Monday, May 18, 2015

A car carrying memories.

25 years is a lot of time to remember someone.  In these 25 years there was no communication between us. But we did not forget.  In the year 1987 we were living at Hardwar in the BHEL town ship. Mr. Subroto Banerjee and Mrs. Mukta Banerjee were living in front of our quarter with their three children. Banerjee dada was my husband’s senior colleague.  We were very close to them because dada’s funny jokes & talks, and boudi (elder brother’s wife) was a very kind and adorable person. The year 1989 when my younger son was born, boudi stayed with me the whole night at the hospital. She took care of me and my child. In 1990 summer they were transferred to Nagpur and left Hardwar forever. Gradually memories fade away.
Few days ago we visited one of our good friends – Probir and Maloti Ghosh at Nagpur. Ghoshes took us to Banerjee-da’s place. There we met Banerjee family again after a gap of 25 years. Now we all have grown old. Dada and boudi welcome us very warmly.  We talked about good old Hardwar days. Dada asked “How is my DHA?”
Dada had a Fiat car, a Premier Padmini. The colour of that was light brown top and dark brown bottom.  The number plate of the car showed [DHA 650]. My husband did not want a car at that time because we were happy with our two wheeler. His all friends and colleagues had their own car. Meanwhile dada was planning to purchase a new Maruti car so he wanted to dispose his Fiat.
One evening I was standing on the balcony. My children were playing in the park. Suddenly I saw dada was coming. He parked the car in front of my house.  He got down from the car and pulled a rope from behind seat, then he tied the car with the tree which was standing in front of my quarter as if it were a horse or cow. I called dada “What are you doing?”  He said “I am leaving this car with Abhijit, tell him to settle the things.”  I said “He is not at home.” Dada said “Who cares…..”   and walked towards his home.
Now DHA was ours. We explored nearby areas with it. The car was very spacious. Two families could easily be accommodated in it. Most of the Sundays we went for a long drive with our friends. But any Sunday if we stayed at home for any reason that day Abhijit invariably went to Munna (the only car mechanic in BHEL township) with his DHA. 
One winter Sunday morning Subramanium family came to our home and we planned to go to Rishikesh, but DHA 650 was not in a mood to go. So it did not start. Subramanium opened the bonnet and tried to fix it. My son Pakku said “Uncle chorr do, DHA nahi chalegi” (Uncle leave it. It will not move.) Subramanium said “Kaise nahi chalegi? Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, DHA sab chala dunga”.  (How will it not Start? I can start the whole octave Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, DHA, Ni.) But the car did not start and we celebrated picnic in our lawn and made a plan to go to Corbett National Park. The place was 250 Km from Haridwar and decision had been taken that the DHA will go.
On 13th April 1993, we started from home at 6:30 am with two sleepy kids.  We picked up Subramanium, Ramani and their two sleepy kids.  We reached Nazimabad at 7:30. DHA had a problem. The brake fluid started leaking and suddenly the brake failed. Fortunately Abhijit realised the problem when there was no traffic in front of DHA. So we stopped there and searched a mechanic to fix it.  I and Ramani fed our kids. We started again. At Ramnagar  Abhijit refuelled the car then at 2:30 we reached Dhangarhi  the main entrance of the national park.  We had a booking inside the park.  The name of that place was Dhikaala. From the main gate distance was 50 km.approx. There were no tarmac roads. The road between Dhangarhi and Dhikala was gravelled a long time ago, but had not been repaired ever since. One could see traces of the old tarmac cover on the road with lots of pebbles and rubbles. There were long stretches where no signs of tarmac road was to be seen – only pebbles and raw soil beneath the loose pebbles.  Kids were in very good mood. All of a sudden we got a pungent smell of petrol inside the car. My husband stopped the car. Subramanium and he went out. There was a trail of petrol coming out from the Petrol tank. They tried to block it by stuffing polythene bags, but the leakage could not be stopped and we saw all the petrol flow out on the road. Chinna (Ramani’s younger daughter) said “I have been seeing the trail of petrol for a long time now.” We all asked her, “Why didn’t you tell us!?”  She simply replied, “Why should I?” The road from that point was downhill, so we got back in the car. The hand brake was released, and the car started to roll down the road till and ultimately stopped on a river bed cause way. We came out and were pleasantly surprised. All the fuel flew out, because one small piece of stone hit the plug of the petrol tank.   We had to go another 22km to reach Dhikala.  In another 2 hours the sun would have set. Chinna’s questions increased our stress level.
“If a tiger comes, then are we safe in the car or outside the car.”  She asked. Pakku said “In the car, stupid”. Then Chinna continued “If an elephant comes? Then inside or outside the car.”  Her elder sister Smurta retaliated “Stop asking the question!!” But Chinna continued “If elephant sits on the car then are we safe inside the car or outside the car.”  Finally, one jeep going towards Dhikala stopped by.  They gave us a lift up to the destination. We ladies and children reached on the spot but Abhijit and Subramaniam stayed back with the DHA even after dusk.
So there were lots of memories we had with the DHA. It became our family member. In the year 1997 Abhijit transferred to Varanasi. The DHA came with us and we explored the holy (cow) city. Two years later, Abhijit planned to buy a new car. Now we wanted to sell the old car. Those days a grocer came to our house for monthly supplies. He readily wanted to purchase the car. Initially he agreed to pay 10000Rs. But later on, he gave only Rs. 8000 – Rs. 6000 cash and the remaining Rs. 2000 as groceries. The DHA always lived in our memories since then.
So, coming back to the present from my brief trip to nostalgia, I told dada that the DHA is still in our hearts.  After 25 years, another evening was added to our memories.  My respect to both of you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Respecting Food

“Dane dane per likha hai khane walle ka naam. Only if the Almighty wishes only then we can get food. So always eat your food nicely.”

I gave this lecture to my niece. She had come to visit my home from her college. She was living in the hostel in BHU South Campus and there the food is not so good. The girl wasn’t taking proper diet in hostel and lost weight considerably. She said “The taste of the food in my hostel is awful. We are forced to swallow it just for survival.” I said “Today if you get food in your plate then you must eat it. We do not know what might happen tomorrow. That time our stored energy will help us to survive.”  She argued, “Aunty you have everything in God’s grace.  You never had to live in hostel or elsewhere outside home. So you cannot understand.”  I said “In my life, I had to stay hungry many days. The reasons are of course different.” She stopped argument.

I told her my one day experience.

“In the year of 2012 your uncle was posted at Anpara district Sonbhadra. The distance was 200km from my Varanasi home. I was returning form Delhi after meeting my relatives. My train departed from Anand Vihar station at 7 pm. and it reached Varanasi next day at 7 am. The train was Gareeb-rath and it was AC train. My co-passengers were a family of five. The night passed peacefully. Next morning I reached Varanasi on right time. I picked up my suitcase and my hand bag and came out from the railway station and took a rickshaw for home. When I reached home I opened my purse as I had to pay the rickshaw-puller and that very moment I found out that my money was stolen. I asked the maid for money and paid the rickshaw-puller. Your uncle called me from Anpara and said “I have send the car for you. It will reach you at 12 O’clock noon, you come to Anpara today.” I said “no problem. As I know the driver (Dinesh).”

I was really feeling very bad for my stolen money. So I made myself a cup of tea and had it with biscuits. I had some time so I thought that before another 5 hour drive I must take a nap. After a night train journey sleep came to me really fast. When I woke the time was 2’O clock afternoon. I called your uncle “Where is the car?” He said that Dinesh was already in the city but he might have been struck in traffic jam. I called the driver and he also told me the same thing. There was no time to cook or eat. As I was not at home in past one month, so there was no snacks or any kind of eatery in the house. I packed another round of clothes and was ready to leave. I thought I will eat something on the way. Dinesh came at three. He was not feeling well. The day was muharram (muslim festival) and whole city was in jam. He asked me for a headache relief tablet. I gave him a pill and asked him for a little rest. But he said “Let us go ma’am so we can reach Anpara by 7:30 to 8. My wife is not well. I must be at home.” So I gave the keys to my maid started immediately. It was February. It took us about 2 hours to negotiate the city traffic, and when we came out of the city it was already 5:30. On the state high-way there was five km. long queue of trucks. Our speed was less than 10km./h. and the vehicles were moving inch by inch. I asked Dinesh to park the car near some dhaba but he was helpless. He said that if he leaves the track then we would be struck here for hours. Pinky (my dear pet) was accompanying me. I suppressed my hunger. Also there was no food court or dhaba on this stretch of the high way after we had crossed Tengramore and Dinesh was also not feeling good. He had started from Anpara at early morning 6’O clock. He dropped a company officer at railway station before coming to me. But the Varanasi traffic jam spoiled his day.

7:30 we were at highway. Two hours smooth drive we came to Son-river. The area is Chopan. Suddenly the car stopped 2km. before the bridge. I asked “what happened?” “I do not know ma’am”. He said. Now it was 9:30. I was disturbed. I called your uncle and told him the situation. First he said “let me talk to Dinesh.” Few minutes later he called me again and said that he was sending another car. After a few minutes he said that he himself was coming. But in the middle of the road I was absolutely alone. 1 km. far a faint light was visible. Rest was dark. Dinesh parked the car and said “ma’am! I am going up to there. There is a petrol pump, maybe I get some help.” He went. Now I was scared. Up to visible horizon there was dark. Half-moon gave some visibility. The silver line of Son-river looked beautiful, but I was not in a state to enjoy. My hunger had vanished. Pinky felt restless. I thought I have to spend two hours until your uncle comes. So let me explore the nearby area. I put my one feet on the ground with Pinky in my lap. I was about to put another feet on the ground, something crawled on my feet. I pulled up both my feet in the car and shut the door. Now I was literally scared. Some unknown fear grabbed me. I called my elder son and said “please talk to me.”

Time passed. Dinesh returned and struggled with the engine. Technically I did not know what happened. I felt like crying but situation did not allow. All of sudden the car started. I felt relaxed. But it stopped again just near the petrol station. My relaxation vanished again. I grabbed Pinky and mobile tightly. Two men were helping Dinesh to start the car. They filled diesel. The car started. It was 10:30. Dinesh said “Ma’am fasten the belt as I will not stop the car anywhere.” I said faintly “OK, go ahead.” I informed your uncle that we had started again. He told us that he was also on the way and would wait for me at Renukut Petrol Pump.

Now ‘Hathinala forest’ area started. Now I could not call or talk to anyone as no network was available.  Now I felt nauseated. Now Pinky was also sitting on my lap quietly. We reached Renukut at 12:30. Your uncle was waiting there with another car. After 45 minutes we reached our quarters at Anpara. Whole day passed without a single grain of food.

“So, respect food and make it a habit to eat nicely whatever has been provided to you by God’s grace.” I told my niece.