Thursday, February 07, 2008

Life with Grandparents-Part 2

Bhagalpur, by itself, is quite big a city. To be precise, its a district. But physically its more or less a small town still struggling to come to terms with the modern life style. Before I make grander statements about the city, I must admit that whatever i am saying is based on the Bhagalpur that i saw more than ten years back. People change with times. Cities change quicker.
Getting back to Bhagalpur, it was a sleepy city back then. My grandparents lived in the central (and hence the affluent) part of the city which meant that they were amongst the most respected people of the city. Although the house was a single storey building, it was spread on a wide tract of L-shaped land. The house was actually broken into two parts which had been constructed at different points in time. The older slightly dilapidated part had three very simple rooms and a kitchen cum store. The newer building had another three rooms which were aesthetically designed. The Gothic windows were such that the sunlight streamed into the rooms very early making it virtually impossible to sleep beyond 7 in the morning. This ensured that I woke up pretty early in the morning and practically followed my grandmother wherever she went. Consequently i made friends with almost all the families in that small ghettoed neighborhood.
During those days, there were two things i almost always looked forward to in Bhagalpur - the mangoes and the monkeys . Mangoes of Bhagalpur are famous world over and are considered 'export quality'. I can still remember how i would skip my meals so that i could gorge on the mangoes. Honestly, these were and are some of the best mangoes that i have ever eaten. I was always in awe of the monkeys because living in cities meant that i could only see them in the zoos. The monkeys of Bhagalpur were quite huge compared to the monkeys that i saw in the zoos. Frankly speaking, i was shit scared of going anywhere near them. My fear was born on a solid premise though. I hardly remember anything about that incident but i am told that once when i was small, i had been chased by one such monkey for the apples that i was carrying in my hand. Not only did i fall down and get bruised, the monkey also decamped with the entire booty of apples. Since then i have been in mortal fear of all kinds of monkeys. But watching them from a distance always was pure fun. I used to sit patiently on the terrace waiting for the monkeys to make an appearance. Sooner or later, they obliged.
The most remarkable feature about living in Bhagalpur was that the people seemed to lead a contented life. Even if someone was filthy rich, there never was any ostentatious display of wealth. True, that the rich people inhibited colonies that were far removed from the poor, but they never flaunted their wealth. Life invariably began early in the morning and by around 9 pm in the night, the last few shops would also have downed their shutters. Schools were few and most of them were government owned. Barring a couple of decent schools, most of the schools were the saintly-types that are mushrooming with clockwork regularity in every small town and city these days (eg St. Gandhi). Medical and Healthcare facilities were in shambles. For even small complications, people had to be rushed to the either Delhi, Calcutta or Patna. But hardly did anyone cringe. They treated this as an opportunity to visit for-what-were-to-them an el dorado. All kinds of festivals were celebrated with a lot of pomp and gaiety. The mere mention of Holi was good enough to send shivers down the spine. This was Holi of the roughest kind and anyone who joined in was certain to return home bruised and bleeding. Dussehra was an exciting affair as everyone looked forward to attending the 'mela' which was a kind of confluence for performers, acrobats, traders, artisans, magicians from the innumerable villages that surrounded the city. Plus, one could always look forward to the canopies or the 'pandals' that were specially constructed as a temporary home for Goddess Durga. They were constructed to resemble historic monuments like Taj Mahal, Red Fort and even the Eiffel Tower.
Proximity to the Ganges meant that a trip on the boat was always on cards. What fun it always turned out to be! The sad part was that this trip always betokened the end of our stay at Bhagalpur. Within a couple of days we would be on our way back to our city home; which at different points of time would be Jamshedpur, Calcutta , Delhi or Nepal depending on where dad's posting was . And there always would be that lump in the throat :)


Wins said...

People reading this post may want to know that this article will soon be featured on An online journal.

An needless to say , an Utterly Gracious Style of writing

Anonymous said...

aah this made for another nice freely flowing read :)
How good/bad is your memory?

Abhinav said...

Well, compared to all the others in this group, i am a novice. I am a
final year engineering student who is passionate about reading/writing
and exploring new things. Having lived in a few places in India, i
generally blog about life in these places as well as about life in
general. I heard about Caferati recently and decided to join the
group. I join the group so that i can read and understand what others
write and thereby try and improve.
My weblog is
arunabh sinha

>>>Got this in the mail.

Well that's exactly how I would describe myself except I would change the names of the blog and the person.

Yashika Totlani said...

Gosh... im nostalgic too! Nice tribute to your grandparents. Hm, style of writing was fluid and genuine. No pretensions this time around :p
You seem to be in a moderately pensive mood... manage to sound mature. Read the post in one long sweep.

Abhinav and wins... where else have you applied as a writer :p ?? No malice intended... im just suggesting that you could do a fair job with this.

tHe_NeW_cYnIc said...

Very nostalgic...have fond memories of eating mangoes with my dadu! nice read!

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