COEP! Incredible Days!

Those Incredible days!

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A couple of days back, during a discussion on 1971 COEP batch WA group, a friend Sailesh reminded others how he was taken by me to my brother in law, Dr. Biniwale, for some treatment during college days. I used to stay in hostels in Pune, in those days. My mind veered to those times in late sixties! Were they different? Of course, I am old enough to say, “In our times”! Let me assure you, the world was different then. India is now rich poor country but, in those days, it was poor, poor country! There were shortages galore, food rationing, poor quality wheat under PL 480 and so on. But youth is such a stage in life that nothing ever matters! Youth always has fun, limitations don’t bother them. They live life without any botheration! We did the same. 

At the end of my tenure, it was a surprise for me to find out that I had learned some engineering too! The personal transportation in those was a bicycle or walk; some came by bus and in the college, there were about 15 to 20 students who came on two wheelers too! This is about 1 % of all students. Out of those five were girls! ( and there were not more than 30 girls in the college!) Since that time, we knew the meaning better half or was it better off! In those times friends were called by surname or short name, like Panvalkar was Panya and Dilip was Dilpya! There was an interesting issue, my cousin Abhay Panvalkar was two years junior to me. When he joined COEP, we used to have food in the same mess. Friends resolved the problem of the same name conflict by calling him Semi-Panya! Relations with ladies were very formal in those days and that too only for some specific work/study related things.  

The groups got established; I was in many groups like sports, dramatics (Jaya and I had a very cozy relation since our initial meetings) and main activity was TP (time pass) where of course I used to lead! This group had one major activity that was to see movies. We sometimes used to attend two movie shows one after another in a day, in nearby theaters. Another important activity would be to go to a restaurant late at night for some special egg dishes! A restaurant called Olympia was a favourite joint of students who wanted to snack after midnight! Staying awake past midnight was quite routine under the garb of studies! Another important activity was to go to see different sports events to support the college team. We used to easily go 10 to 12 kms, one way, for such events on bicycle.  

There used to be some real funny incidents! One of our friends used to be very friendly with girls, outside COEP. He would share a few anecdotes with us. Over a period, we realized that when he got friendlier with them, the girl would get engaged to be married to someone other than our friend! He was then named “Khadawa”! Khadawa are wooden slippers worn by Ramdas Swami, a Hindu saint who ran away from the marriage pandal just as he was about to be married! But one thing for sure was that our friend was very consistent, in ensuring marriage of the girls he was friendly with!  

Another funny incident I remember was when two of our friends planned to go for a movie for evening 6 pm show. By 7 pm both of them were back in hostels! Then we saw a bit of skirmish between them. Both had reached the correct movie show but the only problem was that they were at different theaters about 5 kms away! Then there was another film buff. He liked the then superhit movie “Aradhana” so much that he saw three shows 3/6/9 pm in a day for three consecutive days! He entertained us for next two weeks by play acting both hero and heroine’s roles!  

In those days there was a concept of parasites! Some students who were not authorized to live in the hostel, stayed there for all of fours years. In a room where three students were authorized, fourth would also live there. Main reason for this was the financial difficulties. These were unofficially resolved by such help.  

Having food in the hostel mess was great fun. Food style was based on the type of food that was prepared Maharashtrian, Gujarati, then Kolhapuri. There were two messes which were cosmopolitan which cooked food to suit non-Maharashtrian types. But our gang used to have great fun. We were friends with ALL the cooks and they would allow us to eat interesting stuff from different messes, irrespective of the fact that we were members of the Maharashtrian mess.  

Post exam, there would be “celebration” which meant drinking alcohol. My friend Raju and I, were non-drinkers. Post drinking there used to be a charade of going for food outside the hostel. In those days there never was any restrictions like curfew! 8 or ten of us would go out. One of us used to be at the front and the other at back ensure that the gang did not stray! We used to have a similar binge at a friend’s place as his parents lived far away from Pune. But mind you, some of them drink heavily even today! God bless them!  

Top of the chart fun was going in Ashok’s car for a spin at night. He was a Puneite and they had a bungalow off Prabhat Road. We would go to his home late at night when his parents were traveling, push the car out so that his siblings and neighbours won’t know about this. Then we would pile in the car and drive at night and across Katraj ghats at break necking speed. Ashok was a champion driver. Our money allowed us to eat only dal and rice at a restaurant called Apsara!  

Friends I could go on and on but as usual everything good has to end. Of course, we still remember these things when friends meet; alas Ashok passed away long back but most our gang is still around but our meeting frequencies are very low but let me assure you that while writing this blog I felt as if I had physically traveled back 50 years! I wish this could be achieved just once!  For now, at least I should cross the Katraj ghats and check if Apsara Restaurant is still around! 

       

Life’s Journey!

This is about passing of friends and musing s about life’s journey

We have different phases in our lives from childhood, youthful student, working professional, married person with family, and retired person. All these phases are like mini journeys that we take up in life. Longest and most enjoyable journey that I remember is our so called “educational tour” I had taken during final year of engineering. It was a train journey for three weeks where we had one bogey to ourselves and did we have fun! But it’s not the journey that I am writing about today. It’s the end of journey that I am writing about.

When we entered Maharashtra on the way back to Bombay, I remember someone got down at Bhusawal, then Nasik, Thane, Dadar and finally VT. The reason for there getting down was  that these friends’ homes were at these places. So it was natural for them to get down there. But in our life’s journey we all have the same final home, address is known, “station” to get down is same for all! But it is like musical chair and when music stops those who are “left standing”  have to go. Though the “station” is one, the timings to get down are different in perpetual journey of life.

These thoughts came to mind when I came to understand about Prakash’s death this morning. Some are lucky enough like us, who have reached “retirement” phase, though we may not actually retire physically. When our “ultimate” time comes, though we may not know ourselves, we have to get down from life’s train and there is no option.

The difference between all our previous “journey’s” and the ultimate journey is that knowing the exact time when our journey is ending. In all previous journey’s sometimes we remember the end, sometimes we don’t. When I completed my first two years in college in Elphinstone Mumbai, I simply don’t remember when this journey ended. There are many very happy memories of those two years but for some reason I don’t remember the end distinctly. Same thing happened with my COEP journey. After I completed my Bachelor’s degree, I continued with my Master’s degree. The ending phase also coincided with my courtship with Jaya, in fact six months before ME we got married. Most of the friends left COEP and started new life of professionals. My being busy in Master’s degree and courtship, made the end of journey at COEP a bit hazy.

I distinctly remember my last day of working for someone. I was in Bombay with Premier Automobiles on company work. My boss had requested me to complete one pending issue! Since then I am on own and continue to work full time in my “retirement” phase.

For around last 15 years sporadic information about friends and relatives going on their ultimate journey started trickling in. But 2017 has been watershed year. Swati Ekbote (Sudhir Ekbote’s wife) on 1st January, Pappy Deshmukh, Maheshbhai my friend and mentor, Dilip Panjikar, Chandar Mekhale, Pendse- Jaya’s guru in computers and now Prakash Karandikar; so many till date.

When I heard about Prakash’s death today I felt empty the way I felt when people were getting down on different railway stations at the end of educational tour, as I got down last at VT and  I was feeling empty! But at that time I knew that I am going to meet all these guys again after a few days. Today I know that I am not going to meet these guys again, ever!

Every person handles death in a different way. But I am sure all of us get that melancholy feeling when we hear about death of friends and dear ones. Today morning things looked dark and bleak, I was mechanically getting ready for office and was trying to write this piece. Out of blue one of my seniors from industry, he is ten years elder to me, called and said, “Hey Panvalkar, how are you doing?” I was happy to hear his usual pleasant voice and chatted with him for about ten minutes. I asked him,” Sir, is there any specific reason you called me?”. He said, “No, since we had not spoken for sometime I thought why not speak to you today! I keep on reading your blogs and I am keeping track of what you write.” We ended our conversation and he invited me for a chit chat at his home! This event, I feel was the God’s way of trying to bring me back to normal and this chat was definitely a bright light that suddenly shone through the dark clouds surrounding me. Thank you Doctor for bringing me back almost to normal through this melancholy period.

God has designed the human in such a way that probably in a day or two we will all be back to normal. In our retirement phase we should try different things to keep ourselves busy besides the normal things like walking, yoga, religious stuff. With the help of net we can study new languages, start writing own experiences, not necessarily for sharing with others! My friend Sudhakar has taken up painting in big way. Try to complete your wish list which in modern language is called bucket list! Travel, read, listen to music do something which you could not do before.

One good thing about the end of journey is when ones time comes, that person does not know that his/her time has come! So live your life King size as if there is no end! Happy journey folks! Every day try to talk a friend or a cousin or an  uncle on phone! You never know ……

 

Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

This my life’s journey and role played by different homes in my life. I am sharing my treasure trove with you in this series!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…