Sunday, February 14, 2016

A boarding school memory.

It's funny what can trigger a memory!  I had bought a pink radish, not regularly available here, to make either a salad or 'mooli paratha'. As I was preparing it, I ate a small piece and it suddenly brought back memories of a radish field raid we did while I was in boarding school in Ooty.  There were 4 of us as I remember.  I remember only the girl who first made the plan.  I don't remember who the other two girls were.  But the taste and smell of the radish came back sharply, when I bit into my piece of radish.
 I remember standing out in the dark, outside the field and barely washing the radish and eating it with salt. I can't remember whether we were in our pyjamas or had changed into our uniforms, or what time of the evening/night it was.  All I can remember is standing outside the field, which had a hedge all around, and the taste of the radish.
Somehow, now, when I look back, I can't really imagine why, at age 8 or 9, one would want to raid a radish field, except for the naughtiness value :-), after all radishes aren't exactly the most exciting food for a kid that age.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Music in my life

I was at a music concert yesterday, given by my sister-in-law's students at the music school run by her.  The lessons are in Western Classical music.  As I listened to the children playing many of the standard recital pieces like Fuer Elise (Beethoven), Minuet in G by various composers and heard a senior student sing the beautiful hymn 'Panis Angelicus', the music in my life, when I was young came back to me.
I did my first piano exam when I was 9--at that time grade 1 piano of the Royal College of Music.  I don't remember how well I did or not, only that I passed.  That  was in boarding school in Ooty.
My parents then moved to Kolkata (Calcutta then), when one of the first things my mother did, was to hunt for a music teacher.  She found an old Scottish lady, of whom I have written earlier.  She was good, but didn't believe in sending children for the exams, though she made me play pieces as much as I could, regardless of the difficulty level.
We had a piano, which was at first kept in the living room.  But since I was always playing, the piano was moved to my bedroom.  I cannot tell you what joy that was!  I could play whenever I felt like it.  It was to the piano I went, when I was down, or even when I just wanted to think.  I loved practising even scales.  Those four years were wonderful and the piano---and my diary--were among my best friends during teenage angst time.  Now my fingers are not supple anymore and I can no longer play as nimbly as I could once and I no longer have a piano.  Yes there is a guitar at home, but that, to me, is not the same.
The singing brought back to me, the choir singing I did at my school in Cal.  I remember learning 'Panis Angelicus' there and I remembered it all my life.  Ever since, I heard my young sister-in-law sing, I had been wanting her to learn this song.  And so I heard a number of very good young singers singing the song.  I am truly glad that my young sister-in-law has this music school, because, once more, I get to hear so much music.
My old piano looked a bit like this--

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Calcutta of the early '60s

This article in the Business Standard dated August 23rd  about the passing away of Pam Crain, who used to sing at Blue Fox, brought back memories of the Calcutta (not Kolkata at all then)I knew.  I lived in Calcutta from 1961 to 1966--five years.  The traces of the Raj were still there, though fading.  There were still a number of Britishers and I remember visiting a club--can't remember which one though--where non-whites were not yet allowed to be members.
Park Street was the place.  Blue Fox and Trincas were both there.  I knew of the live singing in both, but only have a vague memory of visiting Trincas the once.  I remember the American sailors as mentioned in the Business Standard article, swarming around on Park Street on occasion.
When I joined school in '61, we had different uniforms for winter and summer.  In winter we had a blazer as formal wear, which was made by a bespoke suit-maker, naturally, at the corner of Park Street and Middleton Row and in summer, all white cotton skirts and blouses.  But by the time I left in '66, the uniform was changed and there were no longer the separate uniforms for winter and summer.
I remember a darzi in Camac Street, who made really good Western wear.  There were always expats at his shop, waiting to get clothes done.
That was the time when the song 'Ladies of Calcutta' came out, as I remember.
I returned to Calcutta many years later, when we took my son there for treatment and were then frequent visitors there for a few years, usually staying at the YWCA on Middleton Row (no longer a YWCA now, I believe).  At that time Park Street and the streets around it had not changed all that much and I could still take my children around by myself, without getting lost.  I wonder now how it all looks and would love to go back just once to know what it looks like now.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The day I rode a cop car

Well, this is not a memory from my youth but one that happened around three and a half years back, at the ripe old age of 58.
I was in the US to help out with my son and daughter-in-law, on the birth of my granddaughter.  But in between that, I took a short break with my brothers over in the Los Angeles area.  Well, a niece very kindly offered to take me out to listen to some music--Latin music, which I love.  As it was summer, it was street music.  We duly parked in a free parking lot--around 7pm this was--and went to enjoy the music.
After enjoying the sounds and sights, we decided to leave.  By this time the parking lot area was more or less deserted.  We walked through the indoor lot, and oh dear, we just could not remember where the car had been parked.  All we could both remember was that it was in a corner.  We walked around on several floors for about 15 mins and no car!  It was a fairly expensive car and so my niece was convinced it had been stolen--after all this was like a downtown area and it was certainly not early evening.  So first my niece rang her dad and then called the police and then we waited on the street outside the parking lot, on the street.  The only thing open near bye was a tanning parlor--at around 9 pm!  As we waited we found we were getting strange looks from some passers-by, male of course.  By this time my niece was getting frantic at the non-arrival of dad/and or members of the police force.
Finally her father arrived.  Now, I forgot to mention, neither of us knew/remembered the number of the car.  So, the first thing that was done, on arrival of my brother, was to get the car number.  Just then a police car came and asked whether it was us that had reported a missing car.  On being told that we were, he asked for the number of the car.  Then he asked my niece to get in for one more ride around the parking lot.  She insisted that the car was not in the lot.  But he said, what's to lose by one more ride around the parking lot.  She then asked one of us to please get in with her, as she didn't want to ride alone.  So I promptly got in the back,as, after all, I felt this was a rare opportunity to experience the hospitality of the LAPD.  While we were getting in, we got even stranger looks from the passers-by than earlier, as you can imagine.  After all, what would you expect, when a cop car stops and makes 2 women get into the car late in the evening....
Now friends, I don't know if you know this already, but there are no cushioned seats in the back of an LAPD cop car!  It was a shock to find I was sitting on hard blue metal.  I kept moving, trying to find a comfortable spot on the metal, but with no luck.
By this time we had taken a turn through the lot and lo and behold there stood the car in the dim light.  The young policeman was triumphant and both of us felt extremely foolish.  We proceeded to apologize profusely, which made him grin even more widely and then he left, after which we got into the recovered car and drove home.
Now there is an even funnier postscript to this.  I had taken a camera with me and when we got home, I found the camera was not with me.  It had been left in LAPD's luxury limo!!!  So there was my brother--at 10.30 pm, calling the police dept office to find out if there had been a camera in a cop car.  We were told that the camera had been found at left at the main Police Dept office in the area we had visited, but that we would have to come and fetch it then itself as the next day was Sunday and the office would be closed.  Hence, my poor brother made his second trip all the way there, with me, to the particular office and then we had to wait, till the young policeman came in for a break, to claim my camera.  It wasn't that this camera was a fancy camera.  It was just that I had  quite a few pictures in it of my new granddaughter and family in general.  So anyway, a long and eventful evening filled with interactions with the LAPD.

Friday, June 22, 2012

 I am now 60 years old and have been married for 40 years.  I realised that, therefore I have been married for double the number of years that I was not married!  So now memories of my youth are hard to dredge up, though they surface at the oddest times.  Now the memories that I recall are largely post marriage and of my children's childhoods.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A blog post I read a while back,  got me thinking about my own teenage years.
I was overweight and not good-looking. I was also rather hirsute! In those days, at least here in India, not that many youngsters got their eyebrows done or facial hair removed, more so because, as I remember, bodily hair was only either shaved off or tweezed off.
I studied in a girls' school--a convent and none of my classmates would come out and say that I was fat or ugly or anything. But then I had a younger brother who had no such scruples and hummed 'Baby Elephant's Walk' whenever he wanted to annoy me.
Those were the days of shift dresses and tight skirts (so tight that you were forced to take mincing steps) and my mother flatly refused to let me get anything stitched like that because she thought I was too fat for those kinds of fashions (I was kind of bosomy and my mother felt that Western style clothes just attracted unwanted, negative attention ). I remember that, after much pleading from me and from one of my best friends, she finally allowed me to get one shift dress made, which I personally thought made me look slimmer, but which my mother wasn't too happy about. From the time I was 12, for most formal occasions my mother got me to wear saris. For school of course we had uniforms.
But when I got into the 9th standard and the class got split into sections, depending on the classes/subjects we elected to do, I found I was much more comfortable with my classmates. We were all science students and therefore considered more career-oriented and so being upto-the-minute fashionable was not given that much importance.
Even so, there were social occasions we occasionally attended, more so because of the work my father did, where there might be girls about my age, from the upper crust of Calcutta society and how I hated going because I felt fat, ugly and so unsophisticated, next to these smart svelte young women. In that sense wearing a sari was good because although I might be considered old-fashioned, at least there wouldn't be any unfavourable comparisons, as there might have been if I was dressed fashionably! That was when I began telling myself--'Packaging may count, but that's not everything; what counts is what's within the package and you have brains and you can build substance. There will be people you will come across who will appreciate the substance as long as the package is cleanly and neatly wrapped'. [:-)]
There was a kind of safety in the fact that well-behaved girls from good families did not have boyfriends as in going steady. So that kind of competition was never there. In that sense I think that the not needing to have a sweetheart at that age, took away a great part of the pressure--for both boys and girls--of having to be good-looking or attractive in an accepted mould.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I lie with my eyes shut waiting for my headache meds to take effect.  I remember a bad headache when I was maybe 5 or 6.  Then the room where I lay came into view, like watching an old movie.
It was the guest room in the palatial house we lived in, in Bandra, Mumbai.  My mother had got the walls painted a delicate shade of lilac, almost the colour of these lilacs.
(from Wikepedia)
 The curtains and the bedspreads were in white cotton fabric on which there were flower borders,   embroidered in cross-stitch, in the same lilac as the walls.  This is the nearest likeness.
 On the bedside tables were tall white metal candlesticks converted into lamps, and with white lampshades.  There was a beautiful rosewood vanity table/dressing table against a wall, which too, as I seem to remember,  had white cotton circular doilies on them.  That was the done way of dressing up the vanity table those days.
I then took a walk through the house and the thought came up, that sadly I can no longer check out how true my memories are, because that house is no more, having given way to a huge flat.