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.