Wednesday, August 8, 2012



My grandmother, for the second time today, is the subject of my writing. The first time I wrote a few lines on 'ammaji' (that is how I, and almost half of the world addressed her), was almost twenty years back. She was the subject of my poem in class eight and I vividly remember the pen portrait I had created. And twenty years down the line, I sit to recreate her memories once again. 

As an infant I probably spent hours in her lap, was lulled to sleep by her endless crooning-none of which I remember. But I do recall the aroma of those hand made sewaiyas that she dried in the sun and packed in little plastic bags for us to carry back at the end of our holidays.

I do remember how she filled ladles with oodles of 'ghee' to be served with hot paranthas and how my father loathed the very idea of adding so many calories to the already oil-drenched paranthas. Ammaji never got tired-of showering love and food on her sons and her grandchildren and of picking on her daughter-in-laws in her typical manner.
"Oh!What a ruthless mother she is!", she would scream every time we were given a handful for a little mischief here and there. But most of all I remember her for that one slap that she instinctively gave me when I put my finger in an open fuse to see how an electric shock felt!That was the first and the last time, I think, she hit me, for I remember no other incident. Was she repentant? I was too small to know, but wondered always. As years passed by, I remember my efforts at teaching her English, all of which only ended in a lot of no sense and zero results. But among all the episodes, I must mention the one in which,while in college, I was a die-hard fan of Sachin Tendulkar, and had a book mark of the master, which happened to be seen by ammaji. She was instantly on high alert and bombarded me with questions on this one 'photo' of a boy in my book! To add to the fun, I told her he was the one I had chosen to be her grand son-in-law. She turned around and adjusted her bun, " Is he a brahmin?" 

What ensued , need not be mentioned, for I'm sure, the hilarious turn of events is much predictable....So, in all these years ammaji never grew old. Or so I thought. She still had the energy to nurse me for a week when I was sent home from hostel on contracting viral. But she did grow old, on the day my grandfather passed away. She never remained the person she was. For seven years, hence, she battled to tell the world her tales. But listeners were few.

Even as her physical capabilities diminished, she managed to find her piece of joy in my marriage and in the birth of my son. She continued to grope for herself, as she fought with forgetfulness, a possible alzhiemers. In one of my visits just before her death, I had an argument with her, a sort of a fight-a fight with an old woman who couldn't remember much. On my next visit, she could hardly recognise me and before I could pay her another one, she was gone. She died even before she could witness the realization of one of her dearest dreams-the marriage of my uncle's daughter whom she loved so much.

Three years since she snapped all ties with our World,I move on. I remember a lot of her, but most of all I remember that one big fight I had with her towards the fag end of her life. I wonder if she forgave me for that-I only wish you have....ammaji. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

To a Sleepy Town

My sojourn in Shimla was perhaps one of the most beautiful phases of my life.I call it "a sojourn" because no matter how many days or years I spent in this hometown of mine,they will never seem enough.Simply because Shimla is synonymous with beauty.And as I make this statement here,I have no qualms in admitting that I truly believe that it is the Queen of Hills.I rest aside  all arguments about the new cemented structures or of overcrowded lanes.Such ideas can never overpower the love of a true Shimla-ite for his town.For all those who have taken the drive up the Shivalik,will agree that you instantly become friends with the mountains and the effervescent terrain.Whether its the luscious green on the hill tops or the tinge of fresh air or the breath taking first view of the town-Shimla with her open arms is always ready to ambrace you.

The irony here is that you only see her beauty when she is long lost.Way back in 1997 ,I was one of the many who coined the term "sleepy town" and instantly the nomenclature was done.Thats how Shimla was referred to as by me and many others-some of who still feel that its snail speed can never match the supersonic pace of metro India.So with such feelings I ventured out more than a decade ago,only to be back for brief periods.However, my short but frequent visits,never made me crave for the place the way I do today.

With time and changes in life my random visits were turned to "few" and then to "hardly".Oh!the vagaries of my "packed food" life.Strange,but do I long to dream on in the lap of my sleepy town.Only for a walk up the hill,only for pacing up and down the incorrigible Town Hall,only for a sip of hot coffee at the haggard Coffee House,only for a glimpse of the grey and red school building,only for the icy cold winds and only for those clever apes on the Jakhoo road- I do long for only these.

Yes, this little round the hill town grows on you.And I'm not the only one.This nostalgia is infectious.It gets to all those who have detested being here at one point of time.Here,I cite the example of my younger sibling who I made, perforce ,to stay in Shimla for her graduation.How was I cursed for this decision of mine for four long years.Today,sitting in another corner of the country,trying to cope with difficult life styles,the same girl tells me how she feels that there can be not any better place.Such is the charisma of Shimla.

On a closing note,all I can say is ,its easy to say goodbye to the Queen of Hills,but its not easy to let go off her.Or,if I may say,she never lets you get her off your mind.For I'm sure when the hubbub of city life makes you wish for quiet and peace,you definitely don't mind this sleepy town.