Bilimora, Gujerat, India memories

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My post on Fashionable,  was about my stylish aunt Jeroo, who despite a general attitude among its inhabitants to pay scant attention to  their attire, kept up the trend of dressing up in the evenings, even if it meant a mere walk to the railway station!  A  lot of fond memories from childhood visits to Bilimora subsequently floated up.    It was a little fishing village then and now a thriving commercial city when I visited in 2014.

As children with our parents, we would arrive at the Bilimora Railway Station  after a  four hour train journey from Mumbai, with our “bedding” which contained extra blankets, sheets and a couple of quilts.  These were neatly packed by my father and secured with leather straps that buckled around the rolled bedding.  These along with two steel trunks replete with Masters’ locks were also unloaded at the station and a horse/carriage driver, deputed by our uncle  somehow discovered us in that jostling crowd, took possession of our luggage, hired two coolies to carry it on their heads and quickly made a path for us to follow to his horse-drawn tonga.  He knew where to take us.

My sister always perched on top near the driver and joined him in yelling “Ay ee yao” threatening pedestrians to stay out of his way while flicking the whisk lightly over the horse’s flanks.  There was a small wooden seat inside facing the road,  so the other three occupants rode backwards.  At our feet were the two steel trunks and bedding.  I don’t know how they got all of us on!

Our tonga clipped straight along the main road and at the corner where there was a photography studio (our landmark) he hung a left through a very rough alley where wild pigs were rooting around and then eventually the house appeared.

Talk about a reception committee!  Two aunts, one uncle, my grandmother, cousins and a small gathering of neighbors from adjoining homes were waiting on the steps. They were all so happy to see us and we them.  Being from the city we represented a little glamour in their lives.  Our clothes were checked out .

A typical morning would be waking up to the sounds of one of our aunts ,  washing her face, brushing her teeth and gargling loudly at the nala, a canal which carried the water out.  The smoky aroma of the wood stoves burning wood and cow dung patties at four am in the kitchen,  together with a charming view of smoky haze that hung over the house  made us snuggle deeper into the blankets and quilts.

Later, breakfast would be served on a wooden table with wooden chairs around it.  Eggs of your choice, warm chappaties made of whole wheat or rice flour, spicy liver masala, butter, jam and hot tea.

Lunch and dinner were feasts in themselves and dinner always included some local brew or hot toddy (from the local palm trees).

They were lazy days of playing carrom, cards, talking, reading, walking to the bunder which bordered the ocean.  Neighbours were like family.  No permission was needed to visit their property.  My sister and I would just wander in to their back courtyard and swing on their large wooden, benchlike swing.  No one considered it an intrusion and an open invitation was extended.  She would stand and swing higher and higher, whilst in the lower realms I would be nursing an imminent nausea attack.  I still remember the excitement on her face as she pumped the swing to the heavens!

Come evening, we would dress up and walk to the railway station to watch the Flying Ranee Express thunder by.   The excitement was in waiting for it!  Then we’d turn around and walk home!  Sometimes we would stop at Gandhi’s Icecream Shop for kulfi, which beats any icecream I’ve had.   At times the adults would stop in at the Parsee Club for a half hour.

We hated leaving back for Mumbai, the crowds and city life.  My sweet memories of our Bilimora trips all came flooding back in November 2014 as I stood alone now on the steps of that beloved house where once our loved ones greeted us.

 

 

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Daily Prompt: Tame

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Can You Tame a Cat?

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Most of us think of the word Tame as in to tame a house pet, especially dogs.  Now why can’t cats be tamed?  Have you heard of a tame cat?  By that I mean a trained cat?  Can you say “Down” or “Stay” to a cat?  Can you say “Paw”?  She will stare at you with a quiet dignity (read, you stupid person!  I am not doing that!).

This feline rules the house.  Slinks her way unchecked through every room, perches on any surface, defiantly licking her paws and fixing her unflinching lynx eyes on you in total defiance.  She purrs and rubs her feline body against yours and then rightfully settles into your lap or on your favorite couch or bed.  You have to lift her up and set her majesty down …  a simple shooing off will only work with outside cats not the spoiled princesses of homes.

They come with inherent skills, like taking a nap when needed … no set time for them or asking permission.  They stretch their sleek bodies, relaxing and positioning them in ways that could make a yogi envious and as for meditation, they can stare for long spans of time at a bird’s nest, patiently waiting for the mother to fly away before leaping up a tree and snatching her baby.

Oh yes, you cannot take them for a walk … she would not permit a leash around her neck.  You can’t tame a cat.

 

 

Daily Prompt: Believe

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The word Believe is not in the vocabulary of those without faith.  This word absolutely excludes nay banishes niggling doubts and half-baked attempts of belief from its kingdom.  To believe is to visualize the positive outcome and resolution of a difficult situation in the most detailed fashion.  The place, the people, their faces, what they will be wearing, what they will be saying and how it will be played out, like a movie, has to be very clear.  I have experienced this and continue to believe in the Universe which has so much give all of us … if only we believe.

Fashionable

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To me she was my Jeroo Aunty, fashionable in a time and place where she could have have been sloppy and no one would care.  No one was really fashion conscious in this village called Bilimora in the state of Gujerat, India.  Today it has grown into a flourishing city.  When we visited during our summer holidays, there was a routine of the household which we happily and easily fell into.  Sumptuous family breakfasts, equally sumptuous lunches and crowned by dinner accompanied by the local brew.

Through all this my aunt would preside, always smiling, full of fun and I still remember her girlish giggle.

Now comes evening and the fixed “program” was to walk to the railway station, wait for the “Flying Ranee” to thunder by, get all excited and marvel at its bullet speed and then return home.  We all wore casual evening clothes but not my aunt.

Striking, colorful chiffon sarees, sleeveless blouses, make-up replete, naturally wavy hair in a short bob, and the exotic foreign perfumes her brother and sister sent to her.  She was an attractive woman, walking down the main street of Bilimora from her house to the train station.  People’s heads would turn .  Women sizing up her style and men staring openly.  As a child I was proud to be seen with my fashionable aunt, borrowing a little of the sunshine coming her way.

Birth Day

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Today is my Birth Day, the day I was birthed by my mother.  Over the years I have had different kinds of birth days – happy ones, not so happy ones (because of my own moods), meaningful ones.  Unlike one of my good friends, who just gathers all her female friends around her and openly exhorts all to celebrate her birthday, share good food and wine, I sort of wished the day was over soon so I could get back to my normal day.

I have often wondered about this, exploring every possible reason I could come up with but they all fell short of coming up with an explanation satisfactory to me.  Today, as I once again have come upon that day, I woke up with a strange feeling of welcoming it.  I thought I was making it up in my head, trying to be positive but no, it was genuine.

I have so much love, caring and kindness surrounding me in my life.  I see goodness in all of us when we make someone’s life a little happier, a little more comfortable, a little more hopeful.  A daily miracle.

For these gifts I thank the lady who carried my growing life force within her for 9 months until she finally released me into this beautiful world!

Thank you Mum, and Happy Birth Day to both of us!

Never on a Saturday

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Stepping into the bank as the sliding doors opened I saw this reptilian line of customers and silently mouthed  “S..t”!

Positioning myself at the tail end of it and being temporarily idle, I observed  that every now and then when the sliding doors opened , the next unsuspecting customer would step in, stop and audibly say something like “Oh no”, “Give me a ….ing break”,  “Whaaat?” or simply “F…!” with a slap on the forehead.   Also a very Tall Man with Sunglasses on (TMWS) , about four customers down from me, would punctuate the silence with a loud “Ohhhhh” which startled everyone the first time and then just became part of the scene.

You can be anywhere in the world and this trying situation brings out strange responses from the people involved.     Standing in a long bank line, 20 people deep,  waiting  hopefully until you reach one of the two tellers at the window has got to be a lesson in patience , and fighting a growing impulse to believe that they are purposely dragging their tails.

The lady in front of me vowed    “Never again on a Saturday .  I should’ve known from last time”.  But what did I know?  I usually went on a weekday in the late afternoon.  Engaging in a conversation with her I learned the tips of painlessly depositing your cheques.  She was happy to educate me .  “I usually do my depositing through a bank app on my phone. “ She proceeded to list the steps and it seemed logical to me…except what did she do with the actual cheque?  “I keep it with me and note the confirmation number I get after the transaction is over.”  Somehow to me it was not as reassuring as watching the teller physically taking the cheque from me to deposit.

Lady in Tweed Coat jumped into our conversation and said “That is why I hate this bank!”  She obviously had a story to tell.  When she went up to the teller, the conversation went something like this. “I need to have such and such happen and the lady who is here during the week told me thus and so.”  “Well” said the teller, “You have to come back when she is here.”  LITC was livid.  “Oh, so I have to come back next week to speak with her because she is the only one who can help me in this entire branch!!  You know what?  That is why I hate to bank with you especially with this kind of money involved.”  All eyes are now on LITC.  What kind of money is she talking about?!  Looks of awe are shot her way.  Maybe she is someone important…   Just then TMWS decided to break the silence with a loud “Ohhh”.

I had just inched to the front of the line now and had a smug feeling I would be out of here soon.  Felt sorry for the others behind me.  Just then, the female teller shut her window, displayed the “CLOSED” sign and with the 50th flick of her hair, which was totally covering her left eye,  and walked off with heels clicking.  She dared not look at us because tempers were being held in check and she sensed a mutiny.  After 15 minutes she returned and I was next .   I held down my frustration, got the cheques deposited and swore to myself “Never again on a Saturday”.

 

 

 

 

Opaque ( Daily Prompt)

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We were on a family trip to Napa Valley, California and after touring that beautiful wine country we did the round-trip on the Skunk Train and were heading back to Los Angeles by car.

My sister-in-law loves board games and brought some along to pass some time in the car. She introduced me to a new one called “Mastermind”.   If you are not familiar with it here’s how it goes.  She would set up 4 different colored marbles in a certain order behind an opaque divider.  Then I had to guess the order of the marbles she had set up according to color, i.e. blue, green, yellow, red .

After a few wrong guesses on both our parts I realized that when the sun hit the car from a certain angle, I was vaguely able to see the colors in a hazy fashion through the opaque divider.  I was on to something!  Since I was getting a little bored in the car, I decided to make it interesting…for me, not for her!  I also have to admit to having some psychic prowess (hit and miss variety) of which she was aware so I started making these predictions about the color order of the marbles stating every once in a while “Wow, I think I’m feeling psychic!”

She was impressed and for the next 3 – 4 years she spread the word about that incident!  Until one Christmas Eve when everyone was warmed and happy with the wine we played a game of “Confession”.  You guessed it … my Mastermind game with the opaque divider on that trip was my confession.  Someone was not happy!  Mea Culpa.