Friday, February 26, 2010

Khaandaan Ka Paandaan.... cont

Forty-five minutes make an hour

Study time was usually an hour long for both Jasper Nana and me unless of course I was doing Math, which made it longer for me.

We were never supervised…..you see we were Christian children and supposed to be obedient and good. I must mention that we were obedient and we were good. I must also reiterate that, we were kids too. And there were days when Math was too tough to tackle and the game the kids were playing outside a lot more fun. So the little devil on my shoulder would start whispering in my ear and hey presto! The hour would have only forty-five minutes.



Now I didn’t know how to read the time on the clock, but Jasper sure could. So I’d use all my kid sister wiles, emotional blackmail et al, and get him to put the clock ahead. Of course I’d want it bucking by a bigger margin but he warned me that it would be obvious!

It was all I could do to keep a straight face when Mummy would keep re-setting the time on the clock and grumbling about the poor quality of things. All this was fun till I grew up and lost precious percentage due to poor grades in Mathematics.

If only I had put myself to it more seriously at the start; if only folks had been more patient with my Math problems; if only I hadn’t put the clock ahead, I’d regretfully think. So many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

Needless to say I still need my fingers to add beyond a certain number ( that's an exaggeration, but I'm awful at math) And that's not funny.


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Khaandaan Ka Paandaan.... cont...

Two times Nine is…..umm…is…er…

I think I should add a few incidents with Mummy. Daddy’s been hogging all the space till now. Not that there’s much that transpired with her and me together…..I was always a Daddy’s girl…a tomboy. Anyway, Mummy was, as all mummies are, my teacher at home. Very bad really, when it came to Math, because she was short on patience and I was short on memory, especially when it came to Multiplication Tables. By the end of an interminably long study hour, I’d manage to finally get through one Table and escape. Oh yes! Escape it was. For my face, which would be burning with the tight slaps she’d land so precisely on my small cheeks, and the palms that got whacked with a ruler, or my legs that got thwacked with a ladle or whatever was in her hands. Getting away was the greatest relief of the day.

Poor thing, she must have been relieved too! When I think back to the almost stupid way I’d stare at her, while I stumbled and hemmed and hawed my way through the same old Table day after day, my heart goes out to her…..any one would go crazy. So I had to find a method to remember my Multiplcation Tables and avoid a beating. And what a way I devised!!

I’d generally wait till she was in the kitchen instructing the cook and doing odds and ends. I would stand against the door jamb, in the pantry and Jasper Nana would stand behind me hidden from her view. Then I’d very quickly and very loudly say the whole Table and hey without a mistake! Jasper Nana’s prompting got me a lot of praise and shorter study hours, till the day she decided to quiz me. My prompter failed me. Ah! It was back to the grind and a good slapathon.

I still dislike Math!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Princess has arrived




The Princess Alyssa Joy has arrived. It was a long vigil through the night, but it was worth more than every wink of sleep we missed. How blessed she has made me feel....I need to rephrase that...how blessed she has made all of us feel.


I wonder at the joy I feel as a grandparent. The multiple roles I've played in life have extended to include this new one. The best by far. I mull over this new-found feeling of joy. I realise that happiness too can be qualified. I've been ecstatic before....I've had experiences that made me exclaim that I've never been that happy before.....But this one beats all those. It's joyous beyond measure; it's uplifting and exuberant; it opens a door to a place I know nothing of.


There's this love that holds a bit of apprehension too...Do I have all that goes into making a good "grammy?" I had no doubts about being a great mom; never wondered if my kids would love me...I just believed in me. Well, taking a cue from that I'll begin to believe I'm the best grammy she's going to have...LOL. That feels much better already...Ha!


On another level I wonder at this satisfaction within....of seeing an extension of our life. How we long to live on through our children and future generations. Bliss! I'm walking on cloud nine right now...and want to revel in it a bit more...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Khaandaan Ka Paandaan..cont.

Blowing in the wind


Daddy had a couple of habits that could only be tagged as an ‘I-don’t-care-what-you-think’ attitude. They were both not what sophisticated men would do, my mother repeatedly said, but it gave me moments of such immense glee that I have to mention it here.



Daddy loved to sing choruses. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but loudly while walking down the street…well that’s something else, yes? Well, for my mother it was a source of extreme embarrassment. In all fairness to her, I can well imagine how she felt. However as a little girl, I failed to understand her problem with it because I would be giggling while she scowled. And to add to her woe, I’d join Daddy in the singing. For one, I enjoyed the attention we were attracting as passers-by would turn to look at us, and the other reason being to see Mummy’s face….priceless! She’d walk a few paces behind, in a manner of disowning us, I suppose. Come to think of it I guess we needed to be disowned right then..!!! Now if you are already rolling your eyes, wait till you hear this.



Daddy had always had a delicate stomach, so flatulence was a constant complaint. Mummy believed one had to be very discreet about these things, but not Daddy. If he had to let it out he had to let it out. Oh! He did defer to office and Mess etiquette, but at home or if he was walking…….there was no stopping him.



“Stop polluting the atmosphere,” Mummy would growl. To which his rear would answer loud and clear, while he gave a crooked smile. And I would be in splits. One day out of sheer curiosity, I asked him why he did this. And this is what he told me….



“You know there was a man who died because he wouldn’t let out the wind in his bowels. So his widow got this written on his gravestone, ‘Wherever you may be, Let your wind go free, For that has caused the death of me.’ So do you want me to have that on my gravestone?”


I couldn’t answer because I was laughing so hard. ( thank god Mummy’s influence has prevailed on us in this area….no blowing in the wind for us!! Hahaha)

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Monday, February 8, 2010

khaandaan Ka Paandaan...cont

Shayar bhi hoon, Gayak bhi hoon



I doubt if there is anyone, outside the family circle who knows that your great grandfather used to write beautiful shayari, and he could play the harmonium very well and sing equally well. But trust me to know this better than anyone within the family too….poocho kyun!



Well it goes like this……One day Mummy saw me dancing away to glory, Indian filmi style, to some song that was playing on the radio. I had taken a dupatta of hers and pinned it over my head and I was so engrossed in my swirling and twirling, I didn’t realize I had an audience. It was only when she couldn’t suppress her laughter any longer and it burst out loudly, that I came to an abrupt halt and boy, did I feel embarrassed or what! The whole world would get to know. Joy who could always be found playing Cowboys and Red Indians or Cops and Robbers with the boys; the catty-toting Joy was dancing like a sissy! I knew I had a few fights on my hands to re-establish my reputation of a tough girl. Especially since at seven, I still managed to hold my ground, with our group of boys most of whom, were older than I.



That evening when Daddy came back from work this was the ‘Breaking News.’ Ah! Once again, bless him! Daddy was overjoyed and full of praise. No joking, no teasing…..and to everyone’s surprise he declared that now he’d have to buy me a pair of ghungroos! Mummy was flabbergasted. I was stumped. Ghungroos, for me! My reputation was gone.



Later, after dinner, I sat in his lap and told him he didn’t have to buy me ghungroos. He replied that it helped to keep the beat. I countered that I could maintain the rhythm and beats without them. He insisted. I desisted. He realized there was something else on my mind. I blurted it out.



“Everyone will laugh at me.”


“We won’t tell anyone.”


“Jasper and Mummy will.”


“I will tell them not to.”


“Then it’s ok.”



One Sunday, in the early afternoon, Daddy called me. He was sitting in the drawing-room with the harmonium and beside it on the table lay the bells dancers used to tie around their ankles. He told me to get a dupatta and a few minutes later, with the odhni on my head and ghungroos around my ankles, I was dancing with gay abandon as Daddy played the harmonium and sang with a spirit that matched my own.



What can you say about such a man, who understood not only the latent love of music, rhythm and dance but also the spirit that longed to be free in the heart of his little girl, and gave her these precious moments. “Panchchi banun udhti phirun mast gagan mein, aaj main aazaad hoon duniya ke chaman mein.”Always nurture the talents you have. Give in to the creative urges of your faculty.


Later on, at the age of nine, I did join Kuchipudi classes in Delhi, and although I couldn’t continue with it for various reasons, I developed a sort of grace in my movements and gestures which has been one of my assets as a woman and as a teacher.


Glossary

shayar.......a poet who writes couplets ( shayari) in Urdu

Gayak........one who sings

Dupatta, Odhni........a piece of cloth used to cover the head. Usually made of a fine, thin material.

Ghoongroo.......small bells made of brass, attached in rows on a thick cloth band which is strapped onto the ankles of a dancer.

Poocho kyun......Hindi for "ask why."

Panchchi banun, udhti phiroon mast gagan mein.....duniya ke chaman mein"......let me be a bird and fly with gay abandon in the sky. Today I'm free in the garden of the world.

Catty.....abbreviation for catapult

Kuchipudi......an Indian classical dance form


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Khaandaan Ka Paandaan....cont.

Shayar bhi hoon, Gayak bhi hoon


I doubt if there is anyone, outside the family circle who knows that your great grandfather used to write beautiful shayri, and he could play the harmonium very well and sing equally well. But trust me to know this better than anyone within the family too….poocho kyun!


Well it goes like this……One day Mummy saw me dancing away to glory, Indian filmi style, to some song that was playing on the radio. I had taken a dupatta of hers and pinned it over my head and I was so engrossed in my swirling and twirling, I didn’t realize I had an audience. It was only when she couldn’t suppress her laughter any longer and it burst out loudly, that I came to an abrupt halt and boy, did I feel embarrassed or what! The whole world would get to know. Joy who could always be found playing Cowboys and Red Indians or Cops and Robbers with the boys; the catty-toting Joy was dancing like a sissy! I knew I had a few fights on my hands to re-establish my reputation of a tough girl. Especially since at seven, I still managed to hold my ground, with our group of boys most of whom, were older than I.


That evening when Daddy came back from work this was the ‘Breaking News.’ Ah! Once again, bless him! Daddy was overjoyed and full of praise. No joking, no teasing…..and to everyone’s surprise he declared that now he’d have to buy me a pair of ghungroos! Mummy was flabbergasted. I was stumped. Ghungroos, for me! My reputation was gone.


Later, after dinner, I sat in his lap and told him he didn’t have to buy me ghungroos. He replied that it helped to keep the beat. I countered that I could maintain the rhythm and beats without them. He insisted. I desisted. He realized there was something else on my mind. I blurted it out.


“Everyone will laugh at me.”


“We won’t tell anyone.”


“Jasper and Mummy will.”


“I will tell them not to.”


“Then it’s ok.”



One Sunday, in the early afternoon, Daddy called me. He was sitting in the drawing-room with the harmonium on a table in front of him. He told me to get a dupatta and a few minutes later, with the odhni on my head and ghungroos around my ankles, I was dancing with gay abandon as Daddy played the harmonium and sang with a spirit that matched my own.


What can you say about such a man, who understood not only the latent love of music, rhythm and dance but also the spirit that longed to be free, in the heart of his little girl and gave her these precious moments. “Panchchi banun udhti phirun mast gagan mein, aaj main aazaad hoon duniya ke chaman mein.
Always nurture the talents you have. Give in to the creative urges of your faculty.


Later on, at the age of nine, I did join Kuchipudi classes in Delhi, and although I couldn’t continue with it for various reasons, I developed a sort of grace in my movements and gestures which has been one of my assets as a woman and as a teacher.


Glossary:

gayak..........singer

Shayar..........poet

Ghungroo.......little round bells tied around dancers anklets

Dupatta, odhni........both terms are used for a head cover, usually made of fine muslin, chiffon or georgette.

"Panchchi banoo udti phiroon......ke chaman mein"........I want to be a bird and fly in the sky. Today I am a free bird in the gardens of the world.

Kuchpudi.......a classical Indian dance form


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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We ruled the skies



Daddy was a great kite flyer. His passion for kites was so strong that to tell him to fly a ready-made kite was akin to blasphemy. So as soon as kite flying season would come there would be rolls of maanja, couple of phirkis, bamboo and sheets of glazed paper or China paper, as some would call it because Chinese lanterns were made of it, lying around the house. Mummy would be asked to make a pot of 'layee' ( an adhesive made by cooking refined flour) Daddy didn’t believe in using the market glue. Then there would be pieces of glass, which he would very strictly forbid us from even looking at forget touching!


Now the entire process of making kites for the season would begin. What made it so exciting was the involvement of imagination……no ordinary kites for us.
Aur phir Chakotri,” he’d address me, smiling delightedly, “what kind of kite do you want?”
The question would go to Jasper Nana too. But whereas Jasper would be more thoughtful about the kind of flying object he desired, obviously taking in other “technical aspects,” I’d let my imagination fly. I think I must have made some very impossible demands, in fact I’m sure I did, but none would be brushed aside with a flat “ NO.” Daddy would work around my original design, retaining what he could to keep me happy and also produce something that would take off.


The maanja was the most difficult part. I can’t recall the exact process but I know the glass would be powdered very fine. A difficult task and the male domestic help would also be requisitioned for this, much to Mummy’s annoyance, because the only male help was also the cook. And then the string would be dipped in some sort of gooey stuff and drawn through the powdered glass. This needed space so it would be done in the backyard which was very big.


But I’m drawing out this narration too much…let’s come to the day we became the rulers of the sky. One day Jasper Nana and yours truly decided that the pecha wins we had in our kite flying sorties, were not very impressive, so I went with our laments to Daddy. And as usual, bless him, he was up to the challenge.


Abhi dikhate hain unko patang kya cheez hai. Arre, I’ll make you such a kite that they’ll run with their tails between their legs.”


Thus was fashioned a kite that was taller than I was, so it would be over four feet. A lot of thought and planning went into the dynamics of this monster ( it looked like one to me). Then the question of maanja was raised by Jasper, and Daddy totally agreed that we needed something much stronger but not too heavy either. Now don’t ask me what he did because I don’t remember, all I can recall with absolute detail and delight, even to this day, is the pride I felt as the kite soared majestically into the sky.


The first day we took it for its maiden launch, Daddy had in true ‘Daddy’ nature made it a picnic. He got Mummy to pack the picnic basket. In those days I doubt if there was any home without a wicker picnic basket. Our destination, a twelve minute walk from home, was a small hillock. My job was to lug the picnic basket which, given my diminutive size was big. But I wasn’t going to complain about that and managed to keep it an inch above the ground.


And then I waited with bated breath for the take-off. Smooth! It climbed against the wind like a dream. As it made its way upward and onward, Daddy brought it into combat with every kite in 'pechable' distance. Annihilation was swift and sure. Our grand-daddy of all kites dominated the blue expanse, as it held steady, a tiny speck in the sky.


By the third day word had spread and the regulars who flew their kites there vanished kite et al, as soon as they saw us coming with our giant. After the initial egoistic boost, I felt a bit deflated as we watched our kite do a drunken swoon, as it sailed unchallenged and uninterrupted. This wasn’t fun. We had taken away the fun from the entire activity. What should have been pure enjoyment and fun and games had turned into a battle for supremacy. Of course I couldn’t elucidate all this but I did comment on it.


“They’ve all gone away,” I said quietly. “They are scared of us,” I added with undisguised disappointment.


“Yes, daud gaye sare. Your kite is the king.” Daddy had failed to notice that I wasn’t quite pleased with this dubious entitlement.


“But it’s not so nice without any other kites. It was so much fun on the first day,” I insisted in an effort to make my point. No one sensed how I was feeling. They were too elated with the momentary thrill of being rulers of that small patch of blue.


I had learnt a lesson.


Later on the realization would imprint on my mind that there is a fine line between healthy competition and unhealthy competition and we must remember never to cross this boundary. Ever since then I have gauged the level of competition to set my standards and then I’ve competed with myself alone. In the bargain if I outdid the others it would be a bonus for me….! It was always a win-win situation. I either added to my prizes or I added to my learning experience.



Glossary:

Manja.....the twine used to fly the kite.
Phirki.....a kind of spool on which the twine is wrapped. It has elongated handles on either side which rest between the thumbs and forefingers.
Aur phir chakotri......What now chakotri(a name he had coined up for me because of my round face.)
Pecha.....The act of engaging and cutting an opponents kite.
Abhi dikhate hain unko patang kya cheez hoti hai.....We'll show them right now what a kite is.
Daud gaye sare.....They've all run away.
Pechable.....a combination of 'pecha' and 'able'. Coined up by us to mean within striking distance.


See you tomorrow.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Khaandaan ka Paandaan

Prologue

Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.

- Richard B. Sheridan

When I conceived this book as a gift for you, my grandsons and grand-daughters, you were not yet a specific thought in your parent’s minds. But I knew you. I have prayed for you and love you from the depths of my heart. Children of my children, for you I leave behind this treasure trove of memories. They will make you laugh, think, ponder, learn and treasure the little things that make life great.

With love

Daadi/grammy



Make Great Memories

There’s nothing like wonderful memories. I’ve yet to find anything more sustaining in times of happiness or sorrow. It acts as yeast in joyful moments leavening the dough so to say, and doubling the mirth to almost hysterical laughter. In moments of pain or loss, it fills the void with vivid images that bring back the good times. Learn to draw strength from these memories. Treat each one as a precious pearl. Gather them diligently and with care. String them together on the chain of memory and trust me…….whenever you are threatened by despair, you only have to finger each pearl like a rosary.


Chapter I

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning


( I must start with my father, your great grandfather, because he has been a guiding force in my life. I have learnt many of life’s lessons from him and he was so much fun to be with. Do look for what you can learn from the following snippets and if you don’t find a lesson, simply enjoy the reading.)



Shoot the Messenger


My father, your great grandfather, was my hero. They say daughters usually gravitate towards their fathers, but in our home of three girls and two boys, I was the only one who became close to him. I remember how if any one wanted anything, and had an aorta of doubt of its being turned down by Daddy, I would be approached, even by my mother, your great grandmother!


“Joy, go and ask Daddy for……”

“Joy ask Daddy if we can …..”

“Joy, you tell Daddy that….”


And so I was the messenger who was laid on the line. After all it’s the messenger who gets shot, isn’t it? Fortunately no such thing ever happened, hence my importance. I must digress a bit here to tell you why I had to play messenger. Because Daddy had a very hot temper, he also earned the undeserved reputation of being an ogre. And Joily-moily, as he would call me, was the only one who it was believed had a charmed life and would never be at the receiving end of his wrath. But I was still very wary. Call it survival instincts, if you will….tsk…tsk.


“Ok,” I’d say quite seriously and go to peek at him wherever, he was sitting.


At age six, when you are the fourth sibling and the youngest, and when the elder two are in a posh residential school in the hills, and think you are still as uncouth as they left you a year back, it’s an extremely rare instance to be sought out this way. So I made the most of it as this was one area where I could hold everyone to my judgment and decision.


“Not now,” I’d say importantly, if I felt it wasn’t the right moment to ask for anything.


“When he’s in a good mood, I’ll ask him” I’d say smugly and that would be accepted. And when I gauged the time to be right, the work would be done. Successfully I might add, because Daddy hardly ever refused me anything.



The raconteur and the romantic

Daddy was a great raconteur. We could sit for hours listening to his tales of WW II, or of his escapades as a boy, which I must add rivaled Tom Sawyer’s (to my mind) or of more informative talks on places, personalities, or folklore and superstitions ( some of which I shall tell you about later, I promise) He also loved the outdoors and shikaar, fishing, walks and picnics were always a part of his recreation. Picnics would be arranged at the drop of a hat. And when I say picnics it wasn’t only a trip to a picnic spot near-by. His picnics would take you to Agra from Delhi, or to the Bhakra Dam in Nangal from Chandigarh. If there was anything historical or worth seeing in and around our city of residence, it would merit a visit from the James’.


Daddy didn’t just take us around a museum, he’d describe in great detail about all the things that fascinated me. For instance, I would be glued to the showcases that displayed the coat-of-mail, weapons and the exquisite dresses of the Moghul rulers. All my queries would be answered with such vividness and detail of scenes in battle, or of the more public durbar-e-aam, and of feminine vanity and coquettishness in the protected zenana. How much was real and how much sheer exaggeration, which I think is a liberty a raconteur takes, has never been the point of debate.


This is how I developed a fascination for monuments and museums, which consequently played a part in developing more feminine qualities in me and the tom-boy died a natural death, or did she?


My favourite was the Red Fort, especially for the bathing area in the zenana with its fountains and flowing water, which never failed to captivate me. Even today when I think about it I’m amazed at the tremendous patience and imagination of that man, my Daddy. He never seemed to find it strange that I had taken a fancy to this particular area. I’d ask him to narrate (every time we’d visit Red Fort) how the hamam would have been and how exactly did a queen bathe in the open unashamed. Even today when I look back I wonder at my own attraction to a Moghul Zenana Hamam, at the age of eight! I found it a very beautiful setting and was captivated by the images of a beautiful princess or queen bathing in such languidness. But Daddy obviously found it perfectly natural and would never hesitate to launch out into a detailed account of how the perfumed water would flow, how the princess would be accompanied by her hand-maidens. And to queries about the women being rather over-exposed in the circumstances, he would stress that zenana areas were strictly out-of-bounds for any male. And it could mean instant death if any one was caught trespassing here, which always reassured me that my beautiful princess was protected.


Well, somewhere in the middle of the narration, in my mind, I would replace the Moghul Princess! Now you know why I liked the story……Whatever the childish fantasy was, the point is that I had a father who took me into the beautiful world of dreams; of wonderful possibilities. He nurtured my ability to imagine; and to fly away into realms of joy, beauty and love. And so the romantic soul within me was set free! Your Daadi is a die-hard romantic!


We shall continue tomorrow........