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Ever Graceful Indian Sarees

Paithani SareeI love everything related with fashion. I am never too busy to check out new fashion trends, follow fashion blogs and check out the photos of the celebs taken at various award functions, weddings etc. Recently Ritiesh Deshmukh and Genelia’s wedding offered me a great opportunity to check out wedding trends. As I went on checking all celebrity sarees , and it is not only just this occasion but many more before and after this, one thing that came to my mind was most of the our actors prefer donning designer sarees. May it be Over The Top transparent, sequined Manish Malhotra or inspired by ethnic weaves  by Sabyasachi. No wonder it came as a breezer when I spotted Asin in Genelia- Ritiesh wedding the traditional Kasavu saree from her home state complete with jasmine flowers in her hair.
I agree, there is nothing wrong in wearing designer sarees and they do look lovely in most of the cases except for some really hideous designs by so called modern designers, yet  I can’t help reminisce over the soft rustle of kanjeevarams, Patolas and Mysore silk as we used to run through them as small kids at social occasions. Their muted voices like those of khandani bahus have lost in the loud noises of chamak chhallos of so called designer sarees. Here I am talking about the designer sarees as in the ones you get at retail shops in abundance, not the exclusive ones.  So here are my top 10 Indian classic weave sarees I would like to see coming back on the social scene…
Paithani Pallav1.    PAITHANI – Nothing can beat a classic Paithani worn along with traditional ensemble of nath,  bajuband and traditional necklaces. Every Maharashtrian lady worth her salt has a Paithan in her wardrobe. They come in vibrant colors and have a typical pattern of peacocks or creepers on their border and pallav as you can see below in the picture.

Kanjeevaram saree
2.    KANJEEVARAM – This is one of the most popular of traditional sarees thanks to Vaijayantimala and Hema Malini. Nevertheless, it is so regal that it always steals the show when draped nicely. They are generally marked with broad border, many a times with a temple pattern. Originally coming from a place called Kanjeevaram  in Tamil Nadu, they can be found in all the cities across India.

chanderi saree
 









3. CHANDERI – This lovely saree hails from the town of Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh.  Famous for its fine, almost transparent weave, its suitable for any function . Here’s   a photo of Kareena wearing these sarees gifted to her by the weavers of Madhya Pradesh while promoting 3 Idiots

Banarasi Saree
4.    BANARASI – There was a time when no wedding would be complete without a Banarasi Sareetraditional Banarasi saree or shalu as it was locally called. This is a very rich saree, most of the times heavily embroidered with gold thread with Mughal patterns. It comes from the handlooms of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. This is one saree which has power to lift up any occasion from ordinary to special. Best reserved for weddings. Here you can see Katrina wearing it with a contemporary blouse while Aishwarya wearing one with a traditional blouse

Kasavu Saree

5.    KASAVU – This one is Kerala’s most popular saree. Every Mallu woman has one in her wardrobe, especially reserved for occasions such as Onam or visits to the temple. This rich cream colored saree with brocade border and pallav looks simple yet very very elegant.

Parsee Gara Saree

6.    GARA – These intricately embroidered sarees are considered as one of theParsee Gara Saree most prized possessions of Parsee families. Often passed down from generation to generation as family heirloom, their value is perhaps equal to the entire family’s wardrobe put together.  Originally they were imported from China and were famous for their intricate Chinese embroidery around their border. The fine embroidery and weaving would take a long time hence they used to be very expensive  and were used only on special occasions such as weddings.

Sambalpuri Saree

7.   SAMBALPURI - Sambalpuri Saree from Orissa is traditionally a tie and dye Ikat saree made on hand loom. It is famous for its symbolic motifs of Shankha(conch), Chakra (wheel), flowers. In these sarees, the yarn is dyed in a pre-conceived manner so as facilitate the weaver to follow his design. The unique feature of these sarees is that they have almost identical pattern on both sides. This saree gained popularity under the patronage of the late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.


Baluchari Saree

8.BALUCHARI -  The  well- known Baluchari saree of West  Baluchari SareeBengal is originally from Baluchar village near Murshidabad. It was patronized by the Nawabs of Bengal. Once a flourishing trend, this art later declined in the British period. The classic Baluchari saree has scenes from Indian epics depicted on its pallav, while the repeated motifs from the pallav are used in wide border. 

Bandhani or Bandhej SareeBandhani or Bandhej SareeBandhani or Bandhej Saree

9.BANDHANI OR BANDHEJ – These are tie and dye technique sarees are from Rajasthan and Gujrat. Bandhani has got its name from `bandh’ that tie a knot. Small circles and dots are formed to make designs in different dynamic colors. These sarees are made in Rajkot, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kutch and many other parts but the most famous is the Gharchola of Jamnagar. This particular saree is worn by a Gujrati bride.  It is usually a red saree divided in squares by rows of white tie- dyes spots or zari.  The smaller the dots the more fine quality the saree is. White Bandhani saree with red border is called Panetar which generally gifted to a Gujrati bride by her maternal uncle. 

Dharmavaram Saree

10. DHARMAVARAM  -  Dharmavaram are the most well known among the many handwoven sarees of Andhra Pradesh. Originally from the small town of Dharmavaram in Anantpur district . they are famous for their broad solid colored borders with contrast pallu brocaded with gold patterns.  It takes around 4-8 days of two persons hard work to weave one saree depending on the intricacy of its work. These sarees can be found in cotton, tussar and cotton sillk apart from silk.Dharmavaram Saree

I know, I have not included many other beautifully woven sarees such as Kota, Mysore silk, Venkatgiri, Pocham palli, Munga silk, Jamdani, but to cover those and many more, I will have to write another blog. For the time being I will do some thinking on deciding which of these sarees I would like to buy first.




Ever Graceful Indian Sarees

Dev Anand – The Legend

Dev Anand - the LegendProbably ours is the last radio generation and I am not talking about radio Mirchi and other such FM channels with RJs. I grew up listening to Vividh Bharti and its programmes, Aap ki pasand, Man Chahe Geet, Ek Fankar, Chhaya geet and ending the day with Bela ke phool.  Automatically the radio artists like Amin Sayani, singers, music composers were part of my life.  I remember vividly whenever a song used to play on the radio, subconsciously the images of that song would be seen by mind’s eye. Well, we could visualise our favourite actors in their trademark moves. No wonder when on a sleepy Sunday morning I received the sms from a friend informing of Dev Anand’s death, myriad images came alive.


Dev Anand  was the original style icon.( I refuse to put a ji or saab in front of Dev Anand and for that matter all the bollywood actors, actresses, singers etc. They will always remain Rafi, Kishor, Mukesh, Asha, Dilip Kumar. Adding any suffix seems so phoney) His was a carefully crafted image... the signature puff, which was copied by many young men of that generation including my father, coquettish tilt of head, his semi run or walk, the breathless, gasping way of delivering a dialogue and unique style of dressing up. He was always seen in layers of clothes no matter how warm it was outside. Considering he lived in Mumbai where it gets hot and hotter it was ridiculous to see someone wearing a shirt with a high collar, coat, a cap and  a muffler  or a scarf carefully knotted and  hanging  on his chest , but the person wearing all this paraphernalia was no ordinary mortal. It was Dev Anand and no reporter had guts or rather heart to ask him why?  He was trapped in his own persona on and off screen. It can be any character in the movie, he was always Dev Anand.  His fans used to go to watch Dev Anand’s movies and they would get just that.


We can easily divide Dev Anand’s career into two parts.....before Guide and after Guide. Although some of the films after Guide such as Jewel Thief,  Prem Pujari, Hare Krishna Hare Ram, Des Pardes, Tere Mere Sapane were hits and they had some chartbuster numbers, yet his most remarkable work as an actor lies in the Black and white era. Just take a look at the songs posted on social networking sites after people learnt of his death...Main zindagi ka sath nibhata, hum bekhudi mein tumko pukare, achchaji mein Hari, Jeevan ke safar mein raahi...most of them black and white. They were the movies we will always remember him for. The unforgettable  Paying Guest, Asali Naqli, Maya, Kala Bazar, Kala Pani and so on.  That was the time he was at the peak of his career. The young generation was drooling over his photos, men and women alike, his songs were hummed everywhere. He had entire nation’s love, adulation and he was the original chocolate hero.


This was the time when Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand was the trio ruling the roost. They had their own defined audience and their individual style that appealed to their fans. Dilip Kumar’s was that of a rustic Indian mostly  idolised by the then majority rural India, Raj Kapoor’s was that of a Desi Socialist tramp portraying the dreams of a young idealist nation..honest, innocent, lovable and Dev Anand’s was that of an educated, sophisticated, urbane Indian, more appealing to the city dwellers. His hero was fashionable, rakish but in a gentlemanly way. He could be anything from an architect, a journalist, a rich playboy to an army officer or even a misguided youth indulging in black marketing, his aura of a cultured, well groomed young man always reflected through his characters. I, somehow, cannot imagine him essaying a character of a dacoit from Chambal region or a poor destitute farmer. No sir, not Dev Anand.  He also knew that very well and adhered to the similar type of roles without bothering to experiment. Why disappoint your fans?


 Then came Guide and proved that he was also a good actor apart from being a hero. Guide swept all  the Film Fare awards in five distinguished categories that year. It was a path breaking film which went international. People started feeling Dev Anand has much more to offer than walking sideways. This was the time his contemporaries, Raj Kappor  and Dilip Kumar were slowly slipping into the roles of a director and a character artist respectively. Dev Anand refused to give up his position as a lead artist in his movies. Year after year his banner Nav Ketan films kept on churning movies which he regarded as motion pictures, regardless whether they made any business at the box office or not. His camp consisting of Vijay Anand, his younger brother and perhaps the best directors of his times especially for the picturisation of songs, S D Burman who was replaced by his equally extra ordinary son R D Burman and his voice on screen Kishor Kumar, did give some hits such as Hare Krishna Hare Rama and some memorable songs like Phoolon ke rang se, but slowly the pillars of this camp started crumbling down and Nav Ketan’s graph went spiralling down with each new movie. Any lesser man would have given up and started living life of a retired star sharing his days of glory with his grandchildren and occasionally gracing the social functions where  people would have sang accolades and asked him to guide the younger generation, but Dev Anand with his never say die attitude refused to call it quits. His was a one man show from then on... and a series of flops. His fans also did not realise when the movies such as Love at Times Square, Censor, Chargesheet released and bombed on the first day.  I guess more than the outcome, he loved the process of film making. He kept on announcing new movies, penning down scripts and living in a make belief world where he was still a shining star.


Not long ago, while on a flight, there was an option of Tere ghar ke Samne  among other  in flight movies.  I don’t know why I felt the need to persuade my children aged 13 and 10, who were keen on watching some recent release, to watch this movie instead, and they obliged. They hate Black and White films and I was keeping my fingers crossed for them to like this one. And did they like it? Oh yes, they loved it and they also kept asking me about the life then , simple, uncomplicated,  the empty roads, the cities...unbelievably clean, unpolluted  and much much less populated. I could not help asking them how did they find Dev Anand? The answer was ...a bit funny but handsome in his own way.


That is how I would like to remember Dev Anand as.  He may be a bit funny because of his cultivated habit of keeping his limbs loose, still so charming. The man who was ahead of his times, a trend setter, but more than all this a real star, larger than life, who lived, breathed cinema and looked only forward and never dwelt in past. His was the zest to keep abreast with the times, no matter what the world thought of him. What can be a more befitting epitaph for this evergreen soul, who died with his boots on, than his own equally timeless song...Main zindagi ka sath nibhata chala gaya... har fikr ko Dhuwe mein udata chala gaya.

Dev Anand – The Legend

I Love Ghost Stories……

I don’t know whats with the mobiles and their features. My son has downloaded ( maybe it came with the phone) some application like a  ghost radar on his mobile.  He was walking around the house detecting the proximity or the existence of the ghost. Every now and then he was screaming with excitement . ‘’Look Mom, the arrow is pointing in your direction.’’ He screeched “and it is red, that means it has a strong presence.”  I laughed out saying perhaps I am the ghost.  The kids were quite excited about it and were talking about taking it out to explore the haunted areas in the neighbourhood.  I dismissed it as one of the several gimmicky features on the phone such as the mood detector or your daily horoscope, but at the same time this fascination we human beings feel towards the super natural elements intrigues me.

When we were small every family used to have at least one person who had seen, interacted or felt the presence of these wandering spirits ( bhatakati atma). We used to hear the stories of some elderly uncle, aunt or a neighbor having interaction with these spirits, as they were called as. There used to be tales of a spirit showing way to a lost traveler, scaring an unassuming housewife or people seeing dead relatives. They used to be highly entertaining at the same time frightening as we were literally forced to believe in supernatural elements unintentionally. Then there used to be an antidote to counterfeit it. “ Chant  Ramraksha  or Hanuman Chalisa if you ever get nervous.  Never turn back. Don’t appear that you are shit scared, face the spirit and it will go away, but if it makes out that you are terrified, it will posses you.”  It was a generation that believed in the existence of parallel life at the same time had strong faith in God and good deeds.

In those days ghosts also had some guidelines, principles. It was considered that they never posses a Brahmin wearing a holy thread or people carrying some kind of tabij (a kind of pendant).  They would follow a certain code of conduct like disappearing at the break of dawn, not getting into the worship area, appearing mostly on full moon or new moon nights and so on. I guess they had a dress code too. Although I haven’t seen any in person but from whatever I have seen in movies I believed that it was mandatory for female wandering souls (chudails) to wear a white saree and let their hair loose.  It was also a must for them to be accomplished singers and have mastery over crooning melancholic tunes, usually mourning for their unrequited love, that evokes goose bumps. Believe me it’s a different genre. All those who still don’t believe me can check on youtube for Jhum jhum dhalti raat from Kohra or Gumnam hain koi from Gumnaam or the most unforgettable Ayega aanewala from Mahal.  It was optional to carry a lantern.  Somehow male ghosts are not very popular with film makers so I can’t visualize how they could be looking. May be normal. For them it was a must to have a baritone and sometimes a thunderous laughter. Then how a person would figure out whether it’s a human being or the other being. Simple. They have backward feet and their reflection could not be seen in a mirror. So it was compulsory for a film director to fit in a scene where the ghost talks to the lead actor in a normal way and tadannn…..she turns to face the mirror and the reflection of the other person just doesn’t show. OMG….she realizes she was talking to an apparition. That was one way of finding out. The second way was the disappearing trick. You would be talking to this person and someone calls you. You turn back and when you turn around to face this person it has vanished.  Damn it was a spectre……

I love these humanly ghosts more than the gory, blood pucking, scar faced, zombie types. They used to be basically nice people died or rather killed mercilessly and have returned to earth to avenge the injustice.  The visa to heaven being denied to those who have not fulfilled the duties assigned to them, they are deported to complete the project. Mission Revenge.  They need a medium to put their plan into action. Who better than our macho heroes or fragile but righteous heroines. Well, then follows the train of events such as déjà vu, nightmares, hallucinations, some more morbid, macabre incidents and finally a catastrophe where the timely intervention of the ghost aids the lead protagonists  to bring in poetic justice.  Think of Madhumati later on parodied by Farah Khan in Om Shanti Om.  These were affable ghosts who used to rescue dainty damsels from the lusty, amorous plots of villains( usually village thakurs). Todays ghosts from Bhootnath or any Ram Gopal Verma movies don’t have that punch.

There was one more subcategory of these ghosts in Hindi cinema. They were the monopoly of Ramsay brothers.  These ghosts were over the top, full of vengeance, destructive  creatures. These atrupta atmas would haunt mansions in desolate area complete with eerie backdrop  where (you wonder why)  our hero and heroine go for their honeymoon. If the movie were directed by a Chopra instead of Ramsey they would have opted for a romantic locales of Switzerland, but since it was a horror movie they select this dilapidated  haveli , come in a bunch of friends to get tormented by this sadist spirit which spares no one from its cruel claws except for the main characters who are saved by a hideously dressed tantric or a mantrik, resembling a demon himself, who captures and imprisons the soul in a bottle and seals it with a magic spell…..to be opened by new characters in its sequel. Ramsay movies had their own audience.  They never pretended to make any art film. There was no disappointment. You get what you expect. Even a small kid could make out from the titles such as Do Gaz Jameen ke Neeche, Sannata or Aakhari Cheekh that they are not going to be family entertainment or a  rom com. Nobody noticed the sad demise of  this genre and the brand itself went missing.

Only option left for the horror movie lovers is to watch Hollywood movies, unless Mahesh Bhat movies appeal to you.  The foreign ghosts, poltergeists, apparitions are okay. (not to be mistaken with zombies, mummies, aliens and any such horrendous creatures). I mean there are movies such as Omen or Paranormal activity and of course, Hitchcock films, which have sent chills running down your spine. And some are like our masala horror movies such as What lies Beneath. I don’t consider The Ghost as a horror movie.  What kind of a bland ghost which cannot terrorise people or The Others where the ghosts themselves are not sure about their own existence.  Although Hollywood films have  far better sound effects and graphics, for me they fail to make the same impact like our good old Hindi movies with their stereotypical paraphernalia ..the village lass in her ethnic costume strolling the massive palaces creating a rhythmic noise with her anklets,  an owl flying into the dense darkness, a shrill sound of hounds howling somewhere far off, the clock striking twelve…………….oh how I miss  that.

In today’s  crowded cities there is no empty space, haunted houses or even crematoriums or cemeteries  left for  the poor ghosts to reside.  Apart from place other equally vital requirements such as churping of crickets, ominous fluttering of bats deathly silence have all wiped out from todays  cities to inspire the writers so this form of writing or for that matter films going through slow death.  We need to do something pronto to revive this genre. It can be a white mini clad ghost, playing music on her I pod and may haunt a gym. She may even sport a deadly tattoo. ( anklets and lanterns are so passé )The disappearing act has to continue. I bet it will provide better entertainment than the filthy movies filled with toilet humour and so called realistic cinema with loads of cuss words. I hope some film maker may read this blog some day and will consider bringing a ghost story in all its pomp and glory to the silver screen.

I Love Ghost Stories……

If You Have It, Flaunt It!

Recently I have noticed a new phenomenon among the upwardly mobile Indian middle class. Is it new or was it always there, and I was blind? Well, whatever the case, it is the brazen display of everything about oneself, ranging from the artefacts, mobiles, cars, jewelry, houses (yes, in plural…seems that it is a must to have more than one to be respected), in-laws ( they are amazing, good, bad, vile, interfering, neutral), sons, maids and so on -  anything that is worth being spoken or not!

 

Last week I was a victim of this trend. We were visiting a friend’s newly done up house.  We were given a guided tour of that state-of-the-art masterpiece. What you would think as a part of the wall was actually a cleverly concealed bar and what you would think as one of the knobs of the wardrobe revealed a Jacuzzi behind it. I was duly impressed!  A lovely chandelier from some exotic part of the world caught my attention. I naively praised it and there I walked into the trap. A long story attached to it followed …how the hostess spotted it while traveling, how much it cost them to get it flown from there and how much more effort went into figuring out whether the ceiling of a Mumbai house would hold such a grand and heavy piece of art. “You know it is worth every cent I spent on it….everybody notices it. “

 

Oh dear! So I was not the only one who had fallen prey to this hanging bait. And if I thought it was the end of my torture, I was gravely mistaken. Thereafter followed the little stories attached to paintings (Gasp!! The price tag was still discreetly visible), curtains, cushion covers, glasses, utensils, bathroom fittings and the ceramic potty. I felt like asking in P L Deshpande (the great Marathi author) style whether it eases the constipated ones or the struggle continues. Well, but being true to the food eaten on that day in that house I enthused “Can’t believe so many designs are available in potties.’’  As the guests poured in, I was a mute witness to the sufferings of the gullible listeners.

 

The same week, we were invited to a relative’s place, an elderly couple whose both children are settled abroad. We were visiting them after a long time. Obviously we had the preset idea of bonding over old times, memories of the past and of course, our current lives. What we had in store was not anticipated. After initial quick how do you dos, we enquired about their kids we haven’t met in ages. And that was quick sand! The more we enquired the more we were in for the trouble. The husband was in his elements narrating stories about his annual trips abroad and his grandchildren, daughter in law, son in law etc. The wife taking a cue from this produced a huge plastic box containing albums….the many places they visited, grandchildren, their friends, their friend’s friends, the barbecues, the parties, their houses, everything along with a commentary.  (See this is their house and this is the living room, sitting room, bedroom, basement, garden, gazebo, garage, garbage bin) They wanted to make it a virtual reality experience for us and perhaps that was not enough, there came in CDs and DVDs. I felt like asking, “What about us?”. Aren’t you interested in knowing how we are doing, ups and downs in our lives or our children? No, obviously they were not interested. My husband exchanged a frustrated look across the room which read “How to escape?”. I darted back a reassuring look which said, ”We will survive”.  On our way back home my husband commented,’’ Growing old has nothing to do with growing mature.” I liked the thought whether original or borrowed.

 

The final and absolute confirmation of this phenomenon came from an acquaintance who decided to call on us. Well, he was quite welcome. My husband always used to share a light banter with this person.  He came at lunch time. The plates were served and we were about to begin. Obviously, we invited him to join us. But no, he would not. He certainly had an agenda. And very soon we realized that he had not come to see us, but had come to display the talent of his daughter, a wannabe singer. He started playing the songs from her upcoming album on his I phone. It was a melodious number. We loved it. It was followed by many more, conveniently ignoring the lunch table. Was he a moron? Couldn’t he see we needed to eat? All my ears could hear was angry loud rumbling of my hungry stomach. I took a stand and reminded the man of the waiting plates. He generously allowed us to go ahead with our meal while playing the music and commentary in the background. I could clearly see the idea of a siesta going out the window. I screamed in my mind (as usual),”Why? Oh why do I have to go through this?”. Mercifully his daughter was no Lata Mangeshkar and had a limited repertoire of songs. Finally, to the great relief of our numb ears, this musical punishment came to an end. If I were alive in the feudal era, I would have made a significant contribution to the then existing unique punishments. ‘’So and so is ordered to listen to some obscure music on a hungry tummy till his eardrums explode!’’. I could actually visualize this person with his potbelly and an evil grin holding the Iphone in front of the poor criminal as he tries hard with his tied hands to cover his ears.

 

These are just some classic representations of many experiences I come across every day. Basically the thumb rule is if you are spending so much on your dinner, dress, diet, vacation, flowers, funeral, then people must know about it otherwise it is a waste. You do everything to be seen, admired, envied. The display of wealth, position was always there but it was more subtle. Now, it is in your face. Is it that important for our society to make it public where and with whom we eat, sleep, vacation, fight, make love?  What could be the possible reason behind the rise of this particular trend…..one up man ship? Making others jealous? (nana nana nana.. we had fuuun…you watch and envy). I don't think so. Its image marketing at work over time. Can you escape it by confining yourself to your house? No way…..it is omnipresent. You can see these blatant boasts on the statuses of people on social networking sites (I travelled first class, carried my stuff in a Louis Vuitton, stayed in the same hotel where Michael Jackson stayed and peed in the same loo). Is anyone interested? It is cheap, crass, uncouth, but does anyone care? I am sure like all fads, this narcissistic trend will also fade but not so quickly. Till then what we can do is, flash a fake smile, suppress a yawn, mock enthusiasm and respond, “ Oh really!! This is so wonderful! I Unbelievable!! Cho Chweet!  ………..”

If You Have It, Flaunt It!

An Ode to April

Koel - an ode to AprilAs I write the date on the papers in front of me, suddenly it strikes me that we are already in the last month of the first quarter of this year. The month of April evokes a collage of memories.......neither sweet nor sour not even bitter...perhaps acrid...just like purple jamuns...the fruit of the month. It is not the fun-filled December or eager June and not any other bland months. It reminds me of Mumbai heat, the fan rotating endlessly trying in futile to keep our throbbing heads cool, the exam fever, staying up late in the night, awaiting summer break, and then enjoying holidays, that too with the tension of results at the back of our minds. In April you take everything with a pinch of salt just the right amount you add to buttermilk or on cucumber

I have a love and hate relationship with April. Many a times I have woken up from sleep full of sweat thinking that I was going to appear for the exam of some totally different subject while having studied something else. Its a recurring dream. I often wonder whether I will ever manage to overcome this fear. As we grew up and started going to the college April became the month of preparations. Just like the smells of raw and ripe mangoes, jackfruits and intoxicating jasmine or mogra flowers, I also associate it with the smell of old photocopiers, somewhat closer to that of kerosene, in a crammed place where you could get photocopies for reasonably low price. The cheap ones, literally and figuratively... we had to really focus hard to understand what was written on the paper. For that we were ready to go long distances. The friends from science stream used to have one  more concern named journal submission.  It used to sound more like death penalty than some academic task.  Obviously studies and various aspects related to it were in forefront while rest everything was blurred in the background.

In retrospect, now those blurred images have started becoming clear. I can clearly feel, smell, hear and see the month unfolding in front of me.  The sweet and sour freshly squeezed lemon sarbat drank from a stainless steel glass. As it used to trickle down the throat its coolness used to sooth both eyes and brain as well. The slightly pungent Ambedal eaten with refreshing panha ( a raw mango drink).  Various fruits that are available only in this season like green karawanda (the tangy berries often used in pickles), tamrind,ratambas ( the fruit used to make kokam sarbat) and many more. If you notice, not a single fruit is overtly sweet. The king of fruits, alphonso starts making its appearance felt with astronomical prices . You get it in abundance by the end of the month or in May, till then we used to satisfy ourselves by aiming at raw mangoes hanging down from some neighbor’s trees. I wonder where those mango trees have disappeared.

I vividly recollect koyal’s  melodious tunes from dense trees. It has never failed to amaze me how this invisible harbinger of spring comes to know when to break into a song. The heady fragrance of raat ki rani floating on cool night breeze used to lull us to calm sleep even though the air conditioners were not so common. Although the refrigerators were very much part of my childhood, the cool water from earthern matkas with occasionally a small bunch of khus roots placed at the bottom of it, had some magical power to quench the thirst. In those days ladies believed in  making and storing the quota of all their masalas, papads, various types of dried friums, chillies etc for the whole year. This was the test of their ultimate skills as an accomplished homemaker. The neighbors or relatives used to gather together to make this otherwise boring activity interesting. The gossips, jokes, friendly banter used to bond the ladies as well as we kids who used to do errands such as shooing away the birds and making numerous trips from kitchen to the courtyard or terrace and spreading the stuff handed over to them for drying. When there was no work to do, we used to play cards incessantly any game from Bluff( which used to be called as Challenge) to  mendhicoat to rummy.

Those were the pre-computer, pre so-many-tv-channels days and we never got bored. Come summer holidays and all the board games used to come down from the loft where they used to be stacked for the entire year. The intense carrom sessions in cool curtain drawn rooms barring the sultry afternoons. Endless game of monopoly,  accusations for unfair play, fights over fake money. Learning to ride bicycle on a rented bike. Getting bruised knees and elbows. Do those bike rental shops still exist? Never came across any in the recent past. In the night when there used to be a power failure one of the most favorite time pass used to be narrating ghost stories, apart from antakshari.

These balmy April evenings have that power to make one reminisce about the days of childhood, youth, which has slipped from our fist like sand. I am definitely not one of the people who dwell in the past, but a quick trip down the memory lane is so heartening.  As I curse the ever scorching sun, sweltering heat these memories of past Aprils bring a line of smile on my face and I feel like sharing my experiences with someone which is what I just did.

An Ode to April

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