Sunday, June 13, 2010

Always Anthony, sometimes Ajooba

[My posts in the next few days may seem a little monotonous with the repetitive theme of my time spent in Bharuch. But considering that it has been my base station for almost 22 years in my 25 years of existence, that is the least that I can do for a place which we'll be leaving forever quite soon.]

When we first moved to Bharuch, we stayed in a remote village of Bharuch district called Valia where the factory and colony of my dad's company was located. It was a beautiful yet mysterious place (vast lawns to play around in the daytime and the blood curdling laughing of hyenas which roamed just outside the boundaries of our colony in the night) and it forms the nucleus of my earliest memories (I was just about 3 years old then). But since I have already written about it once (, I will return to it at a later point of time. From Roopnagar (As the colony in Valia was called), we moved for a short period to the flat complex, Gayatri Flats where we presently stay but to a different building and flat than our present one. That short period too was a significant one and deserves a separate post because the friends I had made in that time became even closer friends on our second and very long stay (till present day) and were at the core of my fun filled stay there. Another interesting bit of childhood history was the time in between our two stays at Gayatri Flats, at the bungalow with the garden in Pritam-I society which I will now proceed to get nostalgic about.

Like every other house where I have stayed early on in my life, I have more vivid memories of what was just outside the house than inside it. I remember the roof where I used to play 'tag' with Anima Didi and from where I could see the house in which for a very short time in its very early days our school also ran its operations. This was long before we had moved into the house and by then my school had already shifted its premises to the village of Vadadla on NH-8, its location as of today. I was thrilled with the idea that someone could actually walk to their school and always wished that our school would move back to its old building. I also remember that on one rainy day when I was trying to run really fast to avoiding getting 'tagged' by Anima Didi, I slipped and fell with a massive thud completely on my own, thanks to the green slimy moss that forms in the rainy season. Anima Didi started laughing hysterically and I was so enraged at this that I went downstairs and tearfully complained to Mom that Anima Di had pushed me and caused my fall! Mom of course was well aware of spiteful child tantrums with me being her third experiment at motherhood. She proceeded to give me a consoling talk and a hug as was the need of the hour and waited for my pseudo-crying to end before stressing the point well and proper with a twist to the ear that it was wrong to lie about people just because you were angry at them. So much for motherly sympathy!

Then there were the peacocks which would fly into in our garden from neighbouring woodlands with their harem of pea-hens, while I would watch them from the window which looked out onto the garden. It was a privilege to have such a beautiful visitor, the national bird of the country after all and I didn't want to scare them away as they explored our garden for their kind of tasty snacks. Dad used to say that they hunt snakes and that made me respect the brilliantly hued birds even more. Not only were they good looking but brave too! On a few occasions, as the sky turned cloudy, we were lucky to watch it open out its eye-catching tail in a fan and dance to welcome the rain. That is such an awe-inspiring sight, one which can never be forgotten.  

What was really the grandest feature of that house in my opinion was the rectangular grassy patch of land where the front door opened out into. Yes, there were flowers and colourful shrubs at the borders of the garden, but what mattered to me was the unobstructed space in between - a grassy cricket pitch with well defined boundary walls. It was tiny compared to even the smallest cricket ground but it was big enough for our fledging cricketing abilities. In the house opposite to mine lived my greatest buddies of all time, all 8-9 years of it, the brothers Pratik and Akshat Gupta. Not only were they of the ideal age group, Pratik a year older to me, Akshat a year younger than me, we also went to the same school, shared the same taste in board games, picture books and casual cricket, and got along with each other perfectly well much to the relief of Gupta Aunty and my Mom as in putting three guys of that age together, there is always a tendency to get into minor tussles if left unattended. 

Fighting was just not us though! Come 4:00 in the afternoon and I would march out to the road in between our houses and holler "Pratik! Akshat!" No further specification was necessary as there was only thing to do on a hot summer or cold winter afternoon and any doubts on the mission would be further resolved when a sleepy eyed Akshat would stumble out to the verandah of their second floor house and get a look at the bat on my shoulders. Then would come his standard reply, unchanged, word for word, every single time I had called the brothers out to play cricket "Not now, yaar. I am sleeping!" How anyone could be sleeping while he was shouting back at me after coming out to the verandah was never really apparent, so we'd always end up playing cricket in my house's lawn. Their pet pomeranian Fluffy would also join us in once in a while, making her the most enthusiastic fielder on the field but being the crazy creatures that dogs are, she would just run around in zig zag fashion as we desperately tried to recover our ball and resume our game.

A real fun trip would be to the Shalimar Hotel in Ankleshwar when Gupta Aunty, a doctor by profession (incidentally a child specialist, so our doctor too) would make a visit to Bharuch's sister town across the river Narmada. She owned an old style red Maruti 800 and she is, hands down, the quickest car driver I have ever seen, man or woman! Two out of our trio would get to sit in the dickey of the hatchback car with our backs to the rear seat and looking at the world outside through the large glassed rear window. It's hard to imagine a time when I could fit into the dickey of a Maruti 800 but yes, there was a time like that too and I still have clear memories of how great the world looked from there as it fell behind us while Gupta Aunty zipped past everything else on the road. Once when we were crossing the Narmada road bridge into Ankleshwar for another trip to the Shalimar, I watched and cheered with breathless excitement, as an express train on the parallel railway bridge fell behind surrendering to Gupta Aunty and her incredible machine. As she went on to do her doctor thing in the city, she dropped us off at the hotel where we spent the rest of the day on the slides, swings and turn-tables of its kid's section seeking the shelter of the hotel only for lunch. A little while after lunch, Gupta Aunty would return, her job done and take us back to our home cricket ground of Bharuch.

The favourite memories I have of our stay at Pritam Society are those of 'Gajar kaa halwaa' and VCR movies at Pratik-Akshat's house. Gupta Aunty makes awesome 'Gajar kaa halwaa' and her child specialist sense told her that the best time to serve it was when we were watching our favourite video cassettes for the 1000th time over. "Tom & Jerry" videos and "Famous Five" videos were standard fare, always enjoyable but at the top of the all time list for us were two Amitabh movies, "Ajooba" and "Amar Akbar Anthony". We could never grow tired of these two movies and the immediate aftermath of watching them was that we would engage in play acting of the lead characters. 

"Ajooba" is a really corny super-hero movie starring Amitabh Bacchan, Amrish Puri and a rather funny looking 'murderous' monster, in a Alladin meets Superman mish-mash genre. We loved it then though and I suspect we'll love it even today just for the happy memories it brings back. "Ajooba" was a tough one to allot roles for, because only one of us could be the hero Amitabh a.k.a Ajooba, while the other two had to share the roles of Amrish Puri, the scheming villain and the giant ugly monster. So everytime we acted out Ajooba's story, the roles were cycled around for the purpose of maintaining peace and harmony. No one wanted to play the losing villainous guys more than once!

"Amar Akbar Anthony" was an easy allotment though with the 3 separated-in-childhood brothers in the film like us differentiated by age. Pratik, by virtue of being the eldest amongst us always got Amar (the honest cop), and Akshat the youngest always got Akbar (the kid and the most innocent). That left me no option but to be Anthony Gonsalves, the brother in the middle, the hard drinking, likable ruffian, the adopted son of a priest. I hated acting out the bit where Anthony gets clobbered by his elder brother Amar but I was putting up with it for the sake of the beautiful Parveen Babi on whom I had developed a big crush further enhanced by the number of times that we had watched the movie. Like that improbable movie, our favourite Manmohan Desai creation, where despite the tragedy of arrested fathers, blind mothers and long lost siblings, things finally come together and you know that every good guy goes home happy, so too was that period of time in our lives, truly madly "feel good"!


R I T I said...

Awesome post !Gupta Aunty used to make fab Pakodi kadi too. And I was always attracted to a craft book, there. Forgot the name. Got lots of crafty ideas from there! :)

Roy said...

@Didi: Thank yous! :) Yeah, I used to love that picture book they had on prehistoric creatures!