Thursday, November 25, 2010

Native Place

As a family, we always went back to our hometown in the summer vacations. The thought of going anywhere else for holidays never crossed our minds and we proudly announced to the world "We are visiting our Native Place". Grandparents insisted that their children and grandchildren got together at least once a year.

Those were not easy trips. We lived in a godforsaken place called 'Bengdubi' (Beng=Frog, Dubi=to drown, in Bangla) in Darjeeling district. The nearest railway station was around 15 kms away at New Jalpaiguri (NJP). So, first drive down to NJP. Then take a train to Howrah Junction (Kolkata). From there, take the Howrah-Mumbai Geetanjali Express. Then followed the journey with Mumbai-Miraj Mahalaxmi Express or Mumbai-Londha Junction (any train headed to Bangalore or Goa). The final leg began with the Miraj-Hubli or Londha-Hubli Trains.

Bengdubi ---> Siliguri ---> NJP ---> Howrah ---> Mumbai ---> Miraj/Londha ---> Hubli

Hubli, in Dharwar district of Karnataka was our final destination where our grandparents lived. It was a 3000 kilometer travel over 3 or 4 days, one way. Air Travel was only for the rich who valued time over money. But for us, we had more time to spare than money.

We went there every summer, without fail. So did all my other Uncles, Aunts and their children.

For two months it would be like a Jumbo Mela at my youngest Uncle's house. They never complained. 40 people living in a modest 3 bedroom house seemed so normal. Women folk got together and prepared the meals. Men ordered snacks and coffee at odd hours. Sometimes as odd as 2 am. There was some magic to it despite the chauvinistic streak it out-rightly projected. One of the Uncles would say 'Oh I feel like having some coffee'. Another would say 'Ah some spicy poha would be so nice with that'. Slowly all the slept souls would wake up. There was never just Coffee, equal numbers of tea drinkers would raise their hands too.

We, the kids would get the plates & cups ready. Teen aged sisters would be seen chopping Onions & tomatoes. Teen aged brothers had to arrange the durries & mats in anticipation of a big midnight (or early morning) revelry. Aunts and mom struggled to straighten their wrinkled sarees and get the kitchen in action. Uncles and dad could be seen re-arranging Chairs or snuggling into their favourite corner.

One of us had the duty of quietly closing the door on Gandpa & grandma who were fast asleep.

In less than half hour, the living room resembled a wedding hall. Every inch of space occupied and every one of us alert and cured of our defiant sleepy moods. Then began the session of strolling down the memory lane by elders, teasing the 'come of age' cousins regarding their impending marriages, someone would sing, someone would dance, someone would perform a yoga aasana, someone rattled off counting tables, someone mimicked, my parents always sang a duet at such occasions. Merriment continued till early morning. 

Somewhere close to the break of dawn, one of the grandparents would stutter into the room with their walking stick and shout at everyone, demanding everything be stopped that very instant.

The fact that my mother belonged to the same city added to the fun. My maternal relatives were there too.

This continued in our family for a very long time until the late 1980s. But as we became teenagers and started hearing travel tales of people who visited hill stations or beaches in their Dussera, Summer or Winter breaks, we questioned our parents. Sometimes we got lame answers like 'we should always be in touch with our roots' and sometimes no answers at all. This made us resent our vacations.

We wanted to see the world, not go back to the same place every year. Darjeeling, Shillong, Guwahati, Gangtok, Dulabari were so close by yet we had never been there. We pestered out parents until they relented. One year we went to Meghalaya. Another year to Assam. Slowly our trips to Hubli reduced.

After so may years, now I realise 'going back to roots' has nothing to do with the place you visit. It is the people you are keeping in touch with....the culture you feel you belong to. And the culture can be something as simple as what you ate, what you wore and how you spoke. Funny that these things are ingrained in ones senses. Just close your eyes and you can smell it.

Having lived a life well traveled, I feel I belong nowhere.
I long for those midnight gatherings where I knew I could press my tired Aunt's legs without having been asked or tell Archu Tai to oil my hair without thinking twice. Thankfully we still get together like this for marriages!

I am sure our parents had all kinds of problems (leave/money/peer pressure) but they took extra trouble to make sure that everyone remained in touch and on good terms. Now we have social networking and cellphones do that for us....well almost!

Am so glad Partha was a part of this too @ prashant's wedding

Reliving our midnight dhamaal - Bunty & Gayatri dancing 
Dad & his brothers dancing 
Happy midnight mela
midnight dancing on the terrace


  1. Good fun! I remember my childhood days with my cousins. I miss all that so much! Though I was reading you, I was seeing my Mama telling us stories, we all playing cards till dawn... :( now where we have time to meet?! Nicely written Vandu! :)

  2. Oh yesss...had totally forgotten about the cards....used to wait till elders went to sleep and then the bacchha party would start with bhikar-sahukar, 5 3 2, bluff, 7/8 etc etc...

  3. i am too diped into my childhood memories at my mamas place. same stories.

    they also hail from Dharwad-gadg.
    and settled in pune
    there also we used to assemble about 60 people, as i am having 4 mamas and 3mavshis and their children and other cousins
    a gala mela!!!!

    unfortunately now due to small houses, and telephones, family members prefer to be in touch via phone than personal meets :(

    the next gen nowadays phone each other on cell form one room to other room:(

    world is getting closer with telecommunications and People are drifting away from each other with the same space......:"(

    u have very nicely potrayed our childhood & liveliness of intra-personal relations of familys

  4. cell phones are a boon but I still miss the get together.

    Anagha....u tari kitti efforts ghetach astes :)

  5. You said it.. you could have been describing my childhood... except that we went to the other end of the country... You have a talent for going down memory lane!

  6. thanks suchismita for visiting n being a part of this sharing process :) memories are such a wonderful way of reliving happy time over n over again.

  7. emphatic storytelling style...pretty well written :)

  8. it was a pretty long post...thx for taking time out to read it :)

  9. Didi..very well writeen :). Parat laukarach plan karu..

  10. og vandu, you bought back so many memories...and so beautifully u captured the fact that its ws the people that we kept in touch..I still belong to my native place than all the places I travelled in my life...I can only say Koi lauta de mere beten huin din...


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