If you had the power to get somewhere where would you go right now?

Memories are tricky things. Bad memories can take us to a place where we are uncomfortable and unsafe……  whereas a Good and Beautiful memory can take us to a place where we not only feel safe but also it is something that stands out in the course of our life.

In my case some of my best memories are at the fort of Sinhagad,  in the outskirts of  Pune.  The winding lanes leading to the fort are lined with little yellow and orange wild flowers. So much that from far it looks like a carpet of yellow and orange. The low clouds touch your hair as you drive up the lanes. The cold wet feeling of having them over your face  is a wonderful feeling. Then comes the lovely trek up the fort…… Yeah it is tiring but reaching on top is worth every drop of sweat. By the time you are on the top you have the blood pounding in your ears. You stop awhile to catch your breath and take a small break and drink the cool clear water from the well and then look down to the beauty of the city way below you.

Everything seems so small and inconsequential at that moment. No problem or worry seems too big that it cant be handled. You feel invincible…… you can do anything. The moment of peace envelops you and you feel calm. Thats the feeling everytime…… every single time.

That moment when all the sounds in your mind stop and you can not really speaking hear anything, is what I try to capture. I dont really have any thoughts passing through my mind at that moment….. just a sense of stillness. Nothing seems to matter at that moment. I get that feeling every single time I have been there.

I havent been to sinhagad in a very long time now…… almost a decade plus……. now that I go back and calculate. Guess I have to rectify that before long.  With the industrialisation and IT boom in my city there has been a total geographic and demographic change in the city and the outlook of the people of the city. I doubt whether things are still the same….. or is it just me who has gotten older, bitter and disillusioned.

Sinhagad has been and will be for more years than any person living right now on earth.  Only people change around it.  A new generation looking for peace and solace like I did years before…… I hope they find it as I did and still do!!!

 

 

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When I was ten and six

Lately all the posts in my blog have become nothing short of emotional atyachaar…. so I took a cue from NaBloPo and its daily topics for the month of June and this is the best topic that I could think of. If you could go back in time and meet your 16-year old self, what three things would you tell yourself?

If I had to go back in time and meet my 16-year-old self….. I would have been in the twelfth standard in St Mira’s College….. almost a purani jeans and guitar moment. Those days life was FULL up to the brim and very very interesting…. too interesting if I look at it from my Ma’s point of view.

At sixteen Life had:

Too much ambition.

New found freedom.

Lots and lots of laughter and giggling.

Experimenting with EVERYTHING.

Living and sleeping in jeans and skirts and wearing Dad’s shirts….. especially the ones he ironed the night before to wear to work….. which he absolutely hated!!!

It was the time for: Friends, making groups….. breaking them. Talking about boys all the day until you almost puked….. yeah that much….. and I did puke at the end of the day…… Each person writing a dissertation on their current love and the loss of past love!!! Man it changed very often…… used to have a hard time keeping track of everybody’s……. Flavour of the month.

Sixteen was also the era of getting proposed to almost every day with flowers, letters written in blood or maybe red ink, teddies and a wide paraphernalia of things…… usually fighting back…… slapping….. beating them……. eating flowers and becoming a walking talking paper shredder machine, specialising in shredding letters and cards into very very tiny minute particles and then blowing them in the air. Believe me the whole experience was quite traumatic causing me to stay indoors at home for days ultimately being thrown out by dad.

Bunking college and spending days in college canteen gorging on vada pavs and vada sambars or experimenting with henna designs on each other’s palms and hair styles (mine was a ladies college)

First time copying from chits in the surprise (or surprise for us as we were busy bunking) tutorials and then throwing shoes out of the window and then jumping off the window to catch the train….. the shoes first because that’s where the chits were. Using the window more than the door to leave the class.

Sitting in the last bench in class and singing songs or writing poetry or sketching and giving lots and lots of grief to the teachers.

Spending the whole of sanctuary sketching on each other’s palms or tying up two random girls’ dupatta with each other or braiding their hair together or writing notes to each other with the background music of Keshava Madhava or aye malik tere bande hum.

Bunking classes and running in the tracks to catch the 245 local and then alighting at Shivajinagar and then taking the return local back to Pune at 330 and then finally going home in the same local at 450…… our scheduled time.

It was also my first exposure to the world of electronics and telecommunication. My friend’s pa had banned her from making phone calls so we used to join wires and then make calls and then again replace the phone to its broken self. There were these one rupee telephone booths at Pune station which often malfunctioned and we could make free calls for hours….. we did not even have to insert a coin. It was like our own private hotline. Very often we used to have some person threatening another on the phone next to us…… usually had to with some girl. We also gave a lot of blank calls to all our dushman….. and sometimes to some of our could-be friends as well.

At 16 padyatra was the call of the day…… I walked and walked and walked and walked First from home to Khadki station then Pune station via tracks to Koregaon Park…. to college then to work in Camp and then from Camp to Pune station and since I was in marketing all over again everywhere. Considering that pocket-money was so less, auto rickshaws was a status symbol something I could not afford.

Covering our faces while going to the theatres to catch the movies…… lest someone recognised us.

At 16 I had my first job….. financial independence.

First love……. first break-up…… first heart-break!!!!

Read books and more books and lots more after that….. all kinds of them……. Sometimes even read more than two a day. Read my first and last science fiction and totally hated it.

16 was also the time for serious studying…… slaving over economics and accountancy…… what saved the day for me was Subodh classes’ 99 test series and French and English. I wouldn’t have scored above average without these factors.

At 16 studying was usually done in Pune University main building or lawns or in the Sanskrit section because nobody went there those days. My home would be full of my sister’s friends and lots of clutter for her impending wedding causing havoc in my study pattern eventually started studying with the radio in full blast.

16 was also the first time I went to sinhagad for the first time and instantly fell in love with it.

Age 16 witnessed my oldest sister’s wedding….. my first experience at event management….. loved every moment of it….. also witnessed a Bengali wedding for the first time in my life.

Me having some or the other issues and refusing to go back to college or stepping our of home and dad threatening me with dire consequences and repeatedly telling me the importance of education and importance of career.

16 was rebelling……. rebelling against everything and anything that came before me. Lots of screaming and shouting at home……. Ma and Pa getting lots and lots of grey hair. The only thing I spoke at home were: I don’t know, I didn’t do it, I cant do it, I wont do it, I am hungry…… anything else and Ma and Pa would have a heart attack. Eventually Ma started using reverse psychology to get me to do things.

16 was sleeping lots and lots of sleeping so much that Ma had to throw me out of the bed each day and Dad gave me a lecture on sleeping each and every waking hour even when I was awake eventually I decided if I had to take it, I might as well do the bad deed.

16 was also the time when Ma scrutinised each and every male friend of mine and froze most of them. Every Sunday along with the oil head massage I also had to listen to Ma’s speech on the virtue of women…… typical Sulochana and Nirupa Roy style…… well it worked….. it kept me straight.

16 was not worrying about weight and eating everything and doing everything.

If I had to go back and tell something to myself it would be……. Great going…… You re the best!!!!

I wouldn’t want to change a thing or do anything any differently for those days then made me what I am now and waise bhi do sixteen year olds even listen???

The Movers and The Packers

Its been such a long time since I actually sat down and wrote. One of the longest blog sabbaticals since I started blogging.

Life for me has been too unpredictable this last year and the last few months have been total roller coaster ride with Hubzz…. so much that we don’t even dare plan the next meal lest it goes awry again….. just taking life as it comes.

So many things have happened that organizing all the the events and putting all of them to a logical order is going to take a lot of time. For the present I am home back to Pune……. not visiting this time but we actually moved….. LOCK STOCK and BARREL. The dreaded 2009 ended with me totally uprooting myself from Mumbai….. back home to the land I was born and grew up……. yet strangely it feels so unfamiliar….. When I think of home these days, it is my home in Mumbai which i so painstakingly created that I think of. Here living in a rented apartment…. very close to Ma and all my family it seems different. Things have changed so much here. At times I have to remind myself that this is where I grew up.

On my short trips to Pune which usually lasted for a day or two things were different but actually living here is much more different….. you interact on a more baser level your entire perception is totally different now. So what was that that I longed to come to…… A MIRAGE???

Packing and unpacking has been a terror. The movers and packers truly moved my life…… they moved me to TEARS!!! My whole life was packed in 15 cartons and 84 packages. The memories of my life in Mumbai…… I haven’t counted!!! I have collected so much junk over the past decade both material and emotional that putting all that out of my life is going to be an effort…… the cleanliness and organizing freak in me is crying out with joy but also making me burn innumerable candles in all the ends not to mention my arthritic hands and legs which scream out now and then but now I have learned to ignore the pain. For me I just have to scream out and my whole family will be here organizing things for me…… but ten years on my own I am resisting the urge. I am finally kindof organized and even have internet which is the last stop at kindof organized.

The weather here is a JOY!!! I had totally forgotten what winter was all about. Its like an unending holiday. The first week I shifted I was wearing a sweater all day. Now I just smile…… I have longed for winter for years now I finally have it!!! In Mumbai it is only the one glorious hour in the morning that reminds you that it is winter and if you have overslept….. you have missed it.

It was very painful to leave my home. I had created it brick by brick and the last few years it was my haven and my joy. It wasn’t well endowed like the museum pieces we see in the magazines but it was cozy and most important it was mine. When the Packers moved out it looked totally bare and forlorn. I could not help but mourn about it. But the last year has taught me that looking back will only cause you pain. So I chinned up and walked out promising my home a better tomorrow as I promised myself the same.

Moving my bike to Pune was a JOY….. nope that is an understatement it was pure unadulterated BLISSSSSS!!! After years I again drove down all alone to Pune from Mumbai. Since I got sick just managing my hands and legs was an effort so driving all the way to Pune from Mumbai was pure bliss. It was like as if I got back my freedom and I could fly again……. nothing in life compares to the happiness I felt while tackling the ghats. I wont get into similes and metaphors but just that after years I felt that my clipped wings had its power again. Traveling in Mumbai locals i used to feel like the chicken in their coup before being slaughtered. The solo drive back home on my bike was HEAVEN like the flamingos. Of course I did have Hubzzz on my tail continuously giving me “INSTRUCTIONS” but since he was in the tin ka dabba…. alias CAR….. it was not difficult to lose him or the cell just not working :-D. I am a veteran at two wheelers……… I don’t need instructions!!!!

All in all the move is good!!! I meet Ma and Pa EVERYDAY…… and now I can celebrate all functions and festivals with my family. I don’t need to call my sisters just drop in on them. I spend quality time with Hubzz (his place of work is only 10 mins away unlike the three local train changes and two and half hours one way in Mumbai) and Parents and my sisters and nieces (I had forgotten what it was to be the youngest in the family) and most important I am HOME…… where I belong!!!

Ohhhhh Kolkata

Truly and officially Kolkata is just not my city…….. Honestly I went there with an open mind…….. totally OPEN as OPEN as I could get but NAH, the way things work there is truly irrational and beyond the realms of my pea-sized brain!!!

The hospital is a place of worship where doctors are put on pedestal (like tons and tons of swamijis) and once they are found not so up to the mark they are whipped of their god like stature and brought down to the stature of dogs. I think I like it here where doctors rather be questioned and thought of like humans beings who could falter and thought of as people with a different line of education who have the capability to heal people of their sickness and in the process of treatment they explain to mere suffering mortals the reason for their ailment and the subsequent treatment.

I met the sweet tongued sari clad ladies who had soooo sweetly abused me on phone and guess what they didn’t actually look soooooo good to me rather they lived up to their sneaking selves of being unscrupulous thereby pacifying me that my judgment of them was not so wrong also they put me off my guilt trip. What works in the passionate city of Kolkata is sob stories…….. yeah that sells like hot cakes especially if you have somebody sick, somebody cheated you, denied of inheritance or just plain you being sick…….. so much for me putting up my brave facade of being totally well and sneaking pain killers down my throat and hiding my swollen legs.

My pa-in-law is well. Hospital’s patient care was good but can’t say the same of their information section or their billing section. It sucked!!!! They have employed a bunch of female nincompoops totally wet behind their ears…….. fresh out of college, totally unprofessional, who were getting slapped right left and center by one and all and took it all well without complaining…….. to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

Screaming at those people was just so normal that it did not even raise my bp this time……. everyone was screaming at them. It took us five hours to get our patient admitted in spite of making pre-arrangements and the hospital calling us in the morning to confirm every detail. Waiting five hours meant waiting/standing for five hours in the OPD as they did not have a separate waiting area and since OPD was in full force there was no place to wait……. emergency patients also were made to wait. Similarly clearing bill and getting together and clearing up took a long time……. because they had obviously wrongly billed us and after a session of table banging (by hubby) everything worked smoothly and the bill was reduced.

What was very alarming was the rate of bypass surgeries and angioplasties done in a day at the hospital. It seemed like an epidemic of heart diseases there. Very scary!!!

Another thing that I was exposed to this time was the disparities in the city………. the disparities between the haves and the have-nots……. the elite and the not so elite. My side of the family in Kolkata comes from the northern side…… the displaced partition stricken people whereas hubby’s family is the British Raj worshiping elite of Bengal. The difference is so striking that I was actually shaken.

Just 30 km apart from each other but the difference hits you like a punch to your stomach. On one hand you have a whole family living in a 12 by 12 room and on the other hand you have a family of 4 saying that 3000 sq worth of carpet area is not enough…… that is the part of Kolkata that totally still lives in the era of British Raj and the glories then even though the current generation has not seen anything of it…… they live on memories and on imagination of the utopian world fed to them by their parents and grandparents.

Memories of hoodless convertibles, of waltz dancing in the balls given by Horton Sahib, innumerable servants, going on drives whereas the other side talks of the crossover, of poverty, of going without food wearing the same clothes till they were tattered and moving from house to house in search of shelter. Where on one side the elite discussed how Rabindranath was the epitome of all Vedas and Upanishads put together and bramho versus Hindu religion and sociological developments across the coffee table, the other side family is discussing the factory’s closure with the wife who patiently cooks fish on the earthen stove for her family.

I experienced all this in a span of hours…… all in the same day. So much disparity!!!! Also another factor that everybody talks about is inheritance…… The son of Bengal survives on the inheritance left by his father or grandfather. Most discussions usually revolve around who got what and how much…….. kind of disgusting to self made people like me.

With this scenario in mind I am not surprised why the Communists have ruled the state for decades. I always wondered why and how the CPM came to power year after year……. the mystery is finally solved.  The truth is finally evident to me.

On the lighter side whenever I wanted to go from one side to the other I used to get a lot of advice take a rickshaw (hand pulled ones) then take a metro then take 52 no bus, then an auto (auto rickshaw or cycle one)etc etc….. It used to really scare me to even me imagine me on all these modes of transport with my broken leg and my rheumatic arms and legs!!! as scary as JAWS!!! I used to have my eyes like golf balls and my mouth hanging open just thinking of doing all that they had suggested.

They really have a lot of modes of transport. When I was young I used to be totally terrified of the tin buses with wooden floors which moved on the roads and looked slanting to me…… I always thought that it would turn turtle but it never did. All you have to do to stop a bus is to raise your hand……… unlike us who run like the devil is after them to the bus stop to take a bus. The trams were another experience I could easily walk faster than the tram I wonder why people bother sitting in them. I remember not so long ago, dad had told me how the whole city had gone on a strike because the fare had risen by 25 ps. (talking of paises, we had a real tiff with a guy and lot of screaming because we did not have 25 ps change…… it still works there……. I haven’t seen one in a long time.) There is the popular cycle rickshaws and the hand pulled rickshaws. You wont believe it but really fat women even fatter than me…… two of them…… sit on one, which is pulled by a really scrawny thin guy. There is also the jetty, the popular metro and the of course Mamta Banerjee’s Indian Railway. This is one city where the Ambassador totally extinct elsewhere still rules the road and it is amazing to find how good it still is.

Another striking similarity both sides is that they have huge large windows and at least two doors in the bathrooms and since Kolkata is a congested area there is always somebody else’s window on the other side. I don’t understand why anybody would install huge windows and so many doors in the bathroom. For a maniac like me with bathroom phobia this is a total nightmare.

I did visit Dakshineshwar and Ma Kali…….. my second mother!!! It was so peaceful there. It kind of sucks in everything from inside you and keeps you just peaceful inside….. total silence!!! I have no idea but the inner sanctum of the temple is really beautiful and the Ganga flowing by is so beautiful. It always takes away everything that you have inside you to put in just peace in there. That is the only place in Kolkata that feels like Home!!!!

Apart from all that I did have a lot of sweets and bori and saw the city totally buzz with activity for the upcoming Puja. Shopping everywhere……… sadly in my case I did not have the time. Also owing to my grand mother-in-law’s death this year we will not be celebrating the festival.

I came back with a different point of view and appreciated my city my home and my family a lot more.

My very first Egg Curry

Depression did not seem to leave me in spite of all the stuff that I did. Read motivational books, walked the treadmill at home, watched funny movies etc etc. It does give you a feel good thing as long as it lasts but once it is over……. you are back to the “main aur mera saya”. Ultimately hubs dear came to the rescue and on Saturday it was just talk talk talk…… booohoooo….. talk talk talk. Till I was tired and slept.

Today morning he almost threw me out of the house to go to a parlor saying I will feel better. After staying in for days together I tried my I don’t want to go out I cant walk…… there is swine flu outside…….. even my favorite I am fat I cant go out!!! which generally works but not this time. I just went and dumped myself at my friend’s parlor and told her to transform me for better or for worse.

Did you know a haircut can make you feel so much better!!! I feel like a before and after transformation literally. Here I have to tell you that I am not at all in love with my hair which is more often than never a bother to me. I am lucky I got the right genes from my mother so I have never had to worry about hair and skin and honest to god if I knew I could feel better by just cutting my hair I would have had got rid of them long time ago. I guess you’re wondering where the egg curry came from specially since I am a vegetarian!!! OK here goes when I came back I was really feeling guilty because I had spent hours in the parlor and I had still not cooked lunch but hubby had already cooked lunch….. it was not so good but I was saved the trouble so I really really really really appreciated it. That reminded me of my first attempt at cooking!!! Yes it was Egg curry in the days when I was a non-vegetarian.

Being the youngest of three daughters and specially having sisters, I was always babied and pampered to the core and never had to enter the kitchen. If Ma was sick, it was always dad or bodidi (eldest sister) who pitched in…… sometimes even Chodidi pitched in. I always observed but never had to pitch in. After they were married if there was any requirement Bodidi and Chodidi always came over and took over. As for me it was always that : “She is very small…… she cant cook”…….. till the day I got married. Whenever my parents come home, they still cant believe that I do the cooking. My dad looks at me as if I have some hidden genie in the kitchen who cooks. When bro-in-law (I have known him since I was nine) comes home the first thing he says is “I haven’t paid my insurance premium. Think of your sister!!!!” and then “YOU COOKED!!!”

Anyway coming back to my story……. this happened when I was in college. My group was an all boys group and I was the only girl. Sometimes the other guys would get their girls but mostly it was me and them. Ravi and Prakash’s mum dad were away for a week and all of us decided that it was party time. So we all (bikers) drove down to Ravi’s place and there we all got into conversations (which usually involved LIFE) and arguments till it was time for lunch. At lunch time they all looked at me and told me that you are the girl and you have to cook. I was totally aghast and told them “go fish I cant”. I was given examples of how my friends (their girls) cooked for them and “Ladki hoke cooking nahi aata” so forth but we had to eat so Sudhir volunteered to make tea, Prakash made rice and since I theoretically knew the recipe for egg curry I told I could try. The others volunteered to buy the raw material and chop it.

So in we went for item no 1 : TEA
I entered the kitchen and was shocked to see Sudhir mix water milk sugar tea leaves all at once and put it on the gas. I had seen my Ma make tea that was not the way. To top it all he was also stirring it with a huge LADLE!!! Then we had a fight over it.

Me: sheeeeeeee yeh kya kar raha hai????

Sudhir : “Tu nikal yahan se”

Everybody actually drank that except me.

Item no 2: RICE
Prakash made it. Very simple wash rice put in cooker whistle……. off !!! finito!!! I was cool!!!

Item no 3: EGG CURRY
My turn now. I entered the kitchen on my toes (I always had the feeling that the kitchen was not my place and more often than it was coupled with toes curling and me walking on them) and Prakash who offered to help me asked me

Prakash : kya karu bol?

(There were six pairs of eyes staring at me and I had no idea what to do. I looked around)

Me : pyaz (onion)

Ravi : grind it in the mixer.

Me: “MIXER????”

Prakash immediately put the chopped onions and tomatoes into the mixer and ground them. Ravi put an IRON kadai (I never noticed that the kadai in our home was of aluminium…… I mean kadai is kadai) on the flame and Sudhir put the oil. It was my cue so I put the contents of the mixer into the kadai.

Sudhir: Wait till it boils then put the boiled eggs inside.

Vicky had already boiled eggs and shelled them. So when it boiled I put the eggs and salt and dry masala (I knew that part) and then Prakash tasted it and said that it was ok and we left it like that.

The whole lunch ready we realized that the rice was short. Sudhir again to the rescue he offered to make chapatis and then made them and then it was time to eat. After about one hour of making the egg curry everybody sat around the food like it was a new invention. Rice was served by someone and then it was the turn of the eggs. Everybody looked at it. Since I had cooked it I was asked to do the honors of serving it. I ladled out an egg and some curry and I was shocked the eggs had turned purple blue and black.

ME: “Sheeeeeeeeeeee I am not eating that!!!”

Everybody came up with theories which also included poisoning and some more interesting inventions.

Arvind: “Com on yaar……. it is the IRON kadai “.

Everybody looked at him as if he was the alien one.

Vicky had the look “You mean SHE didn’t do anything to the eggs”.

Arvind even showed bravery by taking a bite. They all looked at me to do the same.

Me: Sheeeeeeeee………. Not me…….. I am not eating that……… I am going home.

So I started my bike and went home leaving Prakash, Ravi and Vicky’s girl (who had finally come) to do the cleaning up. What???? you expected me to clean up ????? Wash utensils ???? Sheeeeeee……………….

I went home and told Ma “Khide peche…….. khete dao……. kichu khaini”……… (I am hungry….. give me to eat…… I haven’t eaten anything) immediately food came walking from the kitchen along with hot tea.

I KNOW………….. I am a pampered brat!!!!

PS: Some time later there was this time when Ma had gone out of station and bodidi had not yet come. Dad did the cooking. I offered to make chapatis. Yeah I know Dad gave me the same look…….. YOU. Remember I had seen Sudhir make chapatis in the aforementioned incident. Dad told me that bodidi was coming. So I told Dad I will knead the dough so bodidi could just come and make chapatis. I did knead the dough in the same way that I saw Sudhir do. Then I left. When bodidi came………. I saw her beating the dough with first the rolling pin………. then with the GRINDING STONE……. yes you got it right!!! I was very very very hard!!!! Dad tried with his hand…….. unsuccessful (My father strongest)!!!

Two days later Ma came back and put the dough in water for the whole day and then tried kneading it again……… unsuccessful…….. but she is MA……… never wastes………. so she tried and tried and tried!!! She did get the hang of it but also got blisters on her hands!!!

I love first rains

I love the smell of first rain.
the smell of damp earth,
the smell of thirst quenching dry earth.
A smell unique of its kind like nothing you have smelt before.

There is something about the smell of first rain
a soul stirring feeling of tranquility and peace
the smell of growth……  hope of a new beginning.

Rains mean the wait is finally over
the long months of heat of the earth is over
it marks for cooler days of wishful thinking for better tomorrows
it highlights peace and hope like the new blades of grass that sprout out overnight.

Rain brings back so many memories of the past
memories of driving on the small lanes getting your body and soul wet.
shaking loose my hair and getting it wet down to the roots
and arriving home all dripping in water
and then Ma getting me dried with a cup of hot masala tea.

Memories of standing in middle of a road with your tongue out tasting the water.
standing on the back of the bike taking on the rain full blast
getting drenched and then borrowing a dupatta or scraf or raincoat to go back home.
also recent subtle memories of sitting by a lake watching the rain fill it up.

Rain means Bhimashankar and Sinhagad.
the clouds touching the ground and the wet feeling of walking through it.
Rain means standing wet in a tapari and warming yourself with a chai and sutta
first rains are unique….. they are simply ultimate!!!!

sitting by the window as I watch the rain drops fall one after the other
I am filled with happiness and peace
Like first love it always puts a smile of your face

I love rains and I am glad that it is back!!!

memories of kalibari

The theme for NaBloPo this month is memories. I honestly want to try it. Not that I have ever been successful….. another attempt.

The other day when I was in home in Pune I went to the temple. You can find its exact location on the map here. Ma is part of the satsang and bhajan troupe and since I was chauffeuring her I spent two hours in the temple. The temple is so beautiful now specially with all the hustle and bustle of the Basanti Puja. You will find the temple site here.

While I was waiting, squatting on the cool marble and granite floor…… a strange thought caught me totally unawares………. of homecoming. The temple and me have grown up so much from our humble beginnings years earlier. It has been an integral part of my life. Every time I go home I make it a point to go to the temple at least once.

The temple was started in the late 70s by a group of people from the ammunition and ordnance factory which included my father. In the beginning it was a very simple brick and cement temple with a clay idol. It had a tin and asbestos roof. The idol was worshipped by the local women…… including my mother. In the 80’s we shifted to a quarter just opposite to the temple so Ma went to the temple everyday with the flowers grown in our garden to adorn the goddess. She went everyday in the evening to the temple and sang bhajans.

I was little then and had very few friends at the time. I used to tag along my older sisters who absolutely hated me as they had to take me everywhere they went. They were much older than me and had lots of friends. As for me, I found the adult discussions more interesting than the stuff that my friends of my age had to say, so I always cried and ranted and they were forced to take me with them. Usually they gave me a slip and went away. At such times I used to tag along with ma and go to the temple. There I was given the kartal to play while all the women sang songs to God. When anybody came to the temple it was my job to offer them prasad.

Soon I made lots of friends and every evening played with them but never stopped going to the temple with my Ma. The temple was getting bigger. It was having more and more followers. The temple had a surrounding angan (courtyard) made with Shahbad stones for people to sit. I made friends with the women who came to the temple…… most of whom were much older than my Ma. They talked of God and sometimes of their own lives and families. I found all this very interesting as all of them had a different story to tell. At that time I was too little but I found all these stories very fascinating.

We kids started playing around the temple on the shahbad stone angan. After play I used to sit with my Ma and her friends singing the Lord’s praises. The temple was made bigger in size. Every year there were new improvements. We grew older so did the temple and it grew more effluent. Money started to pour in. The temple committee soon decided to install a stone idol.

The stone idol was made to order from Rajasthan in black granite. It was a beautiful idol. The older idol was immersed in water and the new idol was installed amidst lot of fanfare. Priests were called from the Dakshineshwar temple in Kolkata and sadhus from Belur and Sarada math were invited. The celebrations lasted for days. Two full time priests were hired and they worshiped the goddess three times a day. Living quarters were made for them. There were a lot of new things being implemented at that time. The Bhajans stopped!!! More emphasis was now given on the Sandhya arati. We kids were also not allowed to play in the temple anymore.

The committee bought the land from the ministry of defence after a long legal battle and a lot of paperwork. The temple grew in leaps and bounds with first a shed being made then finally the marble and granite temple which currently houses the Goddess was made. Two additional temples one Shiva temple and another Ganesha temple was made thus completing the whole family of the goddess. Additional priests were hired. A basement with living quarters for the priests and office for the committee was made. The new temple was again inaugurated amidst a lot of festivities which lasted for days.

Satsang and Bhajans were started again. This year the temple was further increased to include a natya mandir and hall for the devotees to sit and meditate along with a basement. The temple today has attained magnanimous proportions from its humble origin years earlier. It is beautiful. The committee plans to make a school and a boarding for people coming for treatment of cancer etc. A lot of grants are also coming in.

I believe that those initial years of mine that I spent in close quarters with the temple has made me what I am. I cant ever be an atheist nor can i understand atheists. Religion is deep rooted in me!!! Though I am not a ritualistic or an extremist. The temple holds fond memories for me. I grew up there, played there and spent hours in there.

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