Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Ganpati festival that I dream of...

Vignahartha and destroyer of all obstacles, Lord Ganesha is worshiped by one and all. No new task begins without his blessings. Perhaps it was this unifying power of Lord Ganesh which made Bal Gangadhar Tilak, think about creating this household Ganpati festival into a community festival.

It was in 1893 that Tilak organized Ganesh utsav as a religious and social function and introduced the tradition of worshiping huge deities of Lord Ganesha in the community pandals and then immersing them on the tenth day.At the time when social and public gatherings were banned by the British this festival served like a common point for people of all castes and communities to come together. 

I grew up in Bandra, a cosmopolitan suburb of Bombay. My earliest memory of Ganpati was driving down toThane another distant suburb to my grand aunt (grandmothers sister) maharashtrian household who hosted the Ganpati festival at their house every year. It used to be like a nice picnic, a long ride, worshiping the god and then sitting down in a pangat to be served a nice maharshtrian lunch with masala bhat. We just had one or two family friends in the Bandra neighbourhood who would have Ganpati at their house.  On a few occasions, I would visit the big Ganpati pandal opposite Bandra talao. The pandal would have nice exhibits with houses and fields or a social message recording. In spite of not have much exposure to this festival, it was in high school, that I too was somehow fascinated by the idea of bringing Lord Ganesha home. My parents obliged, by suggesting that I could create my own little festival at home with our metal Ganpati idol and creating a mini exhibit by using the little box I made in my art class and a few decorations all nicely put up on top of a little wooden stool (choki). When it was time for immersion, I could do that home in a small tub and not contribute to polluting the sea. That is exactly what I did. Immersed the idol in the tub, nicely cleaned it and put it back in the showcase.

It was only in the year 2000 when we moved to the distant suburb of Kandivali is where I discovered the grandness of this festival. Every single society in the neighborhood had a ganpati pandal. The normally dark lane that I walked down each morning to get to the bus stop would be completely lit up with sparkling lights throughout those 10 days. Those 10 days truly felt festive, something I had never experienced before. The first year that we moved to our new building my father decided to volunteer to do the decoration for the Ganpati pandal with the help of young boys and girls who also volunteered to help out. This is where I met other people from my building and become friends with a few. Some of them continue to be my friends even after moving cities and countries. Another interesting concept was getting invited by random people in the building to come and visit their house for Ganpati. Some people were so enthusiastic they would put up invites on the notice board of each wing in the building, inviting people to come for the darshan. This was not it, if you went to their house for darshan you would be offered snacks or cold drinks. No shyness was allowed, it was not considered good if you didn’t eat or drink something at every visit. Ganesh Chathurthi truly did serve the purpose of uniting us with the people in our new building complex.

Well I am all for Ganesh Chathurthi and the spirit of togetherness that it creates, but there are some things about this festival that make me unhappy. The huge loud procession of bidding farewell to Lord Ganesha, contributing to the noise pollution, followed by the tons of waste that is created in sea and river due to the immersion perhaps killing even more marine life. I am sure Lord Ganesha would never approve of this.

In the last 124 years the festival has grown in leaps and bounds, from a small community gathering it has turned into organized event activities. But today I dream of a different Ganpati festival.

I dream of a Ganpati festival, where idols are never immersed, they are re-used perhaps metal idols are used. Alternatively, we have digital Ganpati idols, imagine walking in to a pandal with 3 D glasses and  the pandal décor to is created with 3 D effects. So much less waste. All money that  is contributed by devotees who visit the pandal can be authenticated through Aadhaar number and paid towards a specified charity. Strict fines imposed on pandals who violate the noise decibel. Non devotional music should not be allowed at any of the pandals. Pandals also need to be given a certain identification card through which all the money that is collected as donations or otherwise is accounted for.
I salute the spirit of this festival and what it does to unite us all together, but I want this spirit to also respect our  natural resources and mother earth.

Ganpati Bapa Morya!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lessons from my Life Coach : Daddy`s girl.

I watched the movie Dangal and was truly moved by the story of this father who trains his daughters against all odds to become a wrestling champion.  As I watched that movie it somewhat ran a flash back into my life and the way that my Dad had trained me to conquer world even

Be Fearless

It all started with my name, he named me Dhruti, which itself meant the fearless, courageous and determined. When I was about 3 years old and we lived for a short time in Haldwani, that’s where I was unconsciously taught to be fearless of animals, bugs and surprisingly even snakes. My dad`s favourite recollection of that time is of me telling everyone that I could kill the snake. Growing up too I was taught to speak my mind. I don't recollect being frightened to say anything to anyone including my teachers, if I was right. Of course I did have night mares like maths which I hate

 Believe in your self
My Dad was determined to make me believe in my self and perhaps make goals. He insisted I spend my 10th standard summer holidays with my uncle and aunt in  USA. He was keen that I see the world and see for myself the place I should go and study in.  He wanted me to be fearless and independent and learn do things on my own. Unfortunately at age 15, I don’t think I had any resolve of doing anything or thinking or imagining my future the way my dad did.  In that American summer holiday, I was just happy going for day visits to schools, colleges with my cousins, uncle and aunts friends who were professors or their children who were in higher school. My uncle tried to get me to the internet, it was a dial-up and this is where I tried to spend the whole day searching for things that I didn’t need. It was just another way of passing time.  The rest of the time I enjoyed chittar –chattar between the grandparents and going to Kroger and watching television. Of course at that time I never realized, how lucky I was to get this kind of exposure to the world.

 When I returned from that holiday, it was time to start college.  I took up Arts, because that is what I was interested in. The first day that I went to college, I was truly heartbroken as I did not even have a single friend in college. I remember coming home and crying. From being a popular person in school, I was just roll no 47 in Mithibhai College. That’s when my Dad said, “My daughter is not someone who has tears like this. It took you at least 10-12 years to be a super star in school, you need to figure out what you have to do to turn around this situation. I am confident you can do  it “ .
The first few weeks in college were not easy, but I did speak to one girl who seemed quiet and she too didn’t have any friends.  That was a starting point. Then I got involved in every activity I could, whether it was Rotaract, NSS, Mounteering club. I attended national youth conferences.  I was ok in studies, counted among the students who never bunked class. And in a few months life was on a roll. I had new friends to pester and new experiences to share.  Then when I completed my junior college, I was awarded Best Student of the year. I don’t think it struck me then, but now when I look back, I realize, it was my dad who pushed me and indirectly told me that if  wanted I  could turn around my circumstances and win over any situation.

After that I was this unstoppable girl, as a part of Rotaract I travelled to different parts of  Bombay and outskirts often alone, often late at night and I never feared anything. In fact my resolve to challenge the wrong was so much that I even tried to raise a conflict with a head of an organization in an open forum, as I thought he was wasting our money. I was also fortunate to work with a PR consultant and got an opportunity to work with brands like AND.  I worked with her after college hours and infect one summer I managed the office and clients when she was not around.  I often cribbed about not being able to go watch movies and have fun like my friends did after college. My dad just said one thing, watching movies will not get you anywhere, but what you are doing might be tough for you now, but you don’t even know how it will help you in the future. At that time I took it a sermon, but he was so right.

Accept your failures and learn from them

I remember when I was  in college and my Dad was going through a tough time with his work. He had an ambitious agro nature project and unfortunately he made a few wrong decisions, trusting people, going by what he thought would work, not doing proper paper work and things then didn’t work out in his favour. That must have really saddened him, but in spite of that I still recollect him telling mom and me “Success has many fathers, but failure has none, had everything gone right and project was successful, everyone would have been full of praises. I couldn’t believe that my hero dad could go wrong. It was unbelievable how he confessed about the wrong decisions he had taken. I was in tears when he completed his story. So courageously he told me “ I am not sharing this with you to make you feel sad, but I want you to learn from my mistakes don’t commit such mistakes yourself. Some lessons of life that we learn are expensive ‘’

Don’t give up.. Keep Re-inventing

My dad may have taken a few months to come out of his project failure set back. His health wasn’t doing the best. But he didn’t give up. He restarted at 43. He set up a catering business, which of course was not easy, he had set backs in that too but slowly and steadily he tried to grow the business and he did decently well with it. In fact when it came to developing marketable unique food items, he would relentlessly experiment until he was able to make the food item to perfection. In a time when google was not available this was not an easy task.

Well my dad is someone who has dawned many hats in his life time, starting from being a tour guide,  entrepreneur selling artifacts, to jeans to being a fashion designer, to taking up a crazy dress export order to a clothing store and then trying to set up a jam factory in Haldwani, to being a agriculture land broker.

 Although it was my dads dream, that he wanted my mom to run the catering business he has set up, as he thought it had a lot of potential. Unfortunately my mom was not interested. I made some meagre attempts trying to get my mom an order to run school canteens by giving a marketing proposal at the schools and colleges. But since nothing really worked out, there was no way I could convince my mom to continue the catering business, as she didn’t want to deal with the cooks and workers.

 Although she didn’t run the catering business, she continued do a do a bit of trading by supplying food items to a corporate canteen for almost 10 years and she smartly introduced new food items to her supply. But because she started working, she slowly steadily turned out to be the confident and smart lady that my dad always wanted her to be.

Fight your own battle

When things seems to be going well, my Dad`s health started to deteriorate. He had a tough 5 years with his work and everything.  Then he had a stroke and had to be admitted in an emergency to the hospital. He was quite serious and our doctor told me, he was not likely to survive. However in spite of all the pain he was in in that ICU bed, it didn’t stop him from telling me, that he did not want me and my mom to lead  our lives with  sympathy or misery.  He said I have taught you what I could and I am confident that you will be able to face the world and conquer your goals and ensure that your mother leads a happy independent life.  Don’t expect anything from any one. This is your battle.

Spread happiness and always be positive.

Anyone who knew my Dad, would vouch for the fact he loved to spread joy and happiness, whether it was through his words or his gesture.

I recollect a time when I was about 10 to 12 years old and I was pestering my dad to buy firecrackers for Diwali. I  still remember what he told me. He said that instead of spending your money on fire crackers, why don’t we go and buy sweets and gifts for children in the village in Maharashtra that he was working in. The fire cracker will make sound create  pollution and barely make you happy for a second but imagine the happiness you will give those kids. That memory is still live in my head, the way the children ran to the school to get their Diwali gifts was amazing and the happiness on their face was price less. From that day onwards I have never lit a firecracker.
A few days before he passed away, he was in the ICU, perhaps in a lot of pain with tons of wires tucked on his body and countless injections been given by nurses, who he had jokingly named as Dracullas. In that situation too, he was determined to thank the nursing staff, that he made me get card paper and drew out a card wishing the staff a merry xmas. Even in a critical situation in the ICU, he was positive and believed that it was perhaps time for him to go and whatever god had decided was for the best. There was no need to have regrets.

 It has been more than 15 years that he left us, but he continues to be alive through the things that he taught us.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Discovering an ancestral treasure chest: Tales from Patan

It was one of those rare Sunday evenings, where I truly felt so happy. The husband and I were in an auto rickshaw on our way to Unjha station from Patan. Amidst the pitch dark sky, sparkling stars and the refreshing winds from the fields on both sides of the roads, I thought to my self, that this weekend had been the best holiday I had ever had in years. I felt like someone who had just discovered a treasure chest. Going back to the roots of my maternal grandparents families and my paternal grandmothers home, discovering the town of Patan and small towns nearby was truly an enriching experience.   So here is detailed account of my trip, a bit long.

The train to Patan
My maternal grandparents were going to be visiting Patan and staying at one of our relative’s house. The grandfather was keen that the husband visit`s the town. Me on the other hand had always been excited with the concept of going to Patan but November has been a hectic month, with travels on every weekend, so I wasn’t particularly keen. Any ways, with some coaxing from the husband  and the lovely tales narrated by my grandmother and aunt about their train rides to Patan, where they got onto an extremely slow train from Ahmedabad, which also had goats and cattle for company got me excited. The husband somehow managed to get the train tickets. Secretly, I wished he had not and we would get an opportunity to travel in the general compartment. Our train ride was quite un-eventful, there was nothing rustic about the experience, till we crossed the tracks at Unjha station in the morning  to get into an auto and go to Patan almost 25 km away.

We entered Patan city and the auto driver, not a local asked a couple of people for our destination address, Loteshwar mandir. After scrambling through many tiny by lanes and some fabulous houses, we finally landed at our destination. The grandparents were overjoyed seeing us.  They felt like we had fought some big battle by reaching Patan and heaved a sigh of relief.

Our home stay in Patan

The house we were staying was my maternal grandmothers sister`s house and also my paternal grandmother`s  Masi`s house. The sister was no more, but her family had renovated and maintained this ancestral home with some basic facilities. This was in kampani pada. The house had a typical old character to it. With a living room, kitchen and a small room in the ground floor. A small staircase led up to the first floor which had a small covered terrace in the middle connecting 2 rooms. One room was in the main road with small windows. The early mornings in Patan are  truly magical wonderful. People walking through, the cleaners cleaning the road  and the rabarans selling milk and vegetables.

Some basic facts about the architecture of Patan

Patan has a variety of houses. Some in art décor style some with distinct Indian carvings. More than 90% of houses have a common wall, they are mostly stuck next to each similar to the town homes of America. The utility of space in these houses  is amazing. When you look at some of this houses, you may feel they are really tiny but when you actually walk inside you will amazed to see a terrace and tiny rooms and even  a basement. Many of them have1 or 2 floors  connected through really tiny wooden staircases

Vada- Vada means a gated community with lots of houses.
Pada-   means an area with less houses.
Seri - means a tiny lane with just 2 houses.
Dehla means a big open space with a door, more like a god own 
Chowk- Like a junction

Walking tour of Patan with the grand parents
The grand mother was super excited and over a cup of tea, she told us about the various people who lived in various houses and vadas and insisted that she would walk with us and show us all the houses. At the age of 86 she has a fabulous memory. On the other hand we called up the paternal grand mother who is in Bangalore, asking her to stay next to her ipad as we would take her through a live walking tour of Patan.  

Renuka Ba`s birth place
We  walk out of the kampani pada and come towards something called Limdi chowk(4 roads). Interestingly there is a big Limda tree on the middle of the road. My grand mother in excitement tells me that big white mansion at the beginning of the road, was actually a Dehala( a big open space with a door) and behind that was her Mothers maternal house. This was where she was born in a little godown. The people of patan are really warm, as soon as we went near the house they all came out and even offered us water and breakfast.  

Kasumbia vada-   Our next stop was Kasumbia vada, this is where my Dadi`s house was located. This vada had some fabulous old houses. There was a huge big bungalow owned by the Kilachands, which was quite old and had got ripped off during the earthquake. Only the remnants of that house remained. In the tiny lanes of this vada still stood some lovely houses owned by one of our relatives another Kilachand. It had lovely balconies and mark of KC

Dadi`s house
The main entrance of GTC house in Patan

As we walked towards Dadi`s house in Patan,  GTC house in the same vada, some of the neighbors came out. Some people recollected meeting Lili ba, my grand mother`s mother. We enquired who lived in the house and as my nana nani conversed with the neighbors, they somehow managed to get the keys to the house and we were able to see how it looked.
Carving  on the main door of  Dadi`s house with the  crown and the Kalash
The house had lovely carvings outside with a distinct carving of the queen’s crown at the entrance and kalash carving below, perhaps it was symbolic of the family, the perfect blend of east and west.

The backside terrace with the symbol
GJC Gordhandhas
Jamnadas Choksey
Side view of the house
On video call,  Dadi tell us that her father has actually got this house build with the help of one of his friends who was an architect or engineer. 

The Grand staircase 

The house had a grand stair case leading upstairs and the tiles from the olden time.  As I walked into that house, I tried hard to imagine how life must have been when the entire family lived in this, I wish I could rewind into a day back then.

The front view of Nananji`s house from
Kampani Pada
Nanaji`s house

My Nanaji`s family was a very prosperous family of the patan nath. They had a huge business of supplying Herda from Maharashtra. So they didn’t live a lot in patan but they had many house. 2 of their houses were located in Kusumbia vada.
One of the houses which they last owned, was huge half of the house was in Kusumbia vada and the other on the main road of Kampana pada. This was the most fabulous house I had ever seen. Nanaji`s cousin uncle whose name was also Kilachand had got this house built in 1940 for his son Jayanti`s wedding. He was known to be a very prominent personality. v

The house had 3 floors. If you entered the house from Kusumba vada,  on  the ground  floor there was a small platform ootla  as they call  it in gujarati, where people sat in evenings to chat with the neigbours.The door had fabulous carvings, and design of the exterior was uniform to how it looked on the other side of the road. There were 3 rooms on the ground floor. When you entered there was a small open room with tiny staircase leading up, next was the kitchen, which also had a staircase and last was the living room with a toilet. 
The Living room door opened to the other side of the road. We climbed the first floor from the back side staircase. On the first floor was a small covered room, with tiles pieced flooring with a lovely design.  

The next floor lead us to another room, more like a store room. When we opened the storeroom door, it lead us to a lovely open terrace, and next to the terrace  on the other side was another huge room, where there was big old poster bed, which belonged to our family.  This room also had a tiny terrace. From this room itself we could now go down via front side stairs which lead into the kitchen. We climbed down to the   2nd floor of these side, where there were 2 rooms. 

One of the rooms which opened on the road side had lovely windows and wooden cupboards embedded in the walls of the  house.
The family who lived their now had purchased this house from Nanaji`s family in 1990. Apparently this house was rumored to have had the ghost of jayanti kaka, nanaji`s cousin brother.The family said they were very happy with the house and they never meet any ghost:

Auto ride
Our next halt was going to Vakharna Pada where my Nani`s father`s house was. It also had houses of other relatives.  As the distance was a bit far, we had to take an auto. We were five of us in one auto. This was great experience travelling on the front seat of the auto. We visited few of the old temples, one of which was built by Dadi`s grandfather.

Nani`s  house:
My Nani`s house was at the  left hand side entrance of vakharana pada. Nani`s brother had rebuilt the house many years back, so there was nothing old or ancient about this place.
My Nani  had quite a tragic child hood. Her mother died very young of a stomach ulcer in Bombay leaving back 5 children with her youngest sister only 2.5 years old. She was only 14, being the eldest sister she had to take on the responsibility of taking care of her younger siblings.  Her father then a  trader of flours, having a shop at nal bazzar, Bombay was perhaps so shattered, that he  developed severe Aasthma. Doctors though that the Patan air may suit him better, so my Nani left her school at 4th standard and came to Patan, to look after the father and the siblings.  Unfortunately her father didn`t live too long he passed away within a year.  The house as my Nani describes it was quite nice. It has lovely red titles, a floor on the top with 1 room and 2 rooms downstairs. Her mother`s widow sister helped raise the other children.  After 3 years, when Nani was 18 she got married to Nanaji and started her new life in Kishore Bhuvan, Mumbai. She was determined to study, so she would go to school from 1-6pm every day and somehow managed to complete 10th.
Other houses in Vakharana Pada
In vakharana pada, in a tiny  lane was the house of Dadi`s nanaji.  It was a tiny house with just one floor.  Last we went and visited Praveena ben and Shantibai an elderly couple, they were related to us and have been living in Patan for years. My father was good friends with them, perhaps coz they too were great connoisseurs of art and my dad would make many trips to Gujarat as a youngster to purchase handicrafts over the weekend and sell in Bombay. They too lived in a house which was rebuilt. But my aunt had described their old house to me and what was most fascinating of that house was a small opening in the basement, where one could hide.

Patan na Patola-

The newly designed Patola museum of Patan is a recent development. The Salvi family originated from Maharashtra and were perhaps the first of the lot to make any kind of cloth. The Salvi jain community  about 1000 families migrated to Patan  during the role of the siddpur king  and were in this Patola weaving business. Now only 3-4 families are left. The museum display`s ikkhat, patola art from different parts of the world, and patolas of patan. The weaving of this patola requires distinct skill and a lot of patience. It takes at least 9 months to make one saree. The beautiful sarees cost around Rs. 1.9lacs.  At this stage of life, I can perhaps not afford to buy a patalo saree, but I do buy a few cards with the patola design


Ranki Vau & Shastraling talav- Ranki Vav  and Shastraling talav are a part of world heritage sites.  When I had been here 15 years ago,  with my dad. It  had lied in the ruins than. But Gujrat tourism, seems to have taken some good steps towards developing this place, with lovely green gardens in both the locations. 
Apart from the locals who come here for an evening outing, you will see a lot of foreign tourists too,

Famous foods of Patan

Patan is famous for his potato chip chevda, penda and salam pak. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How I Met Navratri...

Navratri, was a festival that was closest to my dads`s heart. I just love the way he introduced me to this festival. He was the Garba poster boy of our cosmopolitan St Martins rd, Bandra, where young and old, danced to the beautiful folk songs that he sang.

Pa had an unconditional love for Gujarati folk music & art. One of his earliest business ventures as young student was visiting Kutch, Patan over the weekend, buying handicrafts,  kutchi bharat( embroidery of Kutch> material and selling them  from a stall on linking road.

I must have been in my mother’s womb, when Pa introduced me to his favorite Gujarati garba songs, singing for me. As I grew up, he would sing them for me to put me to sleep. When I must have been 4-5 he told me about the Rabarans( women from Gujarat who dressed up in colourful clothes with beautiful embroidery and lots of oxidized jewelry)

The way he described them to me, they seemed like truly beautiful women. He would spend hours dressing me up, to look like a Rabaran. He would plait my hair, drape the chaniya choli, exquisitely embroidered by the local artists of Gujarat. This would be paired with the most authentic oxidized jewelry. 

As I grew up he tried hard to teach me the garba and dandiya dance, well I think he must have  been disappointed, as I could not match up to his expectations. But soon he taught me to sing the  rhythmic gujarati folk songs, like Rangalo, Dholeeda, Mehndi tai Vavi,  Jodhe re jodhar, Tara aakhien na awifle. Thankfully I was able to sing them, although would often forget the gujrati words. Somewhere in him he wanted to expose me to the depth and beauty of gujarati folk culture and arts.

Each Navratri with Papa was a different, fun and exciting. I still remember the last Navratri with Papa, he was recovering from jaundice, not in the best of his health, but he still sang his favourite garba song Rangalo in our new gujrati neighborhood. Navrati now days has become to commercialized and more like the disco, this is something which had started even when my dad was around, and he has never really appreciated the sub standardization of one of the purest form of Gujarati  folk art.

This is how I was introduced to this beautiful festival, But Navratri has never been & never will be the same without Pa..

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Out at 97... A life well played..

It was a buzzing morning in one of Bandra`s middle class neighborhood. Nutan Nagar, located on the banks of the Bandra talao was home to young couples, immigrants and nuclear families who started their modest living in one room kitchens away from the hustle bustle of the so called proper Bombay.

In one such household of this buzzing neighborhood, a young mother was busy completing some house hold chores, and supervising her 9month old young daughter. Her 5 year old son, Gautam came running in like a hurricane ‘ Subhabi, Subhabhi he uttered enthusiastically, in a tone signifying that he had discovered his biggest invention. “There is lady who stays on the top floor, He name in Nimbuben and she knows how to make beautiful clothes, let’s go right now and meet her. She can make frocks for my sister’

Subhabhi tried to calm her son down and told him she would go and visit her later in the day. When Subhabhi  meet Vimuben( not nimbu ben), both of them would never have imagined that this simple meeting would be transformed into such strong friendship between them and their families(Patels & Shahs)

Both of them bonded immediately, while Vimuben stitched frocks for Hema, she taught Subhabhi to knit, sew and dream. Subhabhi introduced her to her cuisine and her husband Satish an engineer helped repair her sewing machines. Hema become sister to the Patel brothers.

When Vimuben`s family decided to move from Nutan Nagar to a suave apartment on St Martins road, Subhabhi`s humble request to Vimuben was to sell the bigger room of Nutan Nagar they lived when they vacated it . Vimuben insisted, Subhabhi to come and have a look at the apartment, and purchase a flat in the same complex .  Subhabhi could not afford to buy such an expensive apartment, but once she visited the place, she promised herself to buy the apartment at any cost and she did.

Anand Vihar began a new chapter in the life of these 2 friends and their respective families. Vimuben started her sewing and knitting classes in her house. She also made unique bags, and dolls with cloth and crotchet.

Vimu Dadi was always a loving grand mother to me. She stitched  a beautiful white dress for my first birthday and many more through my entire childhood. I still have very fond memories of eating the handva she made. I used to really like it and she would always send it, whenever she made it. I applaud  her enthusiasm,  in  the last few years in spite of a weak eye sight she was determined to teach and share her knowledge of cloth and wool craft. Unfortunately, I was never interested in learning any of this, although Vimu Dadi did try to teach me one summer.
We have often laughed on her birthdays and spoken about her celebrating her 100th birthday. She was determined to celebrate a century. But unfortunately she had to get out at 97.

 Well played is all I can say… 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jab we Meet.. Celebrating 64years of Togetherness

Circa  18 Feb 1949
It was a pleasant February morning when Satish Shah  a handsome young boy dressed in a lovely white sherwani and  dhoti, walked with his family from Hargovindas ni chawl, in Bhuleshwar to his brides house in Kishore Bhuvan barely a 50 yard  distance. The only music element he has with him was nagada wala.  The bride, Ashru the daughter of a goldsmith was dressed in a lovely white and red saree, the traditional paneetar, and armed with  giant size elephant teeth bangles embedded with pure gold. 9am in the morning was the auspicious time for the wedding,  The groom was welcomed by Ashruben`s eldest sister, who we lovingly called Behn. He was saved from the nose pulling ceremony, as he had a bad cold. In those day neighbours had such a lovely bond with each other. The entire building of Kishore Bhuvan acted as a host for the wedding, while some game their home, for accommodating the barratis, some opened up their kitchen to make food.

A small shamina was built in the chowk( passage) of Kishore  Bhuvan where Satish & Ashru began their journey together. 64 years later, the chowk still stands there amidst the dilapidated building as a testimony of the times gone by

Wedding lunch
In those days of food shortage, one was not allowed to have banquets for weddings, so lunch was made in the choksey household with the help of a maharaj( cook). Ashru`s bua Shantiben was the food manager for the day.  The spread include Magnidal no siro, dal, puri , sabji & vatana pattice. A big blopper happened, the Maharaj accidently put the packet of soda in the pattice  instead of  ala lot( corn flour). All pattice turned black, within no time, another set of potatos were boiled and immediately pattices  were remade.  The immediate family itself consisted about 100 people
Few days before the wedding, someone had come to sell silver dinning set a 100 pieces at the shop. All the guests were served lunch in silver thalis, bowls,spoons. The entire big  hall of Ashru`s house in Kishore bhuvan was beaming with people, A seating of 50 ( pangat of 50) were served lunch at one time.  The guests sat down on traditional patlas and plate would be placed in front of them on another patla. First all the men ate and then the women and children.
Satish`s sister in laws( 6  real and many cousins) decided to have some fun, they actually put some cotton in Dadaji`s pattice, which he cant recollect any more
The Reception
In the Ram baug wadi, probably the first ever wedding reception of the community was held. In those days of food shortage, you could not feed people, so they just served icecream to the guests. The reception had loads of guests from the community(nath), to Ashru`s father friends from Jhaveri Bazzar


Northern Adventures
Soon after the reception Ashru and Satish boarded a train from Bombay with the family and went to the ancestral house in Agra, where there was practice of Mardaana, Janna( separate area for men and separate for women. A  21 year old Bombay girl  Ashru was amazed with these practices.She was even more amazed when they visited Haldwani. She has never in her life seen snow, or had milk in an aluminium glass. While she was still trying to come to terms with this kind of farm life, Satish got a message from  his landlord in Bombay, telling him to come back quickly else he would be giving away the room in Nutan Nagar, Bandra


Nutan Nagar
After the adventures of Agra & Haldwani, Ashru & Satish were both happy to come to their own little room in Bandra. Facing the lovely Bandra talao, and close to the railway station, their small one room was a beautiful world for them. In a matter of 3 days they set up their house, all the home vessels in stainless still were purchased for  Rs 500. Ashru`s mom lent her 2 metal chairs, a small table, mattresses and a bag full of  vessels, on condition that it should be returned once  she  purchased her on.  For months they lived out of their own single suitcases, * more like trunks as they could not afford a cupboard.  The only luxury item in their house was a radio( which costed 100 bucks at that time) was a gift from Sarla bhabhi to Satish.
As a young 22year old Ashru was quite excited and happy about her new life in Nutan Nagar. In Satish she found a great friend, he would always help her with the household chores. As Satish an engineer left for work in a mill, Ashru too would quickly leave, leaving the house to her servant( who cleaned the house for 4 rupees a month) and take the train to Charni road. She claims in those days there used to be super fast trains, which directly stopped at charni road, she would reach Charni road in 15minutes. She visited her Mothers family home every day from Bandra to charni road, as her family didn’t want her to be staying alone at home during the  day, in a chawl in Bandra. Her sisters & brothers also visited her very often in Nutan Nagar, curious to know about her new life. Her mom Liliba,  would come but she would not even have a glass of water considering the old school of thought u cant have anything at  your married daughters house. Her father, Gordhandas who was also very fond of his new son in law often visited, he would eat at Ashru`s  and quietly slide in a 10rupee note and say, "I am going to eat, tell your mom I paid for the food". Years later, Satish purchased a Austin 8 car Made in England and Ashru would often drive down from Bandra to Charni road with the children.
From humble beginnings, Ashru & Satish have come a long way together. 64years back when they began their journey as 2 young people, they would never have imagined what life would have in store for them. Its amazing how  beautiful their bond is.  I am truly blessed to have them as my grand parents, and i am so glad that atleast grannie remembers that day and she could describe it so well for me.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

From Kambhat to Agra & Beyond– The story of our roots from Dadaji

Throughout my life whenever I introduced myself, I was immediately labelled as someone being from Gujarat, and I have had countless conversations explaining people  about my northern connection and me hailing  from the one of most beautiful northern parts of India i.e. Haldwani Nainital. 
I have never really known about the actual story, till my Grandpa called me one evening few months ago and told me he wanted to write about  our roots, and the journey of our family from Kambhat to Agra. He would have ideally liked to do it himself, but his slow typing speed after his hand injury  did not encourage him. So I told him Dada, don’t worry the next time I come to Bangalore, I will definitely write it down.
Battling through   the limited time and a noisy  construction surrounding, Dadaji lovingly narrated the journey of our roots. Here it is in his words. Dada is the only surviving sibling amongst all his brothers & sisters,  so this is indeed a treasure for all of us

 From Kambhat to Agra
( as narrated by Dadaji)
In around 1500 my ancestors moved from Kambhat and settled at  Agra. Akbar when visited Gujrat had selected persons knowing Persian and Arabic for interpretation of laws  in the Mughal courts. My ancestors knew Persian and Arabic and thus  they were selected as courtesans in Akbar`s court. They travelled with the family on horses and bullock courts, palkhis escorted by the Mughal soldiers. They arrived in Agra and the family set up their house  in a an area called Namak Mandi which was close  to the Agra fort and with a view of the Taj from the terrace.  
For a family which grew up in a Gujarati surrounding this was like a different country, with mosques surrounding all over  the house.  However the area where the family was lived housed many wealthy Hindu business man and traders. The family members who attended the court had a special horse escort every day to take them to the court and bring them back.
Living in Agra, the family  created a culture of its own absorbing the local  customs, food from the locals. It is because of this that our family has just such distinct food, very different from the sugary cooking of original gujratis. Sweets are loved by one and all in the family but only as dessert  and not as part of the food.  From pethas, to  jalebi & rabidi, to bal mithai, rasgolas , ras malai  and our Agra special Bedaiya puri  and alloo jhool sabji  are  on the hit list.

Kapadwanj connection
In 1820  or earlier due to the floods in Gujrat people could not reach Kambhat, so they had to consider brides and bridegrooms from a village known as Kapadwanj. It was a tough time to fulfil the mission called Marraige, as lot of opposition went around, as the rumour had it that this men from Agra who were of fair complexion and handsome, were so because they used to  eat meat and fish, and thats why they were looked as a different race from that of the typical gujratis. However inspite of great opposition, Ghanshamdas( my grand father ) got a bride from Kapadwanj, called Ichaben, he paved the path for many such marriages of the Das families in Agra and various families in Kapadwanj.  Ichahaben died immediately after she gave birth to her younger son, my father( Brijbhushandas). Ghanshamdas and  his brother Madhuvan both remarried in Kathiawad. It is rumoured in those days, families instead of paying dowry to get daughters married used to actually take money in return for giving their daughters for remarriage. Both of them remarried in Kathiawad, Madhuvandas got married to Maniben and Ghanshamdas got married to Radhabai.. Madhuvandas practiced law  whose practice was later inherited by my father Brijbhushand Das.
Madhuvandas ( my grandfather’s brother) &  the Gandhi connection
Madhuvandas ( my grand father`s brother) has 2 sons, one was Jattu Kaka, and the other was Haru Kaka  and daughter was Putli who was a child widow.  Jattu Kaka  joined the freedom movement from his college and become a freedom Fighter, His brother Haru Kaka also joined in the same because of  Mani ben their mother who introduced the Gandhi movement in  the household. Mani ben has embraced Gandhisam, and Gandhiji would come to their house whenever he visited Agra.
 In 1930`s they set up a medical shop in  the sabji mandi, which still exists in the name of National medical. Jatu kaka died when he was 97, and Haru Kaka died when he was 84. The shop is currently run by  Jatu Kakas son. Any time you are in Agra and want to get a tour of  our ancestral home in Namakmandi , u can go to National chemist, and someone from the store will  take you to the house. ( you will have to use Haldwani- Agra direct connection of Manu Mahara  aka Harish in HaldwanI)

Ghanshamdas( my grandfather)
Ghanshamdas my grand father was an MA LLB from Agra and he went into judicial service and worked as a District sessions judge in various places in Uttar Pradesh( now Uttarkaand) including Kumaon, Ghadwal, Almora, Nainital. He had  4 sons. All his sons grew up in Agra and moved with him wherever he was posted. Rajan kaka the eldest son studied medicine from Lucknow and become a doctor and set up his practice in Agra and was popularly called as Doctor Kaka, Rattu kaka  was a BSC AHBTI  from Kanpur and  after his wedding he moved Kathiawad as an oil and paint technician for  some laboratory in Bhavnagar, while the family was staying in Jamnagar, Janardan Das   was a  BA LLB  from Allahabad and then went on to become an IAS in government service, retired a secretary of UP government and one of his sons Rajiv Ratna shah went on to became an IAS officer and retired recently as secretary for planning.  Brijbhushan Das  my father  studied law from Agra become a BA LLB and inherited the law practice of 7 generations in Agra.   He had a very lucrative practice in Agra, he used to fight cases for temples  like Dwarkadesh from mathura and vrindavan and other private mills and trusts. 

My  great grandmother & other relatives
Gopi ben  was my  great grandmother, basically Ghanshamdas mother who was alive upto the age of 99 lived in the palace along with Tribhuvandas called Raghho kaka jee.  My wife often called his wife Kunji ben as Mehelwali kaki. The entire family of Raghho Kaka was called Mehel wale.
It was called Kale Pathar kaa mahal ( Palace of Black stones) in Agra. In backyard of which, there were a number of stables for horses,  a cow shed and a gymnasium where my father used to have a  wresting exercise, the akadha as it  was known and we used  to play cricket.
 She  lived in the palace with  her youngest son Tribhuvandas  toll she died. Tibhuvandas ran a business in shoes. After the death of Gopi Dadi he sold the house to Laxminarayan book sellers and moved himself out of Namak mandi. He had 8 sons so they moved to the outskirts of Agra near Sikandra.  Now this place is called as Das kothi, where all  his sons have a plot. The area is called Das compound. The biggest mansion is of Tribhundas son who is a doctor called SK Das.

My father has many sisters, but his eldest sister Dhanlaxmi  was married to Ishwarlal Vakil in Mumbai. Ishwaralal used to work in Africa, when he was asked to leave Africa, he came to Mumbai and he got a flat in Sheetal Baugh in walkeshwar. Dhanno fais daughter, husband was  Suryakant Dani who was one of , the founders of Asian paints

From Agra to Haldwani
My father Brijbhushandas got married to Revaben from Kapadwanj. Brijbhushand Das elder son, my eldest brother Birju kaka used to study in a government school in Agra, and was trying his luck at experimenting something he had learnt at the laboratory in his school  to make explosive crackers. In his element, he tried to burst a cracker and lost the fingers of his left hand. 
Brijbhusandas got mentally worried after this incident and worried about what his son would do in his life, the accident took place in 1934, various business investments were made, like a atta mill which failed.  During this time  Rai Bahaudur Ghanshamdas, a title given to my grandfather by  the government  was practicing in his capacity as  judge of Kumaon courts .During this  time the government offered various facilities to clear the jungles and develop farms You could select around 100 acres of land, for which government would give subsidy for wire, fencing. After developing the land it would be granted to developer. So cost of getting land was equivalent to developing it. The land was tax free for 20 years and then it could become the developers property. So my father sent my brother Briju alone to Haldwani first he was around 18 years, and slowly sent things to set up a home there. Got lot of bullock carts and  bulls and slowly moved to Haldwani. 

Brijbhushandas had 5 sons & 4 daughters, Birju Kaka, jeetu, myself Satish, Shashikala, Sant, Veenu, Sanu, Krishna, Devkanya.

There were 2 pieces of land one at Bhawnipur and the other at chokhi mukhani, Bhawani pur was 7 miles away and Choti mukhani a km away from Haldwani. Both the lands were under development and suddenly  in 1936, my  father Brijbhusan Das said good bye to  the law profession and our schools ended  and were asked to  move to Haldwani . With only 5 rs to buy ticket. my brother Jeetu nd me  arrived in Haldwani where there were no facilities for school. One day the huge hut which was built on the farm with mud and thatch roofs, gave way in the monsoon. So we had to move various houses in the city till our pucca house got ready.
Just to establish  the family  we built a temple under the mango tree and the pucca house with huge pillars and big veranda that still exists as testimony of a bygone era.

Dacoits as our security guards

Security was a great concern in Haldwani, as it was then surrounded with nothing but jungles and  a lot of Dacoits used this path to move around. My father Brijbhusandas had saved some Dacoits from getting death punishment. In return this dacoits decided to serve the family. So we had 2 servants Dayaram and Hublal both big dacoits become helpers and security guards for the house. At this time  we lived in a jungle infested with leopards and tigers. For about 4 years in succession there was  always good crop of sugar cane, clean land was good but full of stones.
The journey from Haldwani  to Bombay and across the globe
I was around 15 years old when we moved to Haldwani, had not even completed 10th. After a lot of deliberation with my father, I went back to Agra to complete my studies. I stayed in a hostel  completed my school from  a private  institute and then decided to pursue engineering from vrindavan Prem Maha vidyalaya. Did a 3 years diploma in engineering. After completing my studies I worked in a sugar factory called Kesar Sugar Mills near Haldwani as an apprentice.  

The Frontier Mail to Bombay
After 6 months of working at Kesar Sugar Mills, I took the frontier mail from Mathura and travelled to Bombay  and went to my father’s brother Balkishanda`s son`s house Ballu  who used to live in Jogeshwari. Ballu was also an oil and paint technician. He fixed me up with India united mills in Bombay as an Assistant engineer. United Mills was in chinchpokli.  In 1947 my brother Ballu had to go to USA, so I moved to Gordhan Kakas house in Bhuleshwar. Gordhan Kaka was my mother Rewa ben uncle. He had one son, called Shashi. I lived with them till I got married and moved to Bandra
While I was in Mumbai and trying to study, my  brothers and sisters decided to live the jungle life. My father had  purchased about 90acres of land in the development scheme.  So family lived on the land and some bit of crops.

Few years after I moved to Bombay, I  got married to Ashrumati,  we had a grand wedding, one of the first families to have a wedding reception. After my marriage we set up our house in a small 2 room kitchen in Nutun Nagar, facing the Bandra talao. As the family grew, 3 sons and 1 daugther, by chance we happened to come across an apartment in Bandra on an insistence of  our neighbour who was moving to that apartment. At that time we really could not dream of affording a big house like that, but  with the help of my determined wife, we some how  managed to buy our very own apartment in Bandra. After we moved to that house and I  got a job at Marshal & sons I took my first journey abroad on a ship, when I was sent by  company  to England  France and Germany.  

With APE  Bellis, I set up their office  at my home in Bandra, and spent most of my working years travelling to various parts of India.

After my retirement I along with my wife moved to  America for a decade,  to live with my sons family in Memphis. This was a different phase where I  spent time nurturing my hobbies, growing vegetables in the field, reading, driving the grand children, doing grocery shopping, and holidaying on some world class cruises  on Caribbean, Pannma canal, Mexico and  Alaska
 Some time in 2000, we decided to spend half the year in India and half in America, so we spent the summers in America and the winters in India. We had moved to Kandivali by then to a much more advanced building with lifts and amenties compared to our old building in Bandra.
 Hema our daughter moved to India on deputation for IBM. Then we began spending time between Gurgaon, Bombay & Memphis. Finally after a years gap when she moved back to Bangalore, we came to stay with her. We loved the weather in Bangalore, and  we just could not live in Bombay.
It seems like a long journey, when I had taken the frontier mail to Bombay almost 65 years ago I had never imagined what this would have in store for me. Looking back I feel content about all the experiences and things that life has given me