How closely do we know others? 

In our life, we meet many people. First of course is our mother and then the family. The journey continues until you die. At various stages, you make friends starting from KG to completing your education. If you are lucky, you continue to live in the same city where you were born and educated. During this phase, you make lifelong friends. Later, you start your career and get married too. For your professional work, you may be anywhere in India or may even migrate to different countries. You get additional close family members after marriage. Later, during your work phase, you meet more people. But rarely you make new friends. But now since last 10 to 15 years, you are making lots of “Friends” on FB. Many of these “friends” you hardly know them. Then you make “Friend’s Groups” on WA.

I will be writing about some friends from school and college days. It is their journey that was sometimes normal, and at other times shocking or painful.

Social networks have found us a lot of old friends (real ones), but you forget that a lot of water has gone under the bridge (in my case sometimes 50 to 60 years). I was looking for a dear friend school days. Somehow, I managed to get his cell number. The person who shared his cell number with me indicated that the friend had changed a lot. I was apprehensive when I called him. But once we started speaking, we continued almost for an hour. We did the usual things like exchanging photos, shared what we did in life. He was the good old jovial friend that I remembered from school days. But since then, whenever I call, he responds and shares life experience in general. But he has never called me, ever. I later understood that he had met with an accident in which he had a head injury. That has put him in difficulty. It has changed his personality.

I recently came in touch with another friend who was at Elphinstone College, Bombay with me for two years. All of us in those days were from lower-middle-class families trying to come up in life via education. The friend used to live in Girgaum in one of the wadis- a cluster of houses. He was studious, showing the usual lack of confidence for those days, especially in Elphinstone College. The college was well known for scholars both in science and arts stream. But the college had many students who had taken their school education in English medium schools. So, most of us were not sure-footed in the initial phase. Some continued with the same mindset until they passed out. The friend has not changed much even now and has remained the same as he was. It is an excellent tribute to him to have maintained his values from childhood.

It reminds me of another friend who was with me at Elphinstone College, but we were also from the same school. He was a reticent, smart person. He was brilliant and did quite well until we joined engineering. We were together in engineering too; he did not enjoy his engineering course, probably! He flunked in one year. After engineering, I met him again after ten years. He had entirely changed. He had started smoking and talked of alcohol enthusiastically. He was in the construction business. He would speak of millions of Rupees which was a lot of money, in the early ’80s of the previous century. Jaya was impressed with his talk. When we were coming back to Pune, I told Jaya that this is not the old friend I knew. I don’t believe in his boasting of a large amount of money.

Over a period, we started receiving the news of his failing business and some wrong business deal with people very close to him. He started drinking and smoking heavily. Funds began dwindling. He would come to Pune occasionally. He would smile the way he used to, but he had started looking haggard. He was never in a mood to listen to others. His sister suggested to him that his two children could live with her in Bombay for education. He agreed, luckily. Both his children are well settled.

Now the sad part! The friend hurtled down continuously in the vicious circle of the lack of money, alcohol and could not put the brakes on. His wife valiantly tried to support home by taking tuitions. In his final couple of years, I came to know that he would sell his household items to quench his thirst for alcohol. About fifteen years back, I got the news that he had passed. From a typical god-fearing family, an intelligent person with a pleasant personality was wasted. It would have been okay had he not been successful in business. Is it destiny that took him on the wrong path? I am aware that addiction to alcohol can ruin people, but during childhood, if someone had predicted about him, I would have simply said, Oh! Come on, not him!

The last friend I am going to talk about is a sadder case. It is because he is still around. He and I used to live in the same building and had a similar background. We were batchmates. Later as we grew, I realised that he was a little less endowed in smartness- both in studies and otherwise. He meandered through his life the way hundreds of thousands of people move. He had a routine job from which he took premature retirement. It enabled him to get some lump sum money; he had a daughter who was perpetually sick. She died about ten years back. Her illness probably hit his corpus badly. But his brave wife continues to work even today. He lives around twenty km away from Pune in a rented home. In India, suburbs are not as costly as they are in developed countries. He has lost his “Will” to do anything. He has become a chain smoker. His wife gives him an exact amount for him to buy a packet of cigarettes before she goes to the office. But my friend wanders around during the day. Once his stock of cigarettes is finished, he looks for butts. Sometimes he goes to an ATM near his home and begs for money for the cigarettes. Another friend from those days has been in touch with him all through life. He has tried to help in many ways, including psychiatric treatment. But it seems he has crossed the primary threshold. It appears that after some medicines, he will be shifted to an institution.

My eyes are still moist when I write about him. We had fantastic 6/7 years together during our childhood. We fought; we were partners in table tennis. I spoke to him a few months back, and I told Jaya that something is seriously wrong with him. I will be able to handle his death, but I am too much of a coward to meet him in this condition. I have now made my resolve to go and meet him once this lockdown situation is over. Now I have found a valid reason to avoid visiting him! 😒😒

Friends, life is beautiful, but there are peaks and troughs of happiness and sadness. I know that I will overcome this phase. But life is full of surprises, either way!

Gopal Mansion!

You will wonder what Gopal Mansion is? The plain answer is that this is the building in which I lived since I was in fourth grade till I finished First Year Science, the first year after S S C, at Elphinstone College at Bombay in 1966. A couple of things happened yesterday.

My granddaughter Rhea saw a family photograph taken in the flat in 1960. She started asking me all sorts of questions about the home — family photo from Gopal Mansion. I am the youngest in the family!

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How many rooms were there in the home? How many washrooms were there? Where did I sleep? Where did I study? (I hid the secret from her that I never studied!) I went into a nostalgic trip while explaining to her many things. She was not surprised that there was a lift (elevator) in the building. She thinks that all buildings always have lifts! Gopal Mansion had six floors; we lived on the ground floor!

After our discussion during breakfast on the subject, I accidentally got into touch with a friend from Gopal Mansion. Sunil and I got in touch with each other after almost 50 years, thanks to Facebook. Sunil is elder to me by five years. He is a doctor and still practices as General Physician at Lilavati Hospital in Bombay. We spoke for more than half an hour and tried to update each other. We remembered the old friends, Shrikant, Satish, Vitthal and many others. He updated me about certain friends whose whereabouts were known to him, and I also did the same. Was it a trip down the memory lane? I was very happy to remember the old days, so was Sunil. We have now decided to meet when we both go back to India. He is with his daughter in Atlanta, in the US!

But this is not about the nostalgic trip that I had yesterday! It is about something else, but I will come to that in a little while. We had a watchman called Mahadu, who would not let us play cricket in the building; we broke many window panes. I remember how we deceived him and sometimes played in the afternoon. Azad Maidan and Cross Maidan were a two-minute walk from the building, and we used to play Cricket round the year and football in monsoons! During Dassara time, we used to go to the grounds to watch Ramlila on Azad Maidan; but the real reason for us to go there was to spy on young couples who spent some time on the ground, in the dark! At one of the gates of Gopal Mansion was a Ragda Pattice vendor! We were never allowed to eat there. But we used to envy the people who ate there.

Okay, enough nostalgia and let me come to the real subject of the blog. My niece used to live near Gopal Mansion, and when we stayed with her, I always used to go to Gopal Mansion. The last time I remember having been there was in 2012. The building had seen the glorious days of about 25 families living there, and many like me had spent the childhood there. In 2012, I saw that nobody lived there. For old time’s sake, I went inside to see but felt very sad to see a structure where nobody lived for many years.

I had never imagined that Gopal Mansion would be used for some impressive work by anyone. At some stage, the building was purchased by a charitable trust, Shivkishan Mindaram Charitable trust!

https://www.gopalmansion.com/index.php

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The facility at the Gopal Mansion near the Metro Cinema was inaugurated in 2018 and offers rooms on a first-come, first-served basis to the needy. The south Mumbai facility is being run by the Shivkishan Mindaram Damani Charitable Trust that Damani’s family owns.

The rates for stay and food are very much affordable.

  1. Breakfast 30
  2. Lunch Thaali 75
  3. Dinner Thaali  75
  4. Rooms at   800

Gopal Mansion today!

Radhakishan Damani, the promoter of DMart, has created a facility at “Gopal Mansion” near “Metro Cinema Queens Road Mumbai” containing 53 rooms for stay of the family of patients undergoing treatment in Mumbai. It was inaugurated on 15th March 2018. It’s very nicely done.

In India, we have the concept of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) for the corporates. The corporates are mandated to spend some % of their profits on society for needy persons or causes. Many companies do various things and decide as per their company policy. Damanis have created a permanent facility that helps people who have to come to Bombay for medical treatment. In the distance of about 10 to 12 km from Gopal Mansion, there many medical facilities, including Tata Cancer Hospital.

Along with patients, the family members are also required to stay in Mumbai for support. There has been a significant need for some affordable clean, and neat facilities. The trust has done a great job by creating this permanent facility, which will be used by people when they are required to come to Mumbai for treatment!

Many people have a lot of money, but this is the first time I remember an organisation that has created such a facility permanently! I hope more and more people do these activities.

I had written a blog sometime back, “Let’s all become Bill Gates”!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/let-us-all-become-bill-gates/

In the blog I have suggested that those who have money, which can be shared with the society for the betterment of the society, should do it. We all have it in us, but in some families for unknown reasons, such culture has never started. You can be the first person in your family to start the trend; it is not the amount but thought that is important. By performing such acts, you may change someone’s life for good!

To my understanding, to be a good human being, you need to have humility, empathy, and a little bit of extra money! Extra money is helpful, but I have known people who have been helping the society in various ways in spite of their needs not being completed.

I am grateful for the friends and people that came into my life in Gopal Mansion. We have become family with one of the neighbours and still are in regular touch with each other. All our friends have generally done well in life. Shreekant is a famous psychiatrist in Thane. (I hope I never need his professional services) Many others became good professionals.

Nostalgia has brought back many names. Mario, Iqbal, Ajit, where are you guys? I have lost a few friends as they died in the last ten years, like Avi, Dilip and Satish! Gopal Mansion was like a big family, and I consider myself lucky to know that it got converted into a place which is going to support needy people who are required to come to Mumbai for medical treatment for a long period!

It feels as if Gopal Mansion has also grown with me, and my thoughts are matching with what Gopal Mansion will be used for, in the future!

Musings Circa 60’s! Eateries in my life!

My friend Suresh wrote something about canteens in COEP, on our WA group;  that took me back to my childhood and college days. My first visit to an eatery that I remember was when I was a child; I had gone with my mother and other family members to a place on Tilak Road, in Pune, called Jeevan! I was on the 7th cloud and I ate a Ghavan! Now I am not really sure if it was a dosa or the ghavan, both very thin roti type of bread, made of completely different batters. Later, I asked my mother a few times if we could go to Jeevan again. But she did not even bother to reply. Eating out in those days was something very rarely done. Then, of course, there was Diwadkar’s batata Wada (Patty) eaten during travel between Bombay and Pune. I used to eagerly wait for Karjat station to arrive. I think they used to give garlic chutney also along with hot wadas! This was the beginning of my journey about eateries, in 50’s.

My schooling was done in Bombay and I used to live in Dhobi Talao behind Metro Cinema. I used to go to school by us. Monsoon was the season I would eagerly await. I would cook a story that due to heavy rains buses were delayed and I had to walk home, a distance of about 25 minutes! Those four annas were used to eat Masala Dosa at a place called Kelkar or Batata Bhaji, yes only bhaji, no puris! This bhaji was the speciality of a place called Kulkarni’s, bang opposite our school at Prarthana Samaj in Girgaum. Both these places have gone away with time.

Eatery1

One iconic place near our home in Dhobi Talao was Kyani’s. (The photo above) Bun Maska, chai, pastries and Omelette was their speciality. But how much money could one pinch from home? Once I managed to pinch money for an Omelette and a few times for bun Maska/chai, a couple of times for pastries. Ten years back I went there and had a full feed of everything, finally. Kyani is still around. My Mumbai story will not be completed without writing about Milk Bar behind Elphinstone College; custards, puddings and jellies and what have you! The last one in my list was Napoli Bistro opposite Brabourne Stadium. We used to go there during my Telang Memorial hostel stay on C road at Churchgate. We used to get expresso for a princely sum of Rs.1/, which we used to have once in a while. There was a jukebox in the restaurant which made us hang around for some time. One naughty guy called Nitin Khot took a bet with someone and somehow managed to pinch a chair from the restaurant. It was returned the next day!

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That brings me back to Pune of my engineering college days. Good Luck is like Kyani’s of Mumbai and served the similar foodstuff. There used to be a little more money in pockets during this phase which allowed us to eat chicken masala and roti! Wow! Mouth still waters! Bowing to the father time, now they serve Idli Sambhar also. Another joint for us night owls, was Olympia opposite Pune Corporation. We used to be awake with our other studious guys but most of the time was spent on serious discussions of the world at large, with special reference to girls! When we had some time free from these discussions, we would be busy in Rummy or Teen Patti (Flush). These serious activities would make us hungry past midnight and the only option was Olympia, famous for its Baida Masala! Boiled eggs cooked in a lovely curry! A couple months back I ate this dish at Fountain hotel near Vasai but I could not remember where I had eaten this beauty before! Of course, it was Olympia!

Eatery2
Modern Café was our main Adda! Modern Café kept our gastric juices in control by providing us with piping hot Shira (something similar to porridge) and coffee at 5.30 am after all-night sessions of Teen Patti! In the afternoon the cafe would provide us with Idli, Dosa etc. At night around 10 pm we would go there for a cup of tea, theoretically to keep us awake for studies; oh yea! I also managed a Master’s Degree in Engineering too! Our main sessions in Modern Café were during our annual day functions. Preparations were done for a couple of months! I used to take part in these activities to hang around as Jaya used to play major roles in dramas. I was kept busy doing the backstage activity. Modern café had created a new facility at their backside called Bamboo House! This was a real cosy place where they had a charming manager called Shekhar. He was very talkative, we used to regularly have parties where someone from the group of 15 /20 of us would pay. Shekhar used to keep track of who had not paid for a long time and remind us that person’s name. The advantage of these parties was we could skip food in our common hostel mess! The money saved was money gained, which was fruitfully used on going to movies.

Out COEP hostel mess was very famous for the quality of food. Students and their relatives, friends from different colleges would come here for the Sunday feast. There were messes based on veg/non-veg food. Two of them, A & F were famous for non-vegetarian stuff. C was Maharashtrian, D was Gujarati type, E was Maharashtrian Kolhapur style hot food. Then later was born O club which had a mix of everything. A & F usually had the cosmopolitan crowd and the so-called Bombay crowd. I was in A club for two years. We had a guy called Aziz who used treat us to some lovely Biryanis and chicken Masala. Coke with Ice cream was the famous dessert of those times. I was friendly with all cooks and head waiters from all clubs. So, we could always “borrow” something from other clubs. My 3rd and 4th year were in C club. I was not admitted to this club in the first year because I was wearing a bold striped shirt for the interview. Medhekar and I used to be the first guys every day for breakfast for our morning quota of eggs. Another interesting thing used to be carrom games in the mess hall. There were some guys who used to be experts. But Bhave and I used to be Killers and we would beat the so-called champs. Just at the entrance of the hostel was a canteen run by Seva Sadan! It was really inexpensive and would sell home-made laddoos and Shankar pale! Next to that was table tennis room where would spend a lot of time. Even after marriage, we had opted for packed hostel food during exam time! We got married while we were doing our Masters!

Our major past time used to be watching movies! This would take us to different parts of Pune. Bedekar Misal, Sweet Home Khichadi and burun and tea at George’s in the camp were some of the famous places we would visit in those days before or after a movie! Pastries at NCR, opposite Jangali Maharaj Temple, were a treat. Near mandai we used to go Asara for very hot chicken! For us COEP gang Vaishali was just coming up on the horizon and was the place to see the Fergusson College girls!

Eatery3

I could go on and on! But I must mention two places in camp! First one was Dorabajis where one of our gang, Nayan, Sharad, Ashok and others used to go for breakfast to celebrate birthdays! It was a real ritual. We used to sit in the area on the mezzanine floor. Then there was Latif’s. This has a special significance. Jaya and I used to go there as we were almost sure that no known persons will find us there. For Jaya from Sadashiv Peth to Latif’s was a big cultural jump! Until I told my friends, during my first year of post-graduation, about our marriage,  nobody had any inkling of our courtship. Latif’s was a great place “away from everything” in those days!

Let me find out if Latif’s still exists; its high time Jaya and I went there!

So long farewell, we too say Goodbye!

The link below is a song from the famous 1965 English movie, “Sound of Music.” The situation for the song is appropriate; there is a party going on at home, and the father expects the children to withdraw and go to sleep. I love this song; hence I am sharing the link for you.

In our lives, we also say farewell to people, situations, and homes. It is part of life and happens in the case of most of us. Sometimes we do so with knowledge, but sometimes we do it without realising it. The question will come in mind, “How do we do it without realising?” I did it without realising. After my first-year science year at Elphinstone College in Bombay, I moved to the college hostel at Churchgate in Mumbai. It was a natural recourse as my father was transferred outside Bombay. One beautiful day I entered the hostel, all bag, and baggage! Little did I realise that I had left my home, as I had known it forever. Our sister was married at that time, my parents, my elder brother, and I were our family. The same year my brother moved to the United States. So, the family, as we knew it, was reduced to only my parents!

I was all of 17 years old, and never realised the significance of my moving to the hostels. I completed my Inter-Science, moved from Elphinstone College Hostels to COEP Hostel in Pune. While in COEP I met Jaya, we got married after finishing my first degree and rest as they say is history. Did I realise the significance of moving to the hostel at Elphinstone College? Did I know that I will never go back “home”? Was I mentally prepared for that move? Was I mature enough to think in those terms? Honestly, I did not have that maturity; I did not have a clue! Studies were the last priority in those days, but we had a Parsee friend in hostels taking the Arts course; he made us study to ensure that we could get ourselves admitted to engineering courses. But we did have some students who had a tough time adjusting to life outside the warmth of their homes. I made one life long friend Sharad while at Telang Hostel!

In retrospection, did I miss something? Yes, of course, I did. I miss my father, especially as he died relatively early at the age of 63 when I was 31.  I was busy setting up my family and my home. My father was a person who would call a spade a spade; this trait I have picked up from him. He used to like to pun, would make some while chatting, another trait that I picked up from him. I once remember him pulling legs of his younger brother, bhau. My uncle, bhaukaka, in those days used to wear hard contact lenses; once, he was having difficulty wearing them.

My father coolly told him, “Bhau, why do not you wear glasses first so that you will be able to see where you are putting your lenses”! I would have laughed wholeheartedly, but due to the respect of the elderly, I only smiled looking at my father. He was supposedly adamant outwardly, but Jaya and I had an excellent rapport with him. Jaya was the first professional lady working in our family, and my father was supportive of her, always. When Jaya received a UN scholarship for an MS degree in the US, she asked my father if she can take this opportunity. Our son was six years old at that time. My father told her, “What is there to ask? Just go. Why do you think we are here?” Unfortunately, he died within three months of Jaya going to the US. I was lucky that my mother lived to be with us for the next 25 years. When I ruminate about leaving home in 1966, I always feel that I missed out on my father’s company. But the “If-Else” scenario is a double-edged weapon. If I had not left home in 1966, then I would not have met Jaya!

Till the end of the first half of the last century, life was relatively straightforward, not as dynamic as today. One was born and brought up in a town or a village. He lived in the same home as ancestors, either owned or rented. Went to school, going to college was not quite common in those days. He took up some work that was available, married, procreated, and died. There was not much change in their lives. If at all there was any migration, only the breadwinner would move to a more significant town or city, but the family would stay behind.  So, there were hardly any So Longs, Alvida or Sayonara!

My niece’s son got admitted to IIT ten years back. The day he was to move to IIT, we were with them in Bombay. I asked the kid, “Do you understand the significance of today?” He said, “Yes, I am joining IIT!” I said, “That is not what is important. Starting today, when you come to this place, which just now is your home, you will come with your bag as a guest. After your education, you will move elsewhere for further education. Then settle there and will get married and …..” I am sure if he reads this blog, he will remember what I had said. He works in Tesla in the US and is getting married in November!

In life, there are many other situations where “so long” situations come up. These are when you change your job when you retire, and another common situation that is coming up in people’s lives is divorce. In all these situations, the decision is not sudden. Yes, and we change homes too! I will share a small anecdote about home changing. A friend of my daughter met me once, and while chatting asked me where we lived. Then I told him about our home changes. He said, “You seem to be very cool about changing homes. My father still thinks of our Bombay home, which we left 30 years back, and he still feels unsettled.”

When you change jobs, it is an ongoing thing, and we generally know at least a couple of months before we change the position. Job change could result in a new job, starting your business, or moving to another country. In this situation, the relations that you have formed are not very deep, but for a small duration, we may feel a little uneasy. During one such job, I met a friend who became my life-long friend, Dilip; he unfortunately died last year. But such occurrences are infrequent. When you move to a foreign country, it is both an exciting and challenging call. Exciting for obvious reasons, but the tough call is because we are going to get cut off from our roots. Modern communication helps you reduce the distance, virtually, but there is no replacement for physical proximity. The “so long” is emotional because you are going to be far from your near and dear ones, your friends, and your daily smells and daily noises!

Even more challenging “so long” must be the case where couples divorce each other. Challenging situations are the reality of life and cannot be ignored. This number is increasing; during the process of divorce, the couples, I am sure, have a lot of hatred with each other. Then there will be aspects of money, children and many other vital aspects of life. So, I shudder to think as there may not be any “so long” after such a close relation!

The retirement phase, of course, must be a real emotional phase because you get cut off from whatever you were doing every day for 40 years, you get cut off from the very same people with whom you have been meeting day in and day out! I have now semi-retired, and I have gone through this phase recently. Everything else is manageable except the emotional part, but I think time heals everything.

Toughest, of course, is the final parting with this world! But there is a silver lining to this. You do not have to say “so long” as you do not get time to do so! You also do not know whether people miss you or they are happy that you are gone! 😊😊

Alvida, for now! Do not you worry; I am not going anywhere!

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!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words, but a much-hidden meaning is there in this word. This word fully covers the life that we live. There are many hidden gems linked to everyone’s life. The Abode can be a tiny tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life, but in one’s 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 every Abode, one big episode, but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

The first Abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in the early ’50s. 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 the USA. Thirty years later, I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure. 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 experiences, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our grey 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 a transferable job. From Andheri, we went to a small town called Ahmednagar, about 250 km from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarter. 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 the surprise of surprises! Some dacoits decided to make a housebreak and steal things from our home; Diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there would be some stuff worth stealing at our house. 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 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 halfway 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 ten years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that 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 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 the 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 centre of the city and not end of the city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from the 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 screwdriver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did, but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both my friend and me. 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 lifetime and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a high 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 house, I, of course, had a high affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai 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 the same school (we did not know that) and met on 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 favourite 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 the 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 the holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket, and during monsoons, we used to play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with massive waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used to walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans, there used to be a 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 the backside. 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 theatre. 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 a sin in those days, especially with roadside 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 to inculcate different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes lasts 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. It has helped me mainly 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…