Feb 27, 2014

Once, when travel meant something else

So, Travel Tale on Thursday is here again. And guess what? We have a guest for this Thursday, writing an offbeat post of her Travel tale. Sakshi Nanda, of Between Write and Wrong does shubh aarambh of her travel tales at my humble abode.


Without wasting much of the time, I now pass on the baton to her -
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Steeped in nostalgia I write this.
Of life and times when school was special even in its sameness of routine and evening play among kids for the newness, for who knew who the ‘denner’ would be that day? Of times when Sundays meant meals on a chatai in the garden, all 12 members of this joint-family together and festivals nothing short of spectacular. And of a life when travel did not mean packing large suit cases and leaving the house home-alone but something else entirely …
Say, going to Paltan Bazaar the day before Diwali. A kilometer’s walk, which at 7 years of age seemed like visiting another city. Dressed in my fineries, mirror work on a suit especially altered to fit me, walking with a skip in my step matching in energy the silver buntings lining the road, dancing in the festive wind. There, we crossed our ‘Chitra Kutir’ already, where all 6 children of the family went to learn to draw birds and setting Suns. Crossing roads that seemed a mile wide, no traffic lights though. And then it would loom large, the red 6-sided clock tower – one of its kind. They say once the clocks worked just fine. The gongs could be heard till our house, clearest at mid-night. ‘Clock tower! We have reached the clock-tower’, the younger two would chime. I would join in too, holding the elder sisters’ hands so tight. Rejoice! Like a pilgrim’s progress complete. Beyond the big banyan tree by the tower’s side lay Paltan Bazaar. Decorated like a bride, herself welcoming us with a broad smile and open arms. And then we would enter and shop – for puja and patakhas, diyas and sweets. A kilometer away from our protected space, but happy as if it was another world. A different world we had travelled to that day.
But we needed to charge our Fiat Padmini too.
Sunday evenings were reserved for a trip up Rajpur road, beyond Jakhan and to the pakora shop there. 6 kilometers and 45 minutes of travel, done at the speed of a very lazy Sunday light, by my uncle. 6 kids variously seated within. Sardarji key Pakorey, right where the nearly-flat road would end to climb up to the Everest, as if. The fiat windows rolled down would show us green hills and houses so distant from each other. Big, but standing so alone. Not lonely though, for thick trees lined the roads and stood as sentinels to the mansions too. And soon enough, we would smell the mixed pakoras rising crisp from the hot oil. Spot the long hungry queue too. In no time, the oily paper bag would stare at us with its empty mouth. On a stomach full to the brim, we would walk around a monastery a few steps away. Tibetan was not a word we knew. We were blissfully ignorant of who the people in this neighborhood were, or the pain behind their coming here. We were 6 kilometers away from our home. At the foot of the hills which held Mussoorie up. That is all that mattered. For so much we had travelled!  
Mussoorie was special.
Three Bajaj Chetaks, a complete family on each and off we would go, to map all 30 kilometers. The farthest that I remember, as a girl sitting between her father and her mother. With a kid brother standing between my father and the handle, with enough room near his feet for rajma-chawal packed in a casserole. To be had at a bench in Company Bag, destination Mussoorie. This was flying, on wheels. Wind in the hair, truly. I remember how silent we would be. Shh, don’t disturb papa while he’s riding in the hills. Or maybe because, we did not feel the need to talk. Just travel higher and higher, taking in the valley with our silence. Being one with what home meant spread below in the vale, even when whirring so many meters above it. Rolling back down in the evening then, all three scooters side-by-side. Sunset time, and the birds would return to their nests. They have to. All travels must come to an end.
To our child minds, travel meant being a certain distance away from home. No Samsonite brimming over with clothes, or tickets to fancy places. There were so many people in the house, so many cousins to keep you company, and so many new places to visit “far” and “near”. Experiences to gather, impressions to form and memories to cherish.
All, steeped in nostalgia.
Like I am now, thinking about what travel meant when I did not know what all it could mean.  

36 comments:

  1. This was nostalgia at its best, all the childhood and travel memories rolled into one single wonderful post. Life in simpler times, huh !!!

    Kudos to you Sugandha for having given Sakshi a free rein with the Guest Post, as the results are there for all of us to see :)

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    1. Yes, Jairam, simpler and happier times they were. :) Thanks a lot for stopping by!

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  2. Some lovely memories there Sakshi. I could almost smell those hot pakoras and the lip smacking Rajma Chawal that it must have been...You took us with you on this trip down your memory lane. Esp. loved this line,
    *Just travel higher and higher, taking in the valley with our silence.*
    I yearn to do that each time I travel, travel as it means today or travel as it meant back then..
    Beautifully written!

    And Sugandha, as Jairam put it, glad you came up with this, it was a lovely peek into Sakshi's childhood for all of us :)

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    1. Most welcome to come to Dehradun with me. We will take in the valley en route Mussoorie together, Seeta. :)
      Glad you liked this. Thanks for reading!

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  3. Sakshi, you wove a hauntingly beautiful tapestry here. I could hear the drone of the scooter; feel the balmy wind in my face.

    Reminded me of some very special times I had with my cousins too during the summer vacations. Someday, maybe I'll write them down too. More as a record of the times than of my own life, perhaps.

    Dagny

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    1. Thanks, Dagny. Every time I write a childhood post, I hear a couple of you-remind--me-of-my-childhood. Goes to show how somehow, being children, meant the same thing no matter where and when we grew up.
      No maybe, just write them down, those experiences of yours.

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  4. There is no finer time than childhood and no memories so special!
    You were lucky to grow up in Doon .. Surrounded by Nature. Travel doesn't always mean travelling far from home, it might just mean a Sunday excursion or a drive down a beautiful mountain road !
    I have never been to Doon but I have heard about the famous Pakora shop. Of course another reason I want to visit Doon is to see where Ruskin Bond lives and writes !

    Thank you Sugandha for giving us a chance to take a peek at Sakshi's childhood memories !

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    1. As long as I am from Doon, you are welcome to visit it with me any time, Ruch. I know your love for this Bond. We'l walk up together. :)

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  5. Mussoorie was special for me too Sakshi. My childhood summer vacations were mostly about Nainital and Mussoorie. The rope way, the Camels back, Mall, Company Bagh, skating hall, horse riding ......I can go on and on. Yes, pakoras too.
    So when I revisited Mussooorie after two decades along with my husband and son, I was disappointed. Though we stayed at the Jaypee resort but the place was not the same. It was a commercial bustling place instead of a natural paradise. And those kurkure wrappers floating in the Kempty Fall...
    I got swept by nostalgia too. Must be your words!.
    BTW lovely pic PP.

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    1. Yes, I remember us discussing your Mussoorie connection. I don't know why, but I get excited like a little girl when someone says 'Yes, we have memories from Doon'. An instant connect is formed, and this, despite having lived in Delhi for 14 years now. Neither is Mussoorie the same nor Doon. The faces of town and cities change, and that is why whenever I write such posts I feel refreshed and sad at the same time.
      Thank you, Alka. Love, PP. :D

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  6. //Shh, don’t disturb papa while he’s riding in the hills// hehehe that's so cute.. my mother still does that... beautiful post. I get the same feeling when I travel to my hometown :) up in the hills

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    1. It's quite true too, that 'shh'. Except it's said when he driving now, and not riding. We grew too big to sit on the scooter together. :D Ah, so you are a hill baby too. Then I am glad you could relate to this post. Thank you for reading me, Rajlakshmi.

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  7. Charming narration, Sakshi! How lucky you were to grow up in the mountains. I have heard so much about Doon but have never visited it. Have visited Nainital though and absolutely love it. There is something in the mountain air, the tall trees, the sparkling lakes and the robust people that instantly relaxes you. Loved your childhood memories. Though completely unrelated, they transported me to my nana's house in the UP plains where the harshest of summers did not deter us cousins from playing ice pice. Those beautiful days of childhood; I miss them immensely. Lovely post down memory lane. You must do these more often! Chalo if I ever go to Doon, I know who my guide will be. I loved that image of you with your kid brother on that scooter with papa and mama and rajma chawal for company :). My husband dreams of a day when we can retire and go and live in the mountains!

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    1. Like I was telling someone else, as long as I am from Doon (which you know is forever!) you are most welcome to be my guest there. I cannot promise to buy you a retirement house in the hills, but I can surely ease the process. But until then, we can have a good time together there.
      Thanks for liking this, Rachna. I can see I took you back to sweet summers too! :)

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  8. Beautifully written! I felt something when i read the post and as I saw the picture u provided I Realized i want to go to that last mountain or to a place where even i can find silence!!!
    Lovely old memories!

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    1. Thank you for reading,Garima. Our busy lives make us crave for a quiet and sane place called 'away' - where we can just be. :) Memories lovely indeed!

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  9. A piece of childhood brought lovingly on our plates :) loved it Sakshi.

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  10. Sigh! Those were the good old times. Now travel is all about photos and uploads. Nothing else.

    Wonderful post Sakshi. And thank you Sugandha for having her here.

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    1. Indeed, travel is all about photos and uploads. Big fat albums - 50 - 60 pictures no less, and big fat destinations planned because those albums have to be uploaded. :P Thank you for reading and liking this, Soumya! :)

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  11. Simpler and happy times! This post took me back to Shillong...loved the narration... Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and lose myself in the green hills and white clouds...and your post made me feel that again... Thanks for sharing

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    1. Shillong is my next travel destination, Nabanita. Just too many people have recommended it. I had a few friends from Shillong with me in college too. Glad I took you back to where you belong. I love the taste of nostalgia!

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  12. Beautifully written. Brought back my childhood memories. I had never thought those outings as Travel :)
    Thank you for sharing !

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  13. Loved this post, took me back to the years I've spent in a pahari state too. Agree, one does not really need to talk amidst the beauty in the mountains, their height and magnificence trivialises it all.

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  14. That sounded like a Sooraj Barjatiya tale. Only in a nicer setting. And infinitely better told.

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  15. Very well written. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. It is strange how reminiscences like this have an universal appeal, taking you back to your own childhood. The hills too are universal, be they anywhere. Lovely feeling reading this. Thank you, Sugandha for getting Sakshi to do this here. :)

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    1. Thank you, Sugandha. It took a post on your blog to make Subhorup read me and like this. :D
      I agree. No matter where or what point in the past we enjoyed our childhood, there is a common stream of thoughts and deeds running under all our memories. Perhaps, children are the same, everywhere. And so are the things they enjoyed.

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  17. Sakshi this was an ethereally beautiful description. Transported me to a world so simple, so innocent and carefree. Thank you :)

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    1. Thanks for those kind words, Aditi! :)

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  18. Life is so much more fun when we are kids, i guess because the smallest of things can give us the biggest of pleasures. Felt like it was me walking there when I was a little girl, truly a trip down memory lane.

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