Gauri, my best friend

The news of my father being transferred to Agartala had just broken out in our family. This had made my Grandfather in particular very skeptical. It was natural for any caring father to worry because North-east India was a hotbed of Left Wing Extremism. Episodes of Public Sector employees being kidnapped for a good ransom were well known.

Amidst this pandemonium we finally reached at Agartala somewhere in 1994. Thankfully neither I nor my sister were old enough to understand the commotion. As things started settling down, we began accommodating to the new environment. I must say Agartala’s beauty grew on us each passing day. The Seven sisters of India have a thing about them. They can make you feel the goodness of nature up close and personal. Every day you might come across a unique coloured flower, a strange shrub, a different patterned gecko or a completely new species of mammal. Agartala’s diversity of flora and fauna would surely make it a nature lover’s paradise.

Exploring this unknown land my mother and sister had made new friends around the colony we were allotted. Being extroverts it came naturally to them. On the other hand my father being assigned both the Tripura and Calcutta project had little or no time to even think about this new place. I being loner of the stock had to accompany either my sister or mother.

Sister and I with the lush greenery in the backdrop, C-Block

A few days into the new life, I was enrolled in a school. That is where my formal education started. Faces other than my family baffled me. Unlike my sister I was never a people’s person. I never liked going to the school and the monotonous routine.

My Happy place

This monotony was broken one fine day when a cow’s calf appeared in front of our C-Block out of nowhere. My curious 3 year old mind wanted to meet the calf. “After all it is not a dog, would not bite me” said my mind. My mother accompanied downstairs with some fruits. There she stood with the most innocent big black eyes flapping her ears. Light brown in colour with a prominent strip of white hairs in the middle of her forehead which seemed as if someone had put a ‘Tilak’. She happily took the banana my mother had to offer and demanded for another. I snatched it from mother and quickly gave it to her. She then joined other cows that were just few metres away gnawing some grass.

A couple of days later the calf came again. I and my sister ran to meet her. This became a routine and in few weeks I had even named her ‘Gauri’. Gauri became a great friend. She did not need words and the socially awkward I was most comfortable around her. Even Gauri had become well familiar around humans. She now did not hesitate to enter C-block and would wait for us near the staircase. On one occasion my father came along and caressed Gauri’s neck. Gauri lunged forward for some more of it.  She would enjoy her neck rubs from then on at every single visit and we enjoyed watching her moo happily.

Over the next years the bond grew stronger and C-block became Gauri’s mid-junction stop-over. You pat her head and she would nudge you in the most affectionate way. I thought of this to be a permanent affair but as the adage goes change is the only constant. The inevitable day had arrived. My father had been transferred to Calcutta and we had to move in 3 months. The short and sweet one and a half year bond was about to get disrupted. I remember creating a ruckus about leaving Agartala without Gauri. My parents explained that she had her herd with her. That was no solace to a 4 year old. With a heart ache I moved to Calcutta. Gauri’s thought kept flooding my mind and I would well up at the sight of any calf. A year later my father had to visit Agartala on a tour.  Inherently I picked up a paper and wrote a note to Gauri. My father promised to convey the message to Gauri. I don’t remember what I wrote. But what I want to say is “I miss you Gauri and I wish this world has more souls like you who don’t need words to comfort another being.”

Gauri remains the best part of our sojourn at Agartala. She assured that peace could transcend and calm the worrying thoughts of an unknown place in-famous for extremism.   

UNFORTUNATELY WE COULD NEVER CLICK A PICTURE OF GAURI BUT THIS IS THE CLOSEST HOW SHE LOOKED

( I hope you are reading this)

Memories bring back Memories

You are christened by parents at the time of birth. Then people who love you dearly give you a name. I was named ‘Kitty’ by Patu Dada.

    Ours is a big family, seven uncles and one aunt. My father being just a year elder to Patu Dada was closest to him. They went to the same school, learnt to drive together in their boyhood apparently by bribing our grandfather’s driver with a Paan and rode a Yeti bike all the way from Odisha to Assam.

                   People may call it fate but I would say it was serendipitous that my father and Patu Dada married two sisters in the year 1985 and 1991 respectively. Also I and Putun were born just 12 days apart. This made the two families even closer.

                 My elder sister and I would eagerly wait for summer vacation to rush to our grandparents place. Patu Dada and Putun would receive us at the railway station every time without any fail and the gala time for us would begin right there from the moment we got down. Along with all the fun and frolic Patu Dada with his right amount of discipline would make us unruly cousins maintain the decorum.

                  In early years he would instruct Putun and me to practice and memorize the multiplication table. We were made to parrot it out in the evenings. Another time one fine morning Patu Dada made us get the English Daily and a Dictionary. He asked us to find ten words that we were unable to understand and then find their meanings from the dictionary. As children we would complete the task sluggishly because squandering time catching butterflies near the Guava Tree all day long seemed more fun. But Patu Dada knew the best how to blend work and play.

                  After a busy day’s routine he would settle in his room and play some great music. He would call the three of us kids to shake some leg, groove to the beats and have a blast. The vacation would be incomplete without a treat from Patu Dada at Bhubaneswar Club loaded with Putun and my banter sessions. Patu Dada’s energy to light up a party was so infectious that even an introvert would enjoy every bit of it.

Fun Times with Patu Dada and Putun, Bhubaneswar

                At times when he would be away at court I and Putun would fool around his chamber pretending to be big shot lawyers. We wished the holidays to never end but had to bid farewell teary eyed every time waiting for the next vacation for the grand meet-up.

                At another occasion on a trip from Bombay to Goa, Patu Dada made the journey extra special by making the three of us sit on the entry door under his extra careful watch. The mesmerizing sight of Western Ghats and shouting out till our voice chords gave up while passing through numerous tunnels is etched in our memories forever.

                  Although being the youngest amongst his siblings, he willingly shouldered the responsibilities of the family whenever required weaving the family together. Becoming an Ace Lawyer through years of hard work and determination in a family that had no lawyers will keep on inspiring all of us and all those aspiring to be lawyers out there. His altruistic nature towards everyone made him Mr. Dependable. An affectionate Son, doting Father and a loving Uncle, cheers to a wonderful being.  

(I hope you are reading this)

Reunited

My sister, Meenakshi has been a dog person since dinosaurs roamed around the earth or at-least from the time they appeared on screens in theatres when Mr. Spielberg released Jurassic Park and I started witnessing the bond she has with dogs. We had a pup, affectionately named “Puppy” in all probability by her only.Puppy meant the world to her just like Snoopy was everything to Charlie.

Charlie

This was in Dehradoon when it was part of Uttar Pradesh where our father had been posted in the early 90s. Roads were scarcely trammelled by the four-wheelers and the winters used to be bone chilling.

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Puppy with Meenakshi, Dehradoon

Meenakshi got admission into Ann Mary School where she became friends with another fellow animal lover Kuhu who also happened to be a neighbour. Co-incidentally her parents were working in the same organisation as our fathers’. Friendship grew over birthday parties and festivities at each others place as any regular 90s kid and of-course the mutual love for dogs was the added factor.

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Back row :Kuhu(Third from left) Meenakshi (fourth from left)

As they say everything has its time, the friendship took a break as Baba got transferred to Agartala,Tripura. Only means of being in touch were letters but they were too young for that. The major blow that my sister suffered was the heartbreak of giving away her world, her Puppy to a milkman who happily agreed to our parents request of keeping her. I am sure Puppy must have had a vacuum in her heart after the separation. Taking Pupppy to Agartala seemed quite impossible back then for Baba and Mummy as it had no direct rail-link or you may say they were not aware of all the procedures to take her.

The new place and uncertain surroundings made Meenakshi miss Puppy so much so that once she picked up a pup from a litter while coming back from school. The thought of another unavoidable transfer from Agartala in the coming years and going back to square one made my parents return the pup to its litter. I was too young to comprehend my sister’s emotions.

As expected we got transferred to Calcutta after three years but my sister’s wish to have a dog never wavered. She would lovingly play with the pets of our neighbours and find some solace. On the other hand I was “see-dog-scream-run-amok” kind of an ignoramus but Baba kept the compassion intact in me by making me feed the strays outside our colony. What came naturally to my sister had to be meticulously developed in me.

Time flew by and it was time to bid goodbye to the city of joy and settle at the capital city of New Delhi. This time around my sister managed to convince Baba and Mummy to have a dog and that is how Snowy landed up at our place. Growing up with him was a joy and this made me join the dog lovers club as well.

As I said earlier everything has its time, Facebook became the new place to connect or re-connect with people from yesteryear and find groups of your liking. I had joined couple of dog admirers’ groups. One fine day while going through some of the pictures in one such group, Meenakshi screamed in joy and said “that is my friend Kuhu”, pointing to a picture of a girl in Ann Mary School uniform beside a dog. I laughed and dismissed, “Are you crazy? Not any random girl in that uniform can be your friend”. I mean what are the chances to find a friend like that? But she was absolutely sure and without losing any time messaged Kuhu. A reply came back couple days later and voila the two lost buddies were back in touch.

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Kuhu with Deegu

The compassion for animals had grown manifold in Kuhu’s life and by now she had become a well known face among the animal activists. Her family’s dedication towards helping the voiceless has inspired many to a great extent and still continues to do so. The friendship took off from where it was left behind. Dogs and animals naturally became our most discussed topics.

Some years later Meenakshi found a dog near our place who had given birth to six or seven litters. As a rule of thumb she and I started feeding biscuits to this lactating mother and her kids in the evening hours as a routine when she came back from work. Some other colony members were feeding and taking care of them too. The routine kept on for couple of weeks till one day while dropping her to the office we saw the pups in another location near our place but away from their mother. First we thought they were some other pups but my sister insisted to check at the place where they used to be and to my horror when I went to the location, the guard informed me that the pups were dislocated from there. Mother dog was in complete distress. Only thing I could do was quickly run to the place where I saw them in the morning. I could find one pup clenching onto another sibling who had perished away from an accident possibly. The sight still sends shivers down my spine.

I took the survivour home and informed Meenakshi. The next person I could think of in that situation was Kuhu who I rang up immediately and explained the case. She was of immense help at that situation as I had no idea how to go about it. She gave me a contact number of a well known animal activist  who promised to help me solve the dire situation. Meanwhile in the evening I found two more pups of the same litter with the help of my sister and another helpful soul Vikas, her colleague. Kuhu had warned me not to drop the pups at the place where they stayed with their mother as the people who had dislocated them might do it again and this time we might not have the same luck of finding them.

As the animal activist pursued the case and made the people who had thrown the pups understand that it is illegal to move a stray dog from its place of origin, in two-three days those people agreed not to dislocate them again. My sister, I and a kind friend Ishan went to drop the pups at their home to be reunited with their mum. The pups were yelping with joy to be back at their territory and the mother was overjoyed to have her kids back. It was that one re-union on Facebook which made this re-union possible.

(I hope you are reading this)

The joyful reunion

5B Penn Road

colony

Before this gets deleted from Facebook thought of posting it here again

You know you lived at 5B Penn road in the late 90s and early 2000s If:
1) T and L mean much more than just two
alphabets to you.
2) Have got stuck in one of those stupid elevators
at least once but still used it even if you
were going to the 1st floor 🙂 :p.
3) You remember the three digit inter-connected
phone numbers you had and used it for all reasons important or not but mostly not.
4) You have seen the ground near T-Block turn
into a beautiful badminton court.
5) You have spent more time at the Club/
Badminton court than when you should have been studying at home :p.
6) Are familiar with Round Table Toss.
7) Have often gathered with people at the
club’s veranda waiting for your turn to play
TT or otherwise chatted just like that
endlessly.
8) Have played hide and seek all day long and your
hiding places included all random places including
your friends’ place :p (ARKA)
9) You remember watching the tiny model of T and L
block kept in the officer’s club and often pointed
out and said ” Hey look thats my place” 🙂
10) Age was absolutely no bar for friendship 🙂
11) Have spent quality time on terrace and
loved watching the TATA office light up
every evening i.e if u are a keen observer.
12) Used to hate the TATA kids (the kids in
adjacent colony)
13) Have targetted the TATA building with water
ballons during holi or rather aimed at every
other person :p 🙂
14) During Durga puja you have participated
in plays/ cultural activities.
15) During diwali you were over-excited to
burst crakers on the terrace with everyone.
16) During the New Year parties some of you would
first hesitate to come on the dance floor but
soon after 12 ‘o clock when the lights would turn
off you danced like crazy,quite obviously cause
no-one could see your wonderful out of the world
dance moves :p 🙂
17) You have played HOUSIE/ TAMBOLA at parties
and booed every other person who claimed the
prizes :p
18) Though our colony was much smaller as
compared to golf green but you still felt
that you are much superior 😛
19) Have played cricket at all weird places you
can imagine.
20) Riding your cycle successfully through
basement parking slopes was a big deal.
(that is if you were lil kid :))
21) Have made or received hand made birthday
invitation cards.
22) At birthdays you relished the YUMMY home
made dishes.
23) You got return gifts almost each birthday
you attended.(BARBIE)
24) You remember playing random games in
birthdays like guessing the brand name by
the advertisement jingles, tray full of stupid
things and memorizing it and jotting down the
names on a piece of paper and last but the
most fun game-PASSING THE PARCEL with the
awesome 90’s music in the background.(BARBIE)
25) Some of you exhibited creative side of
yours during the conserve oil week.
(Participating in painting/ debate
competitions)
26) Somewhere you still miss your stay at 5B
Penn road. 😦

# Bracketed names suggest that the points are their contribution

Summer of ’06

“Look at this beauty Mummy”. The ravishing Audi R8 I had zeroed down for our desktop wallpaper was a recent launch in the sports-car section. Now this is what you call a ‘Mean Machine’. Pretty naturally as any other teen I was blinded by the oomph. This has to be my first car.

It was a blistering Saturday afternoon, fifteen minutes to my Mathematics class and Baba asked me to take a ‘Rickshaw’ as our car was having start-up troubles. Short tempered as I still am, huffed towards the main road for the same cursing the poor car all the day.

Baba knew it was time for a new car and I was the most excited of all for the hunt. Few days of it finally melted down to Baba strongly advocating for Maruti Esteem while I was pitching in for Ford Ikon.

1st June 2006, Baba drove his ‘esteemed’ car to the parking and I peeked  from the terrace grudging as it was not my ‘iconic’ ride. Later he took us to India Gate which almost became routine on weekends afterwards. I hated the car, it was very mainstream and nothing swanky about it.

“Wake up sleepyhead your classmate Ramya has been trying to reach you since morning” saying this Mummy handed me the phone.”Hello! Where have you been? Did you check this years results? Seems like Nalin has aced yet again”.

Those straight A1s and the nakedness of class 10th results gave me instant goosebumps. The thought of intrigued ‘Rishtedaars’ calling next year for my marks shunted my hatred from the car and I started parroting events from India’s struggle for Independence, democratic setup of the country, balancing chemical formulae and what not.

It has been a decade since that summer, Esteem has been taken off the markets few years ago. The car and I have made peace and probably much more. Never thought that I would learn to drive in this very mainstream car. If you ask me Audi R8 or Esteem, well it has to be the ‘esteemed’ Esteem.

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name…

Smell of fresh pages, sight of meticulously covered books and inch perfect uniforms were omnipresent. Yes it was the dawn of another academic year in school.

It had to be the most promising and exhilarating part of the year with all the “I will achieve it” list but it was different this year. Myriad new faces, pale grey-ish walls, the unfamiliar solitary banyan tree at the corner of assembly ground and the constant feeling of “I don’t belong here”.

My father had been transferred from Agartala to Calcutta and here we were in this alien city. We were quite content in the comfort zone built with utmost patience for over four years after shifting from Dehradun. This was the third time for me and fourth for my parents.

“New admission? Please introduce yourself to the class” asked the class teacher and unhappy with the answer over intrigued classmates would throw some more queries. “Which school are you from?”, “Oh well but why did you leave it?”. Pop came to my mind ” I never wanted to”, but I would settle for a subtler answer and say “My father was transferred”.

After three transfers if anything I acquired was to fit in and eventually dovetail into the the new environment. Mutual interest s is how you make new friends. For me it was Table Tennis. Unfortunately no-one from my class was into it though.

On many occasions I would rush storming to my father and ask “Why did you bring us here?” in a complaining tone to which he would answer calmly “Everything will fall into place, give it some time”. ” But everyone knew me there” I would say.

I would go to the Table Tennis room just to watch some 12th graders play. It would be defying the sacrosanct rule of not playing with a junior, at-least not a 7th grader. Sitting there all I could do was think about how fun it used to be with my friends at Agartala.

Anytime I missed my friends from other cities, I would pen down a letter. I would loathe about the new place and tell them how much I miss olden days. It was followed by an even more eager wait for the replies. Yes you read it correct the first time we exchanged letters which later were replaced by emails then scraps on Orkut and finally Facebook posts. Fortunately there was no virtual world back then because when I see those letters, it feels I will always have a part of them with me.

The aloofness in Table Tennis room continued for a month or two till one of the seniors asked me to play to which I happily agreed and to my utter surprise we became friends. Having a senior friend made me the swankiest kid in class and suddenly making new friends was no trouble. The unfamiliar banyan tree at the corner of assembly ground turned into the new hangout zone.

Gradually this alien city had turned into my home and everybody knew my name. Three years had gone by just like that and I was captaining the Table Tennis team for my school. Later one evening my father announced “We have to move to New Delhi, I am being transferred”.

 

The Stray

“Kahan thi meri beti itne dino se”, a lady came towards Browny like she had known her forever. It was a usual evening walk with Snowy and Browny. To be honest I was quite jealous as over the years I had grown this notion that Browny is all mine but she was loved and adored by many.

“Hadn’t it been for that stray dog, Snowy would have been crushed by those bunch of other strays of the next block” exclaimed mummy. I was intrigued then one day mummy pointed to a hefty white Indie as they call it with random brown patches eating away the left-over mutton completely lost from the world fondly being overloaded with more pieces by the meat shop owner.

We never named her. She was always “that stray”, because you name it you own it. And who would bond with a stray right? She started accompanying me and snowy in our evening walks and made sure no other dog could mess with Snowy. If people asked whether she belonged to me, I would give a stern “NO”. Why would a stray be my pet? Isn’t that a taboo? Aren’t they meant for the streets?

Days went by and she started visiting our home. But the limit was only till the gate not inside after all no bonds should be attached with a stray right? I would give her biscuits and she would go back to her streets after some cuddle. On my way to school, I would often see her following a Sardar-ji. He used to feed her Paneer, apparently her favourite well of course after the mutton. Another morning I would find her having biscuits among the early risers sipping tea and discussing their chores at a chai wallah’s place.

I have no clue but somehow she would turn up every morning before any of my exams. She had this way of calming me and conveying that everything is going to be fine. I never realized how or when I started getting attached to her. She had become my lucky charm,my Browny. I had had to see her before my exams no matter what.

After couple of years we shifted to another house few blocks away. I was worried how she would find our place and come to this side of the colony as they are territorial, but hell there are no territories for her. She did visit but occasionally.

In the later years she would come to the first floor where we stayed with all the strength she had and we would let her take a nap on the ‘diwan’. As days passed she preferred staying the whole day and going back only at night. It became a routine. All of us at home loved her to be with us.

Whenever I took Snowy out for a walk, she would come along without fail, though it was pretty evident how difficult it was for her to move up and down the stairs. One fine day she went out after her nap and did not come back the next day. She did skip a day or two earlier but this time it felt different. I went to her usual places the meat shop, chai-wallah but they had no idea about her whereabouts. My heart skipped a beat but I kept consoling that she would come back. The random search went on for some days which turned into weeks and then some months but all in vain.

Here I was searching for that stray who I denied to be my pet. All I wanted was just a glance of her. “I won’t let her go this time mummy” I would say but that was not to be. Later I got to know she used to stay at the Sardar-ji’s place often like she did at ours. It surely wasn’t just my loss.

I could see the emptiness in front of the meat shop, the searching eyes of that random lady. She is not gone. She does flash before my eyes in front of the meat shop,near the Chai-wallah, rolling and rubbing her back in front of our gate, enjoying the rains. For me she lives in every stray I see.

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An Ape-ster

All my life I have always tried to mimic ‘Baba’ (Father), starting from diary entries to this blog. Now that I look back, some faint memories of ‘Jeje’s (Grandfather) love and devotion for writing books always inspired me to write. I hope this blog brings smiles to your faces 🙂