Monday, January 10, 2011

For Tvisha – Age 16, 1982

I believe that I was promoted to grade 12 by the college officials, who were very kind to me by not failing me, due to which I would have lost a year. I know I did well enough to pass every subject except the French language. Well, you get what you deserve if you don’t attend classes.

During this time, my passion for the Beatles grew by leaps and bounds. I made a few friends in college who were also like-minded about the group. I started slowly accumulating each of their albums, and having listened to them so often on a daily basis, began to sing their songs as well. That is when I discovered that I had a God given good voice.

I was a little more serious as far as studies were concerned, and ended up faring a little better than the previous year. I would go on to pursue my Bachelors in Science after this year in the same college.

Otherwise grade 12 was more or less a repeat of grade 11 for me, but for most of my friends, it was time to get really serious about their studies as grade 12 is the launching pad to head on to do 4 year courses in computer applications, medicine, Indian Institute of Technology, etc. I am not sure why but I had no such aspirations. To get into these programs, students had to score above 98% in the 3 main subjects Physics, Chemistry and Math, and overall as well.

One day, Krish, thaatha and I were at the doctors. Suddenly we saw one of the boys from our apartment building in Bandra over there. Our eyes locked in, and we smiled at each other. This was as good an opportunity to start talking and getting to know each other. That led to us mixing with all the other girls and boys in the building.

Krish and I realized how wrong we were all the time. These guys were really cool, and I believe they thought the same about us as well. One thing we did manage to have them do over time was to let go! These guys were very proper on how to behave and how to talk in general. We kind of loosened them up to a great extent ☺. You don’t need to be too disciplined all the time you know, and have to let your hair down now and then and enjoy life.

We started getting along really well, and would play cricket matches every Sunday, and badminton and table tennis in the weekends.

There was an individual by the name of Ganpati who was such a motivator for all of us. He formed a club in the building and had us paint badminton courts and put up the net, would take us hiking in the monsoon. We would have building get togethers, pot lucks, badminton, carrom and table tennis championships, etc. We would all go to movies together.
Those were some of the best years of my life. We started going to Sion less often. Krish and I would move to Bandra, as now we loved Bandra, and its people too!

- Appa

For Tvisha – Age 15, 1981

Dear Tvisha,

1981 was a new beginning for me – it was the year I went to college. Don’t be confused. In India we start college (higher secondary as it is known) after secondary school that lasts from grade 6 till grade 10.

I joined the science stream (remember the famous wish of parents during that time? – doctor or engineer as a future career? :-)). Moreover, Krish was also in Science, so why not me too was the thought.

College was totally new after school – no more uniforms, the flexibility of not attending class when you didn’t feel like (at least that’s the way I thought, which wasn’t a good thing to do ha ha), and for me I was coming from a boys only school to a co-ed college.

So, first of all, I had to now deal with girls! Ha ha, problem was I was so shy with girls, I had no girls with whom I talked at all for almost my whole college life. The most I would do was smile at a few girls in my class. That was the extent of my friendship with them. It wasn’t the same with the boys. I had lots and lots of friends in college who were boys. The college had a gym with all kinds of games, and a canteen that were my two favorite places to hang out, apart from hanging outside the college with my friends, and friends from near our apartment, and friends of Krish. By the way the college was one block from our apartment building.

We had quite a personality who was our principal at the time, Mr. Ramaswamy. He used to be a chain smoker and would always take a walk around the college a few times during the day seeking out students who had bunked lectures and were in the canteen or in the gym. Whenever you saw some students suddenly run away from the corridor, you knew he was around and we would go and hide wherever we could :-). The problem was that I had been caught a few times by him and I had to be a little careful. I was more visible than others in college as I was out most of the time, and very rarely did attend lectures, and my attendance went from good to very poor. So my studies suffered, and what went up was my carom playing skills and my debt with the canteen guy for all the food and coffee I would go through on a daily basis.

In the meanwhile thaatha got an offer from the bank to move to one of the apartments the bank rented where we could, till the end of his tenure with the bank, live in a bigger 2 bedroom apartment in Bandra, a town around 10 miles away from Sion.

Krish and I hated the idea of moving from Sion. All our friends were there, moreover we would have to travel daily by bus to reach our college in Sion whereas now it was a half a minute walk. Bandra was an upscale town where all the rich people lived. So we branded all of them as snobs. Thaatha was adamant that he wanted to live there. So although we shifted all our stuff to the bank’s apartment, Krish and I continued to spend the day and almost all nights in Sion.

Now in Sion, since there was no adult with us, the apartment became a den with any of our friends walking in when they chose, and there always used to be some guys there. It got so bad that at times, even we wouldn’t know who was in our house when we would go there. All this was because we had spare keys to the apartment out to some of our friends. We knew this had to stop.

We lived in Pali Hill, Bandra. It is a place where a lot of film actors lived, and very rich individuals. It is a very affluent part of Bombay, with the sea nearby and has a lot of clubs and gymkhanas to cater to these folks. Each family in the apartment building had at least one car. Initially there were not many people to be seen at all, and even if we did see them, most of the time they would be getting into or out of their cars.

Krish and I formed a very false impression about the building we moved to, as we would find out in some months. Aided by this perception, there was shyness as well that stopped us from really approaching the guys our age whom we did see there to become friends with. Until then we would live in Sion, and commute once or twice a week to be with thaatha.

- Appa

Monday, January 3, 2011

For Tvisha – Age 14, 1980

Dear Tvisha,

I lost mammai (my grandma) to cancer in November 1980. I knew she was very serious when they had asked thaatha to come to Madras and be with her during her last few days. When I received the eventual call from there about her demise, I reacted with no emotion. Krish and I had learnt to set aside all our emotions in some deep corner of our minds. It was as if we had decided that we wouldn’t cry over losing her.

Although she hadn’t been living with us for almost the last two years, it was a big loss for me, having lost someone who had played the role of my mother, after my mother’s demise at a very young age. I still have fond memories of both of them to this day. I only wish that I could have spent a much longer time with them than I had done.

I did get the chance to visit mammai that year when I had gone to Madras with thaatha. I still couldn’t comprehend the seriousness of the illness and the obvious result that it would have. Or, she didn’t show her suffering through it, since she was such a strong lady mentally and always had a smile for me.

My uncle stayed half a mile away from his sister (my aunt) in Madras. I always used to love going to Madras. There was a general store right around the corner, in between my uncle’s apartment and my aunt’s house. Since I had found a substitute to my favorite drink, Coke, in something called Thums Up!, I used to drink quite a few daily and usually asked the store keeper to add the cost of the drinks to my aunt’s monthly account with him. I got nicknamed Thums Up Aiiyaa (Mr. Thums Up!) by the people who worked at the store, due to the sheer number of Thums Up I used to drink on a daily basis.

It got to a point where the bill went way too high. So I came up with this idea of splitting the daily cost of the colas evenly between my uncle and his sister so that neither of them would feel the pinch. Clever, huh? :-)

For my birthday that year, I was gifted and introduced to my very first Beatles album by Krish. It was the best gift I could receive. That’s how I came to know and love The Beatles, my favorite music group. The album Krish got me was ‘Revolver’. The Beatles were arguably the most popular music group during the 60’s till the disbanded in 1970.

On Dec 8, 1980, John Lennon, one of the leaders of the group, died at the age of 40 after being shot by a person outside his apartment building. It was one of the biggest shocks in the music world. Krish was very upset about this.

This was also my final year of school, and the pressure was immense on everyone since we would be moving on to college and we had perform well in order to get into the college of our choice. For the first time, I took tuitions in Math and Science from my class teacher, Mr. Pandey, to help me do well in the final exams, held by the state. School that year wasn’t that much fun because of all this pressure.


For Tvisha – Age 13, 1979

Dear Tvisha,

1979 was a year that seemed to go by very fast.

Since thaatha was provided with a car the previous year, I wanted to learn how to drive as soon as possible. I learnt to drive a car when I was 12, and would drive around the apartment building first going back and forth, and left and right in the tight corners around the building, navigating around other parked cars. That is how I honed my driving skills that made me very confident on the main streets in Bombay.

What was very popular around that time was the only open air theater in Bombay, another perk we could enjoy thanks to the car at our disposal. I went to see so many movies, experiencing this unique way of watching movies along with Krish, thaatha, Ghosalkar, our friends, and also the resident mosquitoes from the nearby bird sanctuary :-). The food used to be great, and I can still remember the flavor of the best popcorn I have had over there.

Thaatha’s brother moved to the city of Madras (now Chennai), located in the South of India. I don’t know the exact reasons for it. He also took mammai (my grandma) along with him, and again thaatha, Krish and I were all alone. Thus began a new phase of life, with three men trying to take care of their job and school, and housework as well. Fun!

Thaatha used to tour a lot then. So our apartment was like a den when thaatha wasn’t around, with our friends from the building coming over, going out for movies, playing cards and carrom at home, studying for exams as a group, and generally hanging out.

As far as food was concerned we used to get by eating muffins and bananas most of the times for dinner. Thaatha very soon got tired of this and started preparing food at home in his own unique style – prepared very quickly, blandest food of them all, but very tasty since all you got was the natural taste of the pulses and vegetables :-).

Of course once he was done cooking, I would take over, set aside some food for him, and then completely change the makeup of the food, making it suitable to Krish’s and my palettes. That is where my curiosity to experiment with food and modifying began.

The one thing that could be looked at as if I was taking charge of my life was when we renewed celebrations of Lord Ganesha in our apartment building. If you remember we used to celebrate this occasion in a really big way. But as people started moving away from Sion on to other parts of Bombay where they could find bigger apartments for a cheaper price, there weren’t many elders who were willing to take responsibility of hosting this event in the building.

I thought about it and said to myself, why shouldn’t we have this celebration in our building, it is not difficult to do this. So, with the help of another elder friend Kumar who was thrilled with my enthusiasm, we went and purchased a clay idol and all the stuff for decorations on the day of the festival. The building came alive, even if it was only for the first few days, and then on the final day of immersion. I tried my best to go seek out and announce the timing of the poojas to the folks in the building who wanted to participate. It was a decent success at best, but I was very proud of what I did at this age.