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.
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.
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........