Saturday, July 27, 2019

Riding in Ooty

A chance black and white picture I came across , of a group of riders during the British Raj, reminded me of my days in boarding school in Ooty (now Udhagamandalam).  We could choose riding as one of our extra curricular activities.  As I loved anything to do with animals, my parents agreed to riding as one of my activities. 
We had an Englishwoman as our riding instructor (one of those who chose to stay back after Indian Independence.  She had a lovely big, black horse.  We learned to ride on the Ooty ponies.  As I was just a little over 8 years old at that time and the others with me were all around that age, the ponies were much better for us. 
After the initial days going round and round the paddock, we were taken out to ride on grasslands called the Ooty Downs at that time.  I wonder how much of the Downs remains now.  I loved riding over the Downs.  Once I took a toss into some bushes.  But that did not dim my enthusiasm.
Our instructor also insisted that each of us learn to take of the saddles at the end of the ride and brush down our ponies.  How I loved that bit!  We were given carrots to feed our ponies too, at the end of the ride.
Once, the instructor allowed me to ride her big horse, as a special treat for doing well, but of course just around the paddock.  That was thrilling for me.
Ah well, that was 58 years ago.   I have had only a chance or two after that to ride and that too, not to ride off on my own, and I guess I may no longer be able to control a horse. 
But of the two years I was in boarding school, riding was one of the nicest bits.

Monday, April 1, 2019

A post on Instagram by a friend about World War II brought back memories. 
I had an uncle who had fought in WW II in North Africa mainly as I remember him telling me.  I was 13 or 14 at that time and had read any number of books on the war, mainly non-fiction.  I had read 'The Desert Fox' about Rommel and to me the fact that he had fought in a battalion against Rommel seemed romantic. 
Once it happened that I wanted to see the movie 'The Great Escape'.  I had already seen it once and wanted to see it again.  The only person who was free to come with me was this uncle.  He first refused to come with me.  But finally, being the really sweet person he was, he came very reluctantly.  Sometime during the movie, I looked at him and he had his eyes closed.  It is only much later that I realised how difficult it must have been for him, though the war had been over almost 20 years by then.
Much later, after reading more books on the horrors of the War and the concentration camps, I became a pacifist.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

1965

Today my husband and I were talking about the Vietnam war as he has been watching a Netflix series on the Vietnam war.  We talked about those years.  That awoke memories of 1965 when there was a war with Pakistan. 
I was in Calcutta then, in the 10th standard, which, at that time, meant one more year of school.  What I remember clearly was that when the war started, all of us 9th and 10th standard students were sent to paste brown paper on all the glass windows and ventilator shutters.  As we did not have a hostel in school, it was not for black out, but apparently to prevent the glass shattering inwards, if a bomb was dropped.  We of course thought it was great that we got away from classes for quite a few days.
I also remember the air raid drills, sometimes during the day and sometimes at night. If we were in school, the bell would ring when the air raid siren went and we were all supposed to gather on the ground floor in a specific room.  If the siren went off at night, at home, all lights were to be put off and we were to gather in the centre of the house, on the ground floor.  As our flat was on the ground floor, we did not have to go out.  Now I think about it, I can't remember anyone telling us to turn off the piped in gas, used to cook and to heat the water boilers.
Anyway, one night there was really an air raid warning.  It must have been around 7.30 or 8 pm.  I guess we must have all put out the lights.  But what was worrying was that my father had not yet reached home.  His office was way over near Barrackpo      r, on the Barrackpore Trunk Road.   There were no cell phones then.  So we had no idea where he might be.  I think my mother rang the office and found he had left.  My mother, my sister and me sat in the centre room and waited for the all clear.  We heard planes overhead.  The all clear must have sounded after an hour or so.  My father arrived sometime after that.  He said he had been on the road when the siren sounded.  Apparently all the cars stopped, and all lights were switched off--headlights, streetlights, traffic lights, everything. 
Next morning we learnt that a bomb had been dropped in Barrackpore on the Air Force base there and there had been air fights.   There were more sorties in the East, near and around Calcutta. 
During the day, life went on as usual and we went to school.  I don't remember getting a holiday due to the war.  But then again my memory may be playing false.
What I do remember is that the duration of studies for engineering was cut short, as in those in their last year of the engineering course had 6 months reduced from the course, so that many engineers would be ready to help the country if the war continued.  So my older brother, who was in his last year in IIT in Chennai, finished his course and came back home much earlier than expected and was around to help me with my studies. 
I just read up about it on Wikipedia and realised it was quite a big encounter.  But, I don't remember feeling worried about the war.  All I remember is wishing I could become a pilot.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Goats and kids

I have written earlier about staying in Kerala with my maternal aunt.I remember the visits as idyllic times.
 It was an old-fashioned farm. There were many cows and milk was sold. There were many hens too and maybe eggs were sold too, though I can't remember.  I remember that more than once, when I went to stay, my aunt would buy a pregnant goat, so that when she gave birth I could have goat's milk.  But my big thrill was having the kids to look after.  I was usually allowed to be there at the birthing.  Once the goat had 2 kids and I think on another occasion there were 3 but the memory is probably false.  It was lovely watching the kids being born and then watching them stand up on unsteady legs.  But in about a minute they would be jumping around.  I remember the first such goat I called Milly and the kids were just Milly's kids.  My aunt showed me how to milk the goat too and I was allowed to milk the goat--occasionally I guess.  The kids were my friends and I loved playing with them, with them running around behind me.
I stayed with my aunt there on numerous occasions from when I was about 4 and for quite a while when I finished high school at almost 16 and many more times in between.  But to write about the times there requires many blog posts.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Hill Road, Bandra, Mumbai

When I was around 4, we moved from Napean Sea Road, in Mumbai to Mt.Mary Road, now apparently called Hill Road.  It was a huge British Bungalow, opposite the St. Stephen's Anglican church.  I used to often walk across by myself, to church to go to Sunday School.  At that time Hill Road did not have much traffic, especially on a Sunday.
So I was thrilled when my niece, who had just started working in Mumbai, said she had found a bed-sit for herself on Hill Road, very close to St. Stephen's Church.  I looked it all up on Google maps to see how much it must have changed.  I last visited Hill Road maybe i 1999.  I am now looking forward to visiting her some time to renew my acquaintance with the road in it's latest avatar and certainly to slip into St. Stephen's as well as Mt. Mary Church.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The beach, summer and music

I love jazz, Latin music, Hawaiian music, and a lot more too of course.  But whenever I listen to Latino music or smooth jazz, into my mind comes pictures of a tropical beach, and this sort of music floating out in the background, blending with the soothing sounds of the ocean.  As I think back, I have a vague memory of going to a beach in Mumbai, possibly Juhu.  I don't remember it being very crowded.  My physical memory makes me feel I may have been around four.  In the background there is a beach front restaurant, and the music floating from there was that kind of music, relaxing and part of the sun, sand, sea and palm trees.
As I grew up and into my teen years of course it was all about the Beatles, other Brit pop group, Elvis and Cliff Richards.  But on my 15th birthday my eldest brother, who was in the US by then, sent me an Astrud Gilberto album and I just loved that album and there was no turning back.  Even now, when I hear smooth jazz, especially Bossa Nova, the feeling is almost visceral and whenever there are summer breezes blowing, even at home, I want to listen to jazz.
I have not been back to Juhu since we left Mumbai in 1961.  I wonder what it is like now.  But for me, it is forever linked with that kind of music.

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.