Saturday, March 7, 2009

Waking up with cuckoo’s song

I woke up suddenly when I heard the recognizable sweet sound almost in my dreams . There was a distinct aroma of familiarity in the room. It was still early in the morning and the last hints of winters were enveloping the place. I could not make out what was different for quite a few seconds. Then suddenly it dawned on me that I was in my parents’ house at Lucknow. The sound was of course from the koel sitting on the mango tree and announcing the arrival of spring. Now things were becoming clearer to me. Why the bed was feeling so comfortable last night. Why there were no bugging alarms in the morning and why the breeze bore a faint smell of bela- carefully planted by mom outside my window. Its intoxicating smell in the summer months was my constant companion in my college days . Oh,There is nothing like your childhood home to sleep in and wake up into.Even the old wall clock looks like a long lost friend .
Yesterday was a ‘diamond day’ for me. There is nothing like your own town to go shopping and of course there is no better companion that your own sister for such an expedition. I had the luxury of both yesterday. I was home after almost a year and that too only for two days. There was so much to squeeze in those 48 hours of blissful existence. No wonder , more than the shopping my mind was engrossed in the sounds and sights of my beloved Lucknow. I was delighted to find that even my driver took time to stop and comment on small things like the flowering of mango trees or the blood red semal flowers decorating the streets(this for a change was nature’s not CM’s initiative !) One of the surest signs of coming of spring (month of phalgun) is this erupting of the Semal (Silk Cotton tree) into flowers. Bereft of leaves, the flowering Semul plays host to a large variety of birds, bees and flies who congregate to enjoy the nectar. The same tree decorates Delhi roads also…but I wonder if anyone notices. But why blame Delhi, even Lucknow is changing fast before my own eyes. Everyone I met in the city this time , complained about the extensive stone work that is going on at each nook and corner with giant size statues of political leaders enhancing the so called beauty of the city. (There were also huge posters announcing this beautification and also giving thanks to the CM –supposedly from common people, for her thoughtful initiatives.)
Most of Lucknowites like me try to ignore these and carry on with their daily lives- kind of living in a dream world of what the city used to be. Some signs of those days are still there . May be just in some crumpling walls of aminabad kothis and few sepia photographs hanging on these walls . The old world charm and the magic of old days are perhaps outdated. What is the worth of a place where a quick repartee is valued more than a new Merc? Or where style and not speed was the hallmark of success. The old world is replaced suitably by the new one. The fast and furious world of selfish ambitions and insensitive power is here for good. But for non residents like me some places and some institutions are so much part of our Lucknow that it is difficult to imagine the city without them and their old ways. My favorite bookstore took exactly 10 seconds in giving me the title I was looking for on Meer Taqi ‘Meer’ and the person also told me about three related books . In contrast , the fancy New Delhi bookstores could not even understand which ‘Meer’ I am talking about. One even suggested I may like to look into the section selling self-development books and another(disappointingly OUP-the publisher of the title I was looking for ) thought I am asking for Titu meer!! These are comforst for which each one of us crave for a home- comfort of being understood, comfort of familiarity and comfort of the existence of the world as it should be .
During this journey I was reading a heartwarming book ‘Diddi-My mother’s Voice’ by Ira Pande. It is a collection of stories and articles by famous Hindi Writer Gaura Pant ‘Shivani’ . The book was echoing my sentiments about the old days and the magical world of childhood.Its so fascinating to travel through someone’s life- almost as if one is living another life. This book and my being in Lucknow reminded me once again that “Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,—mothers and fathers don't die…… Tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow if you're busy havingfun,/Is plenty of time to say, /"I'm sorry, mother." “ and yes the other part of this poem is also true that “To be grown up is to sit at the table/ with people who have died,/who neither listen nor speak;/Who do not drink their tea, /though they always said/ Tea was such a comfort ."

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