Jalsa , Mumbai Dec 17/18 , 2011 Sat/ Sun 1 : 11 AM
After the awards and the special inspiration derived from a wonderful evening, a late night was spent in bed at Sopaan and reminiscing the days spent in the Delhi winters, either back from Sherwood or at University. Those early morning sprints from my gate to catch the Univ Special at Teen Murti, the residence of the Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, a round about bearing statues of the soldiers that fought and sacrificed their lives for the country … and on to South Avenue, the MP quarters where we were first resident of. 77 was the number. Those wonder days of coming to the Capital from small town Allahabad and everything looking so large and magnificent. The rush from our 77 to the main avenue each time Pandit ji ( Jawaharlal Nehru ) drove past to office and then back. Sitting there in a large black limousine, pilot in front, and in pensive mood, a hand up by his face in deep thought. the College days and the freedom of doing what one wanted. The visits to adjoining colleges and canteens, the cricket grounds, the back alleys of the bazaar behind our campus, the lunch hour cucumber delicacies with salt and pepper, our own canteen and the non stop table tennis that followed within.
The excursions with Mother to the Bengali Market for the most delicious ‘chaat’ in the world and the sweet meats. The ‘parathe wali gali’ in Chandni Chowk, the mad drives during College hours with our gang of class bunkers to the excavations and the ruins beyond Kutub Minar, Tughlakabad. The winter sun in the afternoon, the incredible smell of the ‘har shringar’ flower, white with orange stems and the cherry blossoms in the back yard of our lawn. The fire place by the night, ghost stories over new year and just the coming together of family and friends wrapped around in warm blankets by the burning embers !
And then without much fuss or delay the summer season would be upon us with its unbearable heat and high temperatures. The unaffordable airconditioning giving place to the ‘khus’ curtains on the doors, sprinkled with water at short intervals, or a block of ice placed in front of a table fan to cool off the nights. The hot breezes in the day – the ‘loo’ – beating down upon us and the elders warning us against stepping out for the fear of sunstroke. Those first drops of rain after an eternity and the warmth of the earth coming out in vapors, sleeping out in the open in the lawn, cooled now by the rains, and then to be woken up suddenly by that ‘baarish’ at night and all of us clambering on to the veranda along with our beds and bedding !
Such adventure, such simplicity, such trust … all gone now. We slept at night with our doors and windows open, the gates never shut, even when we were out in the lawn or on the roof top, for those were the regions that were the coolest. No security no guards, just a carefree life …
And now just before I have come up to write to you, each door checked and double checked, each window closed, locks and security personnel alerted, Shanouk in vantage post, phones and alarms by the side, incessant noise on the streets of traffic and people. There in Allahabad at night as you slept in the open, the only noise that came were from the jackals, the ‘siyaar’ in the distance, an indicator of how wild the region was. To express the solitude and quiet of the night, the oft used expression to signify the moment was – “arre wahan toh raat koh siyaar bolte hain ” - all that you hear at night at that place are the calls of the jackals.
There was no fear of the night. For us youngsters it was a nightmare to be asked whilst sitting in the lawn to go into the house and put off a light that had been left on by mistake, and the apprehension it used to cause within us. Going was alright, it was the coming back after the light had been put out that was scary.
The night does this to us. The darkness of nature brings the elements of fear. The unseen at night has a story of its own, real perhaps at times but on most occasions built by humans in their minds. Apart from the jackals the only other sound that came was the sound of the ‘danda’ the large stick being slammed on the road by the night watchmen that kept awake on the streets calling out to each other on adjoining streets – ” Jaagte Raho ” .. keep awake !!
It is almost 2 am as I write and were this to be those times, I would have perhaps diligently followed what was being announced on the road, but I do share with my Ef their concern when I am up late. What can one do ? As soon as I open the Word Process to jot down my thoughts to my Blog, I am the widest awake !!
My love to you and my prayers and my wishes and my gratitude for all that you mean to me ..