Life's Like That

Friday, November 04, 2005

of childhood.....

Been looking at old albums and thinking a lot about my growing up years...I had a wonderful childhood. Was the only child for 12 years (which is when my sister was born) and was much pampered by all and sundry. When I think of my childhood the first thing that comes to mind is Purulia. Purulia is a very small town in West Bengal, (remember the Purulia arms drop case?), it was also where my grandparents (Dadai and Maam) lived and where I spent all my holidays when I was little.
I loved Purulia...I even chose Purulia over Europe as a summer holiday destination once( I know! I know! But I was 4 years old at the time so give me a break will ya). My visa was done and we were to leave for the Continent in a few days when I cried and wailed and demanded to be sent to Purulia instead. My parents, recognizing a golden opportunity when they saw one, immedietaly sent me over to Dadai Maam and took off on their own. I stayed with my grandparents for 2 whole months and despite the fact that I was only 4 years old, I cried for my mother only once..(when I had a very bad nosebleed in the middle of the night)..a fact that my grandmother still proudly recounts. Such was the excitement of that nondescript little town.
The excitement started from the last day of school because I knew Dadai would come and take me away the next day. The excitement was in the porota alur chechki that my mother packed to be eaten late at night on the train. The excitement was in waking up early the next morning to see that the landscape outside had changed from the smoggy dreariness of Calcutta to the dew soaked fresh lush green of the Bengal village. The excitement was in each quaint station we passed as we neared our destinations...stations with quaint names like "Anaara", "Kustaur" "Bagalia", "Gordhrubeshwar" and finally "Charra"..the last station before Purulia. the excitement was in those early morning rickshaw rides from the station to our house in Cooks Compound..watching the women lineup before the tubewells, men stare at us as we rode past (people in small town Bengal used to stare at anyone who looked like they were from a different place..especially if they looked " bred..I think they still do) kids run behind the rickshaw yelling all sorts of things....
I was the uncrowned princess during my vacations. My smallest wish was Dadai's command. If in the hot summer months I said that Orange Rasna was something I loved, by evening the servant would have been sent to Chowk Bazar (the local market) Rasna bought and made and presented to me in a big kaancher glass amidst much excitement( things like Rasna were too modern and big city ish for my called for great excitement and apprehension about how to make it..specially for my grandmom). Ditto for Uncle Chips (Lays had not entered the market then). If I expressed a desire to eat icecreams, my grandparents would take me to the only shop that sold icecreams where I would consume large quantities of mango icecreams (can’t remember ever eating any other flavour).

Dadai would take me to the circus in winter. Maam would make the most amaaaazing alur bora and alur dom and koraishutir kochuri. She would also sneak fish into my dal bhaat….in a last ditch effort to make me eat maach. Much accusations and suspicions would be raised when I suddenly found a kaanta in my vegetarian fare. But she always had an excuse ready and I somehow never pushed the issue too much.
Unpleasant things like holiday homework would be completed under Dadais supervision and be gotten over and done with as soon as possible before I went to play with my many friends. We would play outside till it grew dark, wherein we would retire to our big “boshar ghor” (drawing room) and play indoor games and talk till dinner time.

Summer in Purulia meant the juicy langda aam from our own aam gach (mango tree) and the yummiest lichu and jaam I have ever eaten..and HUGE bowls of homemade mishti doi after lunch. Summer meant dancing around to catch the hail during the sudden shilabrishti(hailstorm) and almost being blown away by the wind during the kalboishakhi storms, as I stood on the teen tolar chaat (terrace) awestruck as the majestic beauty of this sudden summer storm. (Have not seen anything that beautiful in Calcutta or Bangalore). Winter meant lots of gorom khichudi and water for my bath being heated in that ancient black kettle which was as old as the house, and basking in the sun in the do tolar chaat with Maam after lunch..and eating gorom gorom vegetable chop and hot unadulterated milk. Winter meant Dadai tucking me tightly into the thickest lep (blanket) available and falling asleep with the reassuring feel of him hand on my head. Pujo…pujo meant hanging out in the parar pujo with my friends. Pujo meant going to seethe Jele Parar thakur and the Purulia Club thakur and the Jail Barir thakur in a cycle rickshaw with my family. Pujo meant the yummmmy mishti for Doshomi…pujo meant my chotodadus family (grandfathers brother) coming over and Bijoyar pronaam and writing “Sree Sree Durgoi Nomo” three times each on a “ kola pata”..banana leaf ( a family tradition which has sadly been discontinued. Before I learnt to write Bengali Dadai would write it for me in English and I would copy it on the banana leaf with a scratchy old fashioned quill…later after I learnt to write bangla, Dadai would still write it out for me so that I would get the spelling right)….

When my vacations drew to an end, I would start getting sniffly. The sniffles would turn into full blown tears on the train back home. I would cry and cry and cry for the smallest things for 15-20 days after returning to Calcutta. Ma being ever impatient (and also having to put up with most of my tearful fits) would scold and threaten never to send me to Purulia again if I behaved like this. Baba would say “aar toh kota mash tarporei aabar jaabi” (just a few months more and you can go again). The thought would comfort me somewhat. ..until next time…

The house is still there…my uncles family lives there now (Dads cousin..chotodadus son). Thankfully its not been replaced by a multistoreyed house , thankfully my family still lives there and I can still call it home and visit anytime I want….but I don’t want to. To go to my house and not see the ancient gigantic fridge that’s older than my father, to not see the familiar cabinets in the kitchen, to see that my drawings on the walls have been painted over (I had this bad habit of drawing on walls…and the walls of our house in Purulia were adorned with drawings of birds and caricatures of my grandmother issuing instructions to the maids..I once told Dadai not to paint them over, and for as long as he and Maam lived there, the drawings were left intact)…worse of all to go there and not see my Dadai pacing the puber baranda (balcony on the east side of the house) ….that would be awful . The last time I went to Purulia was for Dadai;s shradhdho….it was the most painful experience of my life….he was everywhere in that house…from the handwritten instructions on the emergency light to the dressing gown in the alna to the smell of his hairoil on his pillow….I think all of us cried everytime we saw something that reminded us that he was gone forever.

No..I don’t want to go to Purulia now. .somethings are better left as memories. My Dadai and my Puruliar bari are safe inside my memories….I want to leave them there. My Maam lives in Calcutta now with my Dad…she doesn’t cook anymore…she is too old…but the way her eyes light up every time she sees me….that will never change. I wish my sister could have enjoyed Purulia the way I have, I wish my own children could enjoy the experience of getting away from the city the way I did....I guess they will have to depend on my memories and stories...thank god for memories.


  • very well written. loads of common stuff...especially memorising the station names when we travelled to Kanpur to visit my grandparents, and the food...stop writing about fooood!!!

    By Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee, at 9:55 AM  

  • Quite well written and its what memories are worth living for especially if you can relive them over and over again everytime you find something that reminds you of them.

    By Anonymous rahul, at 12:24 AM  

  • beautifully written - really nice. i guess the next generation will be kind of unaware of the whole "growing up with dadu dida" joys - something which is very sad.

    By Blogger Sagnik Nandy, at 1:06 AM  

  • @abhishek, rahul, sagnik: thank you.

    abhishek..havent you figured out yet that food is my biggest obsession ? :-D. but seriously the food at ur grandma's is something you will remember all your life won't you? my moms a fantastic cook but she just can't make alur dom the way Maam did. i said..thank god memories... pretty sure our future generations will have their own version of fun at their grandparents, but...i dono....the whole old world feel and the whole getting back to your roots deal will probably not be there...pity.

    By Blogger Ron, at 3:52 AM  

  • Hey its like experiencing a sort of deja vu while reading the blog. Watching the dew soaked fresh lush green fields of Bengal (in my case Assam also) sitting on a train is one thing our children must experience! :-) Gee..I feel like a grown up kaku now heh.

    By Anonymous Vijay, at 9:52 PM  

  • Hey Princess.Nice.By the way,you can continue ranting in bengali.No problem.Me shall get a hang of it soon.I almost understood what you wrote.So,go on bong babe.

    By Blogger Seema, at 7:37 AM  

  • @vijay: hmmm...dont you just wish we could go rt back?

    @ seema: hey thats not fair...i provided translations for every single bengali word i have used.its not possible to talk of childhood and think in english.

    By Blogger Ron, at 8:47 PM  

  • Memories are indeed our refuge in this madly everchanging world. Your post also reminded me of "juicy langda aam mmmmmmm"

    Take care Ronita!

    By Blogger Vijay Krishnan, at 1:40 PM  

  • @vijay k: and the lichus....don't forget the lichus...u dnt get such big juicy lichus in bangalore :-(

    By Blogger Ron, at 12:19 AM  

  • People know and love Purulia? I am so happy. Purulia being my birthplace and spending an eenforced exile in Kolkata now,your blog made me nostalgic.

    By Blogger good morning, midnight, at 11:08 AM  

  • @ good morning midnight: ur from purulia? thats soooo cool!! where did u live in purulia? my house was in cooks compound..just opposite haripada lodge..maybe we even know each for ur enforced least ur in kolkata..just a nights journey away from aaaaalllll the way away in bangalore..

    By Blogger Ron, at 8:54 PM  

  • Hi Ron ( no nickname used, please note ), it is not right! Your blog about those years when I was young and you were smaaaaaaaal, when my Baba was there and we all used to visit Purulia on every occasion should not have been narrated in such a beautiful way - you know you made me cry in my office chamber !!

    I don't know what my secretary would have thought if she came in and saw this old man crying like this !!

    Purulia is also in my memory, which will never go, you know that.

    By Blogger abhijit, at 1:11 AM  

  • @baba: na na dont cry..n definitely not in office..not a good idea..loke bhimroti bhaabte paare. I dint know u blogged...since when??????

    By Blogger Ron, at 3:42 AM  

  • Very well written. I seriously think you should change your profession! What say?

    By Anonymous Gauri, at 12:24 AM  

  • @gauri: hey u finally commented on my blog. wow!! thank u!! n i wud change my profession in a jiffy..except tht i think i wud hv to be ready to take a cut in sad na :-(

    By Blogger Ron, at 1:45 AM  

  • Hey Ron, why don't you try your hand in writng--I mean publishing a memoir or something of that sort..., honestly.You have captured your memories in words so well...Brilliant and enthralling narrative!!!

    But frankly speaking,you should thank your lucky stars for being brought up in a metro, and had been sent to some "St.***** School" in Calcutta and not to some namesake "St. ****** School" in Purulia where you end up saying 'pur' for 'poor' or 'horijon' for 'horizon', that too for the formative 18 years of your life.Of course,do preserve your "memories" and share them with your as well as our putative children.It will be a cherised break for them from the mindless pursuit of materialism in their age when memories like these will be far and few...

    By Anonymous Olive, at 10:11 PM  

  • hey olive..welcome back. thanks.but you know, im not all that good at writing, in the sense that creative writing is really not something im good at.
    i guess you are right about the schooling bit. and who knows maybe if i lived theer 24/7, 365 days a year it wouldnt have been so wonderful...the wonderfullness lay ion the fact that it was my break from the monotone of everyday city life.

    By Blogger Ron, at 12:15 AM  

  • wow ron... that was beautiful. you know, we always wondered WHY you would rush off to purulia every school holidays and leave the rest of us stuck in south cal! well, now not only do I understand, but I'm JEALOUS!!

    By Blogger motheater, at 1:11 AM  

  • @sayoni: thank you :-). yopu guys should have come with me one school holiday. you would have enjoyedto the same "uncrowned princess" treatment too :-)

    By Blogger Ron, at 8:34 PM  

  • Well written. You missed the "Khejur gur/ros" part in the winter though. That is one of my fondest memories from Bankura, where I grew up.

    By Blogger subhendu, at 7:10 AM  

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    By Anonymous Lindsay Lohan, at 11:47 PM  

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    By Anonymous Lingeries, at 11:52 PM  

  • Ron... this is such a beautiful narrative. Amazing.. brought back memories of my holidays back at our ancestral home in Kerala. SIGH !!

    By Anonymous poojitha, at 6:13 AM  

  • I have very fond memories of purulia having lived there for the first 11 years of my life there. I left Purulia in 1986. I too lived in Cook's Compound. Love to go back someday but sometimes quite worried as things now have massively changed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:00 PM  

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