Pitaji - a self made man from any aspect that you can look at. His parents died when he was quite young..maybe 2-3 years old. Pitaji's Buaji (Father's sister) took care of him. He did his schooling and then when in college, he started taking tuition's. I remember how happy he was when I took admission in B.Com as he had also done B.Com.
He was a man of will. If it hadn't been for I can't imagine how he would have survived such hard times and come out with flying colors! I don't know lot of things when he was young but a few things I know can leave anyone awed. I remember him telling me when he was in college time and had gone to the river with his friends and because of the strong current of the river, was carried away such a far distance and how he was trying to remain conscious in the ice cold water and finally caught onto something and came out slowly. Then I remember my Ma telling me how he suffered a paralytic attack and doctors told them very bleak chances of him ever writing or talking again or even walking for that matter. But with his strong will power not only he started walking and talking and could even write with his right hand. His writing was a bit shaken but still so beautiful in that cursive form. None of us could write such beautiful cursive however hard we tried.
When I went to stay with them, it was year 1993. He was about 90yrs then. Quite an age but he used to do almost everything even then. His routine of getting up at 5 Am or so was fixed. Ever since I can remember he used to make his own tea and have it by himself as no one wanted to get up at those wee hours of the morning. So when his eyesight had started to trouble him a bit, we had fixed up the places in the kitchen next to the gas stove for the box of tea leaves. Sugar was not required since he was a diabetic and would use those sugar free tablets. But he used to love eating sweets and would look for ways and means to grab something sweet. So one day by mistake, when the servant left the lal mirchi ka dabba (box of red chilli powder) next to the gas stove, and Pitaji mistook it for tea leaves and put it in his tea. So as soon as he had one sip of it, he felt mirchi and shouted for me. I went and he said "Kuchh meetho de de. Isme bahut mirchi hai." I thinking he's just making bahana for wanting something sweet is saying so, scolded him saying "Koi metha nahi milega aur chai mein kab se mirchi hone lagi" But he kept insisting and when I didn't he said in angry tone "Theek hai nahi peeni mujhe yeh chai, le ja isko". It was then that I went into the kitchen that I saw heap of chiliy powder in the strainer that I realised he was telling the truth and how the chilli must be bothering him. I ran and gave him sweetened biscuits and he was almost in tears then because of all the chilli. I have never felt so bad at myself for not believing at what he was saying. Even now when I think of this incident I feel as bad as ever.
But I guess the way he used to make bahanas (excuses) for having anything sweet made me behave in that manner. I remember how he would start whistling as if he had something real spicy whenever he would want anything sweet. Once even after adding a packet of sugar free powder in curd, he started making that whistling sound. And when we told him that we know its plain curd and you have added sugar free in it so there's no way you could be feeling spicy in your mouth he says "Theek hai to aise hi kuchh meetha de do!" :D
He was just a small kid by heart! I remember when he turned 91 and we were celebrating his b'day he said "Ab main itna buddha ho gaya hoon, mera b'day kya mana rahe ho. I'm 91 yrs old!" And we used to tell him "Aap 91 yrs ke nahi 19 yrs ke ho!" And he had such a hearty laugh and said "Fir jab main 100 yrs ka hoyunga to tum mujhe 1 yr ka bologey?" and we all laughed and said "yes!".
He had worked with WHO for almost the entire service period except for a few years when he worked with Aligarh Muslim University as a Lecturer for Commerce batch. Being in WHO gave him tons of opportunities to travel all over the world. But somehow he never liked going out of India. He had such impeccable English that would put anyone to shame.
He was such a simpleton by nature despite having done so good for himself. He would be ready to help anyone whether monetarily or otherwise. He used to say, "If other's had not helped me I would not have been where I am after my parents died." And sometimes Mummiji would get angry at him since he would again help those people who took him for a ride earlier by taking money as loan which was never returned even after they were doing good. But that was Pitaji. He would still help these kind of people out without even doubting their words.
I remember once all of us cousins decided to go to Lodhi Garden for a kids picnic. It was a 10 mins walking distance from the house in Jorbagh. The eldest one amongst us was I think my sister who was about 13 yrs then and I was probably 11 yrs then. This is when we had come over to Mummiji-Pitaji over summer holidays. So our parents packed some food, sandwiches and other stuff and sent us on for the picnic for which we all cousins were really excited. It had not been even 10 mins since we had reached our destination that we saw our Bahadur bhaiyya running towards us saying we all need to get back to home as Pitaji is angry. And we were like "Oh no..here goes our picnic!" But now when we think of the incident it just purely shows how concerned he was for us kids wandering into Lodhi gardens which is quite huge in size all by ourselves and no elder to accompany us.
These are some of the things that he was really fond:
- Bikaneri bhujia - the plain kinds and not the spicy ones.
- Zeera Biscuits
- Threptin Biscuits
- Who can forget his "Swad" golis! He was really really fond of them. But because of the meetha in them, we used to give him half at a time once a day. He used to hate us for all the rationing.
- Getting cream rubbed on his arms and legs. Trust me his skin was as soft as a new born baby even at the age of 90 yrs plus.
- Taking a walk everyday around the fountain in front of our house.
- Watching the news at 7:30 pm on doordarshan. Cable had just started in those days so there were no specialised news channels besides Doordarshan.
There's also one thing that I can never forgive myself for. Once I talked to him in a very rude manner. My college exams were on and he kept calling me every 15 mins to read out his bank passbook and explain it to him since he felt there was some problem in the pension that he had been given. Couple of times I went but then I got really irritated and I talked to him rudely and came back to my room (adjacent to his bedroom). A minute later I heard him talking to himself saying "Main to bas pension ke baare mein hi pooch raha tha, yeh mere se aise baat karti hai!" On hearing that I felt so so bad for talking to him like in that tone. So I went and apologised to him and he was happy the next minute just like a child. Just like a child who does not hold grudges against anyone for more than a few seconds. Someone who loves the other unconditionally.
Mummiji was like devi "Annapoorna" in a certain way. Whenever we went, whether planned or unplanned, there always were yummy goodies to splurge on. Never ever I remember a situation otherwise. Her famous kothri (store) where she used to keep all the eatables in one corder and other household stuff such as detergents etc in the other. Small...dark..with only one small bulb in the middle with a low ceiling. The kothri always amsued all of us. It was like a magic box for us...full of surprises and never ending stuff in it.
Who can forget her famous mithai that she used to make out the crumbles that are left out when you extract ghee from the milk cream. It used to be simply delicious! How many times I tried to make something liek that but nopes, that taste and flavour doesn't come at all. Not even 10%.
From the stories that she used to tell us of her as a kid, she was quite a naughtly bubbly child. She told us once she got her really long hair chopped off because a friend of hers had gotten done so too. But since she was scared of Ammaji, her mum, so she threw them in a dustbin few houses away from their house. Ammaji was out doing some grocery shopping and while returning she saw those long cut hair in the dustbin and thought who was that stupid person to cut such long, beautiful hair. Once Ammaji reached home and saw that it was her own daugther, she was devastated.
Mummiji also told about an incident when she must have been about 7-8 yrs of age which shows how innocent the kids are in those days. Those were the days just after world war when Ammaji and our parnana had lost all of thier wealth and possesions and were having a hard time. So after saving some money, Parnanaji got a new sweater for Ammaji as Ammaji's old sweater was almost in tatters. But obviously Ammaji was happy and she kept the sweater aside to wear it the next day. Next day, a beggar came asking for clothes when Ammaji was in her bath and Mummiji was playing ourside. So Mummiji came and asked Ammaji what to do. So Ammaji told Mummiji to give the sweater to that beggar. Perhaps she forgot to specify to give the old sweater. Like any other child enthused with new things, Mummiji promptly gave away the new sweater to that beggar.
When Ammaji came out and searched for her new sweater she couldn't find it and could only see the old sweater. Then it struck her what had happened. However, Mummiji told us that Ammaji never scolded her for it jsut because Mummiji had acted just like any other child would have. I was amazed then and am amzed even more now that I've a child myself. If Anirudh would have done something like this, hell would have broken loose at my home.
Mummiji was one of those women who if given a chance would have proved to be such successful in her career in whatever field she would have chosen. She was the one to get driver's license before Pitaji could. She was the one who would take care of the construction of their house when Pitaji would be at work. She sacrificed a lot during her lifetime. She used to buy white sarees and dye them at home just to save some money.
I remember my exam days when I would be studying in my room, she would come and place fruits next to us so that I don't need to get up for them. She was quite fond of eating different stuff and how we would both sit and share a plate of chowmein or golgappas or chhole-bhature. How we both used to just venture out to Yusuf Sarai for basic grocery shopping in an auto when all that stuff we could get at our local grocer too.
It was not a pure lovey dovey relationship that I shared with her. We had our share of fights too. But in the end, just snuggling my face in her lap felt so secure and comforting that no words can describe.