A Call from the Himalayas
A Call from the Himalayas
During a recent visit to Shimla, I was unpleasantly shocked to see a large number of vehicles parked on the road near CTO. I was shocked to learn that all these vehicles had access to the restricted roads and very proudly displayed the passes stuck on the vehicle! I couldn’t understand whether the Shimlites had lost their stamina to walk or whether the long repressed inclination of Shimlites to display their financial status had overruled their good sense to walk on the roads of Shimla!
Whatever may have been the reason, but I was much shocked to see such a great number of vehicles that the once-upon-a-time pristine and peaceful zone! The area near the CTO seemed more like a vehicle stand and less like a restricted area for vehicles that it used to be. The benches on the other side of the road were full of people, more of the younger lot than the oldies, waiting for the HRTC taxi service started specially for the senior citizens. I thought that the present youth of Shimla lag behind in stamina that young and old of my times used to have. We just used to walk and walk and enjoy every little moment of our walking.
In order to observe the change in the pedestrian’s behaviour, I needed to sit and analyze the waiting-for-the-cab group closely. I also wanted to observe the vehicles that came to the CTO and dropped their precious passengers. So I, too, took a seat on a bench and mind you, I have never had been so enlightened on the use or misuse of restricted road pass during the twenty long years having spent in Simla as I was during those twenty minutes! I watched with horror the unending flow of Government vehicles, some with red, some without, beacons halting before my eyes. If I waited for some Government officer, on official duty, to alight from the vehicle, I was sadly very mistaken as these vehicles carried the “Memsaabs” for their evening stroll on the Mall. And as parking at this point is restricted, the vehicles would go away after deporting the passenger and would come back when “M’lady” had had her evening stroll on the Mall or may a cup of her evening coffee at her favorite place! 🙂 Mind you none of the privileged passengers alighting from the Government vehicles seemed sick or unwell, they were in best of their health and appearance, rather dressed too well!
Surprisingly it was not only the Himachal Government vehicles but the Army vehicles were also not left behind in this race and I could see some proud and patriotic army vehicles carrying the “Memsaabs” and “Baba logs” to this sacred point beyond which only the VVVIPs have access! I wondered if in the last thirty years Shimla has changed so much and private and public vehicles have attained access, to this level, to restricted roads, the days are not far off when these vehicles of the rich and the influential would be parked on the Ridge itself! God save the Ridge, I prayed silently!
The Simla of yore, the my own Simla, had a sanctity towards pedestrian and was a walker’s paradise. The only vehicles that we saw plying on the roads of Simla were the ambulance, the fire brigade vehicle and the Post office van. It was only the Governor’s official vehicle that could be seen plying on these restricted roads and that too not very often. But now we have changed. Simla of my days has changed to Shimla and from a walker’s paradise it has become a motorist’s pride!
And the fact that it is our money, the hard earned money of taxpayers, that is used to maintain these roads and to spoil the environment as well, I felt so sorry. I know my lone feeble voice would be lost in the corridors of power and would remain unheard in the buzz of the vehicles but still I would go on raising my little voice till it is not muffled, albeit, by an official order!
Ah! Today when in the morning, I looked at what my Little one had to announce to the world, I was in for a big surprise! She had announced, uninhibitedly, her love for Simone de Beauvoir and her classic masterpiece “The Second Sex“. And i was suddenly reminded of my first reading of the book “The Second Sex” and identifying with much of the said and unsaid in the book. I realized after reading the book that women all over the world, of any nationality or creed, think in a similar manner. My second acquaintance with the book was when I was in Hyderabad and my daughter had bought this book and flaunted it proudly to me and her Papa. KS was a bit uncomfortable looking at the title of the book but as he had had me as his wife of a considerably long time so these kind of books no longer surprised him much! Later we read together some of the portions of the book and had discussions about it. But all this happened inside the four walls of our home! I remember discussing about more explicit emotions and feelings during some very debatable seminars but then these seminars were also held inside four walls where like-minded persons discussed such topics. But when my daughter shouted at the top of her voice on Facebook how she loved the book, my middle class sentiments came rushing to me. The dilemma, whether these sentiments were sensibilities inbuilt in my persona during my growing up years or they were the shackles that stopped me from openly endorsing certain things that I would endorse in privacy of select few, be they my family or friends, faced me! Whether I was a hypocrite or only had my real self under wraps and covers which I would reveal to select few, made me uncomfortable. What was this middle class sentiments that had raised their ugly head when I was past middle age, made me think and think hard.
I had to peep, once again, inside the dark alleys of my childhood that took me back to early sixties when I grew up in narrow alleys of Lower Bazaar Simla. Why Simla, and why not Shimla? Because this past that i refer to relates to Simla and not in Shimla. Growing up in Lower Bazaar where we lived in a small house, the first house in a narrow alley, facing stairs. Stairs in Simla have always stood for me as vehicles to reach out–sometimes to reach down and sometimes to reach up. reaching up, metaphorically and symbolically always heralded positive feelings as it meant reaching the Mall from the Lower Bazaar and for any dweller of Lower Bazaar the Mall was the ultimate in everything–even in dreams!
The Mall signified freedom, anonymity and unbridled access to a life of dreams whereas the Lower Baaar meant shackles, familiarity and the harsh realities of real life! Where boys were either brothers or cousins and boy-friends were a creed of romantics that had to be talked about in hush-hush tones. Well, today some forty year later, when I am fifty-four, I can laugh at all those things which were so dreadful to me at that point of time. In our days, only “bad’ girls had boyfriends! If a boy from some other school would know your name you would have thousands of questions to answer HOW?? If your name was mentioned on a wooden desk of a class room, be sure that you were doomed for life as the name would be etched with a blade and nothing could undo the damage to the wooden desk or to the repute of the poor girl! If some boy called aloud your name, be sure to be censured by all the so called “good” girls! The boys in love were seen only in a movies and no doubt that “Bobby” became a hit during my college days! The most romantic of the boys would follow a girl till some distance on the road leading to her home, maintaining respectable distance. And still everybody else would know what was being cooked between the two! The examples are numerous and today might seem funny belonging to a world that has long been forgotten, even by those who lived in that world.
The Mall was the only place where a boy, and that too if he was a part of a big group of boys, could follow a girl, in a group of girls, maintaining a steady distance! The only boys you talked to were your cousins or at the best your friend’s cousins! Life was interesting, very interesting! It was fun as no one would go to Facebook, the first thing in the morning, to declare his or her liking or love for a person, place or a thing!
That was surely “Love in Shimla” in the real way!
When my little one tagged me on a picture on her Facebook account, I was surprised to see a one of the pictures of our home that was taken in the year 2006! One look at the picture and so many sweet memories c ame flooding down my memory lane. All sweet memories of the happy moments having spent together, the quality time that we shared together. Today all my kids are busy in their own life but these happy memories keep us bonded together despite the distance in time and places!
I remember having seen a pillow cover with these figures at one of my colleagues home. I was so attracted towards them that I wanted to copy them anywhere on anything. So the first time I painted these little figures was on one of my Dupattas. The suit is long back discarded but I have kept the Dupatta tagged securely as one of my precious assortments. The Dupatta was done beautifully and I remember my kids weaving stories about the characters on the painted dupatta!
I remember clearly that it was during Diwali of 2005 when all Indian homes get a new look. We had a new distemper on the walls. I saw to it that we had it in earthy pale colour as the kids were planning to paint the wall this time. We had kept it secret from the maser of the house. It had to be a big surprise! So one day we bought the dry paint in rusty brown colour, a pack of favicol and some brushes. A ssoon as KS went to his office, we started with our plan. First thing was to draw a straight line so that the wall painting had some symmetry! What a tough job it was. Everytime we would draw the line and then see it from some distance, one or the other would say that the line was not straight! But later we had a consensus and a line was marked. Another one was also marked so that we had inner area marked for painting. We started drawing the figures with white chalk which was in abundant with me being a teacher!
We just modified the design the way it pleased us. I remember always adding three small figures and saying these are you three. I was so immersed in the painting that it came to represent my life surrounded by my own three kids. I would draw a mother figure and three kids around her. The little one had her own designs and she would at times tell me that I was not being very neat in painting!
We started on a very excited note but by afternoon, we were very tired. My elder daughter was constantly supplying us with hot cups of tea to keep us going. She would be asked at times to lend a little of help in painting some figures. My son, too, would help but mainly it was the little one and I who constantly went on to the end! By evening the painting seemed to come to life and it was a beauty to look at. It seemed as it whole of the room had acquired a life of its own with figures on wall.
we kept on filling whatever space on the painting area seemed blank. The pastoral life of prehistoric time came to life in the painting. i remember painting a human figure climbing a tree that my little one said looked like a monkey. The thing was that nothing could be erased once drawn, so we had to be very careful. it was creativity along with ingenuity that had its play at our home that day!
And after some eight hours of hard work, the painting was finally completed. And the master of the home had a full laugh watching the surprised transformation of a plain wall! With a horrible backache and arms ache because of continuous upward stretching of arms for long eight hours, we felt like dead horses! But the sense of having accomplished something worthwhile,working together, was heavenly. We had this wall painting till two years when the next whitewsh cleaned our wall of the precious moments of our life. Pictures of our home, with this painting on the wall, are the only memories that we have today but the memory of the happy time spent together, even today, fills our hearts with a beautiful sensation.
And we spent many a happy moments under the benevolent gaze of the figures in this painting! I am happy that my kids would carry the fragrance of the happy time having spent together. An investment that we had very wisely and lovingly made during their formative years!
Looking back and reflecting on the year 2010, that is about to become a part of history, I can say without an iota of doubt that it has taught me a great lesson. It has taught me to have faith in God, trust the basic goodness of human beings, the power of destiny, and the law of Karma. I don’t think that by any means it is a small lesson that I learn in the year 2010!
I learnt that survival of faith and human life is God’s will to show us that come what may, His will must prevail. I saw and felt the belief of people in the power of God and felt humbled by their faith! I saw the auspicious signs on rocky terrains as a testimony of people’s faith in God!
I saw life surviving under much trying circumstances. I saw and noticed for first time in my life beautiful small flowers spreading color around dull and drab colourless rocks! I learnt to appreciate that life can survive under most difficult circumstances. I learnt that irrespective of the fragility of survival, these flowers were spreading colour and fragrance to one and all. I saw beautiful flowers providing relief to the tired travellers, the flowers that sprung from the hard rocks. The flowers whose destiny and life could be smashed anytime under the feet of an callous traveller!
I saw roots of trees finding a succor from hard rocks which sustained my belief that even hard exteriors had a soft heart inside. These roots of a big tree had found a succor and strength from a rock which had such a tough exterior. The green foliage that grew abundantly on the surface of these rocks strengthened my conviction that if you have will to survive, the Nature will provide the support!
I learnt the undying wish to survive even under the cruel hands of imminent death!
I learn to have faith and spread love and belief. Thank you Year 2010 for being so supportive and caring to me and my loved ones!
If you find him happy rather exuberant, it is because I have stopped my daughter from putting on diapers on the poor little baby! He seemed really grateful to me which he showed by cycling his legs with much force and vigor and putting on his best “Close-up” smile albeit sans teeth! But such a bewitching smile he has that it puts to shame all the glittering faces of top models of “Close-up” to shame.
I am a bit uncertain about the use of diapers on small babies. Perhaps I am too old fashioned and obsolete for the modern life style or the comforts of it. But my grandson proves me right. The moment his mom would get his diaper off, he would be so happy as if he was free of some bondage. Yes it was a bondage. And carrying the weight of a wet diaper by a baby was not less than a torture!
I good old days that is in my days, we used to stitch “potda”, a triangular napkin to be used as a baby nappy. The special cloth to be used would be the old cover of the quilts which would be of the softest material! And these days my daughter brought the baby diapers of the best quality and would put one on the baby during night. A good way for the mother to have some respite but these moms don’t know that what they are missing. How would they have stories to tell to their sons later on how they slept on the wet portion to make the baby sleep on the dry side of the bed! I really pity the modern moms as they won’t be able to “emotionally blackmail” their son by talking about the hard time they had raising him during the winter months when he would wet the bed so many times and she would change not only napkins but also sides throughout the night to give him a comfortable sleep!
And this reminds me of the “khandolu” that my Ma would make so lovingly for my babies. I could not make “khandolus” for my grandson but my Ma was there and she made three “khandolus” for him! I had kept all the used cotton bedsheets and bed-covers which were painstakingly put in a fashion to make the “khandolu” soft enough for the baby skin and also thin enough to wash off for sanitary purposes.
The old “khandolus”, of my own kids, in my home tell so many stories. When one of them was damaged, I peeped in side and found so many pieces of cloth and each piece of cloth had a story to tell. One from my Ma’s cotton suit, or her dupatta or my father’s bed-cover. The colors were disfigured and the smell was old and rusty but the fragrance of old memories, they filled my present with, was marvelous.
So I am a no-nappies-nani, an old fashioned and obsolete nani by the modern standards may be!
4 January, 2010
I was walking down to the town. It was a pleasant afternoon so instead of waiting for the local bus, I preferred to walk. The road was lonely and the evening shadows had started to make it look gloomy at some places. I looked at time in my mobile and realized with some horror that it was 3-30 p.m. My brisk gait slowed down at once and I looked down at the gorge downwards on the left hand side and the shady area on my right hand side. The sudden realization that it was a year back that my husband, too, must have taken a walk on the Heera Nagar road, and rather was brought, home after a very mysterious incident when he was found lying unconscious at the road side! The though made me go weak in my whole body. Could someone walk from the unknown on this busy road, I wondered. I stood still for full three minutes. Neither a vehicle passed nor a soul walked the road. I thought, what if someone emerges from the shady right side or the gorge on the left and hits me hard on my head and vanishes before anyone even notices! I had been walking to the town since last few days and at the same very time and was taking the same very route. I was so very conspicuous by following the same pattern. It was like inviting trouble. And my husband had done the same thing.
A scary, very scary imagination, you would say. How could such a thing ever happen in a sleepy town like Hamirpur and that too on a busy motor road and above all in afternoon when it is almost a day? You are right questioning the veracity of the truthfulness of such a imagination. But imagination must be allowed to run wild when there are questions that remain unanswered, even after a full year!
KS, my husband was found lying unconscious with bleeding profusely through his right ear. His right eye swollen and black, black mark on right side of his temple and behind the right ear near the circuit house at Heera nagar in Hamirpur. No one knows what must have happened on that day. No one claims to have seen anything, rather no one ever questioned it because I was not in town and he was alone taking his evening walk.
People said a lot many things in hushed tones. How could it happen to a healthy man who had till date never even taken a pill for Diabetes or High blood pressure that one develops at this age. He was left to bleed to die at the roadside. The question that how did it happen, remains unanswered even today. But yesterday while going downtown, I could feel an eerie feeling and had a sixth sense telling me that the undercurrents of gossips. unspoken or spoken in hushed tones, could be true.
It is not that I did not try to find out the truth. When I saw him, I was so angry with myself for not being with him when all this happened and at all those who by conspiracy of silence abet the wrong-doers that I could not help but call the Superintendent of Police at Hamirpur about this incident. He told me to lodge a complaint when KS comes to his senses. He wanted to know if he had any enemies. I thought hard–No, he didn’t have any, but I did have! I wanted to tell him that if he doesn’t come to his senses, would they not try to find how such a thing could ever take place in a sleepy town which has law abiding citizens? Did he not know that the police makes investigation even if the affected person does not make a formal complaint. What if some one dies and never comes to his senses to tell his tale? This incident remained a banal happening for the police persons and a mere news for the news persons who reported the next day that a man was found lying unconscious with bleeding ear and a serious head injury at a road side in Hamirpur!
If I am still curious to find out the truth and a bit afraid of walking the roads of Hamirpur, alone, am I wrong? If yeaterday I felt scared and afraid for my life, was a overreacting? Or was I being cautious?