world of Angrez Sahibs! Why this partiality? Perhaps all this may not make any sense to a reader today but I am talking about an era when Kursi or a chair was always associated with Angrez Saab! Many a times, I had heard a sarcastic remark in almost all the households of our neighbourhood, “You want a chair, are you a Laat Saab?” There was a strong connection between chair and a Laat Saab and here my Amma had deprived me of a chance to sit on chair, be it nursery chairs!

My tears dried in my eyes and no one noticed them. One noticed tears when they came out from green coloured eyes and find their way down through rosy white cheeks but who cares when the tears wet a dark hollow cheek. Prehaps my hollow cheeks had absorbed my tears! Amma was happy that not only she would be able to save a year’s tuition fee but her daughter would complete her class tenth at a very young age. She was just ecstatic as she would have something great to share with my Bauji when he would come in the evening from the office. And nursery fees was more as compared to the fee that one had to pay for K.G. class. But K G. Class had desks and benches that one shared with other students and not individual chairs that one occupied majestically in nursery class. But who cared for what a small girl had dreamed of and was looking forward to. I was admitted in K G class of Lady Irwin Girls High School, Simla!